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Migrant mothers caring for the future

Creative interventions in making new citizens

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Final Conference

Migrant Motherhood and Citizenship in the Deportation Nation: Cultivating Belonging and Inclusion in an Urban Community Garden

Prof. Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, University of Southern California, US

While the United States is widely known as "a nation of immigrants" the current historical era, roughly from the mid-1990s to the present, has become a "deportation nation." It is primarily men of color, and more specifically Latino immigrant men who are the targets of this extensive campaign of deportations and detentions, leading to a gendered racial removal program. This presentation will discuss the contours of this program, but will focus on the consequences for migrant motherhood and citizenship. One consequence of the current deportation crisis is that this is leaving many Latina immigrant women to mother and raise families without their sons or partners, losing household income and support that they brought to the family. Some of these women seek belonging, inclusion and support at urban community gardens. While they experience rejection from the nation, they feel welcomed in these sanctuary garden spaces. A type of Latino cultural citizenship unfolds at the urban community gardens. These are life-affirming places of healing, restoration and community building, fortifying immigrant mothers who are living with social crisis and marginality.


Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo is a sociologist and a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California, where she also serves as Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. She has been researching and advocating for immigrant communities since the 1980s, and she is the author or editor of nine books. Some of her research and writing have focused on immigrant rights, such as God's Heart Has No Borders: How Religious Activists are Working For Immigrant Rights (University of California Press 2008), but she is best known for her work on gender, migration and paid domestic work. Her work on these topics has appeared in the journals Gender & Society, Social Problems, and other outlets, as well as in the books Domestica: Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring in the Shadows of Affluence (UC Press 2001/2007), and Gendered Transitions: Mexican Experiences of Immigration (UC Press 1994). Her most recent book, Paradise Transplanted: Migration and the Making of California Gardens (UC Press 2014) brings together seven years of research in diverse social sectors in Southern California. The book shows how successive conquests and diverse migrations have created California gardens, and how gardens influence social inequality, leisure, status and our experience of nature and community.

Childbearing Asylum Seekers in Ireland: Nationalist Heterosexuality and Migrant Legal Status Controversies

Prof. Eithne Luibhéid, University of Arizona, US

How did the general public come to believe that pregnancy provided a visible sign that a woman was likely to be an irregular migrant? And how did concerns about migrants' pregnancies and childbearing become the basis for expanding laws and policies in ways that resulted in more migrants becoming classified by states as irregular? Centering on controversies in the Irish Republic from 1997-2005 over migrants' childbearing, this talk does not try to resolve whether any migrants "really" were irregular, nor to propose policy changes to assist in better policing against irregular migration. Instead, the talk provides understanding of how migrant legal status categories emerge and change; the relations of power in which they are embedded; the centrality of normalizing sexual regimes to these processes; and how efforts to prevent irregular migration ultimately redefine nationalist sexual norms and citizenship.

Overall, the talk bridges gaps between scholarship on the social construction of the irregular migrant and queer theories of sexuality as a regime of power and normalization.


Eithne Luibhéid holds a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and is Professor of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Pregnant on Arrival: Making the 'Illegal' Immigrant (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) and Entry Denied: Controlling Sexuality at the Border (University of Minnesota Press, 2002); editor of a special issue of GLQ on "Queer/Migration" (2008); and co-editor of A Global History of Sexuality (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), Queer Migration: Sexuality, U.S. Citizenship, and Border Crossings (University of Minnesota Press, 2005), and a special issue of Women's Studies International Forum on "Representing Migrant Women in Ireland and the E.U." (2004).

Transnationality and Mothering

Prof. Ann Phoenix, Institute of Education, London UK


Ann Phoenix's research interests are psychosocial, including motherhood, social identities, young people, racialisation and gender. Recent funded research project areas include: boys and masculinities, young people and consumption and adult reconceptualisations of 'non-normative' childhoods', particularly of serial migration, visibly ethnically mixed households and language brokering in transnational families.

Migrant Mothers' Creative Interventions into Citizenship

Erene Kaptani and the Migrant Mothers' Group

This performance is the outcome of the participatory theatre workshops of migrant mothers in East London. The workshops provided an opportunity to reflect on the meanings of migrant motherhood, and how mothers create new forms of belonging and participation for themselves and their children. The mothers developed new understandings of their own mothering practices and new, embodied, collective knowledges that affirmed the value of their caring and cultural work.

Last updated: 11 December 2014

Final Conference

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

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