Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Gender and Care Relationships in Transnational Families: Implications for Citizenship and Belonging

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Gender and Care Relationships in Transnational Families: Implications for Citizenship and Belonging

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The literature (1) on transnational care has burgeoned over the last few decades, sensitizing social scientists and policy-makers to the forms and social implications of care work across borders. Caregiving for pay and associated transnational mothering have been the focus of scholarly attention, typically in terms of migrant women from the Global South (de Leon 2014; Ehrenreich and Hochschild 2002; Gamburd 2000; Gibson, Law and McKay 2001; Hochschild 2000; Hondagneu-Sotelo and Avila 1997; Lan 2003; Parrenas 2000, 2001a, 2002, and 2005; Pyle 2006), with concerns such as "global care chains," impacts on children, families, and gender, de-skilling and the precarious citizenship status of paid care givers (Ball 2004; Cheng 2003; Gamburd 2000; Jureidini 2014; Korac 2014; Lobel 2002; McGregor 2007; Parrenas 2001b; Pratt 1999, and Pratt et al. 1999), but also other issues arising at the intersection of social reproductive labour and globalization (e.g., Romero, Preston and Giles 2014). Beyond caregiving for pay and transnational mothering, studies of other contexts of transnational caring relations, such as those among migrant families, have resulted in a growing body of empirical studies in the last fifteen years within the fields of families and transnationalism (Baldassar, Baldock and Wilding 2007; Banfi and Boccagni 2011; Evergeti and Ryan 2011; Zontini and Reynolds 2007). Our research contributes to this last group of transnational care literature by bringing a Canadian, regional and gender perspective to the transnational care work of Canadian permanent residents and foreign-born citizens, and linking it with citizenship and belonging. The article derives from a qualitative study (2) we conducted in 2009-11 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Our intent is, first, to define the contours of gender-specific transnational care relationships and practices, and their implications for traditional roles. Secondly, we explore the repercussions for citizenship, and, in particular immigrants' feelings of belonging. Our findings demonstrate the complexities of transnational care. Providing transnational care is not an exclusively female activity, yet, due to the gendered realities, perceptions and social constructions of caregiving, women and men provide care in gender-specific ways, which our study illustrates. The consequences of this gendered provision of transnational care are the reinforcement, but also, at times, the contestation of stereotypical gender roles of participants in our study. We argue that transnational care work can, in turn, solidify feelings of belonging.

In so doing, our aim is to provide both broader and more specific contributions. With respect to the former, we hope to add to wider, interdisciplinary, global research on gender and care work, and its potential interrelations with citizenship. What is more, with our critical gender focus (and one that factors in race, ethnicity and class and their intersections) we hope to contribute to a more expansive approach to ethnic studies, one that concertedly links it to contemporary gender studies. Additionally, our expansive notion of ethnicity allows for conceptual space for transnationalism as a factor shaping ethnic identifications (Winland 1998).

In relation to more specific contributions, our Halifax-based research is intended to advance discussions of possible policy mechanisms that could be adopted to address the needs of families who live apart, in order to promote citizenship in its various forms (economic, social, political), including its psychological dimensions in terms of senses of belonging. This notion of belonging is crucial given the Atlantic region's longstanding, and ongoing, concerns with immigrant attraction and retention.

THEORETICAL AND METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS

The conceptual roots of this study lie in the intersections of scholarship on "transnationalism" and migration that converged since the late 1980s with, for instance, Boyd (1989) questioning the unidirectional character of migration and Click Schiller, Basch and Blanc (1992) theorizing the fluidity of migrants' experiences living simultaneously in more than one society. …

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