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Migrant mothers caring for the future

Creative interventions in making new citizens

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About the Network


This network addresses the 'Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past' programme's theme of 'Changing Families and Communities'. It brings together a range of international multidisciplinary perspectives to explore how migrant mothers realise and problematise their role in bringing up future citizens in modern Western societies, increasingly characterised ethnic, racial, religious, cultural and social diversity. In the UK context cultural, social and policy debates identify that the challenge for the future is to form a culturally diverse, yet socially cohesive, citizenry, through sustainable multicultural modes of conviviality (Erel 2011). The network stimulates critical thinking and knowledge exchange on the processes that shape migrant mothers' cultural and caring work in enabling their children to occupy a place as future citizens. Specifically, the network considers our empirical and theoretical analysis of the temporal and spatial changes informing migrant mothers' and children's citizenship practices, (Erel 2011; Reynolds 2005) by examining how institutions such as the family involved in making new citizens sustain social trust, cohesion and solidarity across differences over time and space. By drawing together a range of cross cultural and disciplinary perspectives the network contributes to developing a shared research agenda on the role of migrant mothers in promoting social cohesion among ethnic and culturally diverse children in the face of increasing social cleavages. This is an issue that came to public prominence in the aftermath of the August 2011 riots.

Theory and Method

We explore the role of migrant mothers as citizens through the theoretical concept of 'enacting citizenship' (Isin 2008). We understand the mothers as actively engaged in reworking the meanings, practices and boundaries of citizenship. We link this theoretically performative understanding of citizenship to an exploration of participatory theatre methods to advance our understanding of enactments of citizenship. Thus, the network has two strands: firstly academic seminars and a conference, the second strand is a series of participatory theatre workshop with migrant mothers, constituting an innovative methodology for exploring how the theoretical notion of enacting citizenship can be enhanced by introducing performance based participatory methods. The two strands intersect and feed into each other. Firstly, by establishing an 'epistemological community' (Assiter 1995) that crosses and connects academic, practitioner and beneficiary boundaries. Secondly, the use of performance based methods to enact citizenship translates into practice the theoretical notion of 'enacting citizenship'. Thirdly, migrant mothers' citizenship is embedded in complex social and affective relations, critically combining research and participatory theatre represents 'a remarkable opportunity to generate critical reflection and a wide-ranging public debate' (Pratt and Johnston 2009:132).

The network gathers dispersed knowledge in social sciences and humanities on caring by migrant mothers in order to:

  • Promote knowledge exchange between key stakeholders (researchers, arts and policy practitioners, migrant mothers) and stimulate critical thinking on how migrant mothers realise and problematise their role in bringing up future citizens.
  • Consolidate existing research and debates by bringing together international and interdisciplinary perspectives to establish a new field of cross-cultural analysis of migrant mothers' citizenship.
  • Develop further theoretical approaches on 'enacting citizenship' through exploring performance based participatory theatre methods
Photos from the 'Changing Lives' Exhibition of Refugee Mothers in Hackney 2008 - Contact

Last updated: 29 June 2022

Photos from the participatory theatre workshops

Final Conference

18-19 September 2014
Migrant mothers caring for the future: creative interventions in making new citizens, London South Bank University.

Event Registration

This event is now closed.