In June 2004, Ireland underwent a dramatic transformation when the citizenry passed a national referendum limiting access to citizenship by birth in unprecedented ways. At issue was Ireland's transition from a country characterized by emigration to one of net immigration. Among the immigrants to Ireland in this period were a certain number of pregnant African asylum seekers, who subsequently gave birth to children with rights to Irish citizenship. In this setting, immigration debates were literally and figuratively inscribed on African immigrant women's bodies, and they were the target of verbal and physical assaults. This paper examines this phenomenon through the discursive lens of rite of passage, and the renegotiation of relationships brought about by dual rites at work here—birth for the children and motherhood for the women. This article contends, therefore, that while the mothers were publicly demonized, it is these children with their renegotiated status vis-à-vis the state that are feared. This paper draws on research in Ireland spanning the period surrounding the implementation of the referendum in an attempt to understand the linchpin role children play in the complex intersection of the feminization of migration, citizenship, and the state.


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pp. 803-831
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