Changing Family Dynamics and Demographic Evolution
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Changing Family Dynamics and Demographic Evolution

The Family Kaleidoscope

Edited by Dimitri Mortelmans, Koenraad Matthijs, Elisabeth Alofs and Barbara Segaert

Whether considered from an American or a European perspective, the past four decades have seen family life become increasingly complex. Changing Family Dynamics and Demographic Evolution examines the various stages of change through the image of a kaleidoscope, providing new insights into the field of family dynamics and diversity.
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Chapter 5: From the kitchen table to the other: results of ethnographic research on undocumented mothers’ parenting practices creating feelings at home

Tine Brouckaert


This chapter explores the instillation of sentiments of feeling at home in a society where one is not recognized as a citizen, and links this instillation of sentiments to discourses of belonging and citizenship. Despite their undocumented status and the fact that they are ‘impossible subjects’ (Rassiguier 2010), deprived of basic human rights, this chapter argues that in their motherwork (Collins 1994) undocumented mothers are able to instill ‘feelings of home’ in themselves and their children. The instilling of sentiments of home has been argued as important to citizenship; however in scholarship on parenting and migration studies by people excluded from citizenship it remains largely unexplored. Nevertheless, taking undocumented women’s daily motherwork as a starting point opens up new possibilities for addressing and indeed redressing the motherwork they do as a collective concern and responsibility. Based on ethnographic research, the author argues that the mothering of undocumented migrant women can be seen as a practice of subject-making and belonging, achieved through repetitive practices which instil a sensory and emotional inscription in the body. This chapter thereby explores a reconceptualization of parenting practices of undocumented migrant mothers as a powerful tool to connect with others in society in its entirety. References: Collins, P.H. (1994), ‘Shifting the center: race, class, and feminist theorizing about motherhood’, in E.N. Glenn, G. Chang and L.R. Forcey (eds), Mothering: Ideology, Experience, and Agency, New York: Routledge, pp. 45–65. Rassiguier, C. (2010), Reinventing the Republic. Gender, Migration and Citizenship in France, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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