Migrant Mothers and the Conflicts of Labor and Love
Publication Year: 2012
In a developing nation like the Philippines, many mothers provide for their families by traveling to a foreign country to care for someone else’s. Families Apart focuses on Filipino overseas workers in Canada to reveal what such arrangements mean for families on both sides of the global divide.
The outcome of Geraldine Pratt’s collaboration with the Philippine Women Centre of British Columbia, this study documents the difficulties of family separation and the problems that children have when they reunite with their mothers in Vancouver. Aimed at those who have lived this experience, those who directly benefit from it, and those who simply stand by and watch, Families Apart shows how Filipino migrant domestic workers—often mothers themselves—are caught between competing neoliberal policies of sending and receiving countries and how, rather than paying rich returns, their ambitions as migrants often result in social and economic exclusion for themselves and for their children. This argument takes shape as an open-ended series of encounters, moving between a singular academic voice and the “we” of various research collaborations, between Vancouver and the Philippines, and between genres of “evidence-based” social scientific research, personal testimony, theatrical performance, and nonfictional narrative writing.
Through these experiments with different modes of storytelling, Pratt seeks to transform frameworks of perception, to create and collect sympathetic witnesses—in short, to promote a wide-ranging public discussion and debate about a massive worldwide shift in family (and nonfamily) relations of intimacy and care.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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This book is based on a series of collaborations: with mem-bers of the Philippine Women Centre (PWC) of BC, the FilipinoCanadian Youth Alliance, the Philippines-Canada Task Force on HumanRights, and Vancouver theater artists (in particular Alex Ferguson andCaleb Johnston). It grew out of, was nourished by, and lives within thesecollaborations; there is very little to say beyond this. The book would not...
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Introduction. Collaborating with the Philippine Women Centre: Cultivating a Debate
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On a beautiful summer evening in 2005, I approached a smallstucco house in a working-class neighborhood in Vancouver. ThePhilippine Women Centre of BC had arranged an interview with a domes-tic worker who had recently reunited with her three children, and my re -search collaborators from the center, Cecilia and Glecy, would be there. Inresponse to my knock, a visibly irritated, physically imposing older white...
1. Enterprising Women, Failing Children: Living within the Contradictions of Neo(Liberalism)
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When the PCW and I began to interview Lisa about her timeworking as a live-in domestic worker for Canadian families, heranswers were brief. Despite working for numerous, in some cases abusive,employers and revealing fragments from her third employment situation,which had the makings for a dramatic story, she truncated her account bystating: “I actually stayed with them for a while and finished my contract...
2. Waiting and the Trauma of Separation
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In response to a call to produce a short five-minute film toreflect on the Philippine nation twenty years after the overthrow ofMarcos, Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz created When the Rain Stopped,described in film notes as “poetry in a doorway.”1 In this film, the camerais stationary, located just within the doorframe of a home at a child’s eyelevel, looking out into an unkept field, jeepneys occasionally passing on a...
3. Listening to Mothers’ Stories
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Jomar Lanot reunited with his mother in Vancouver in 2002, after years of separation while she worked in Canada as a domestic worker. One year later, he was beaten to death in Vancouver at the age of 17, a victim of youth violence. The theme of invisibility surfaced in mainstream...
4. Creating New Spaces of Politics: Nanay: A Testimonial Play
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At an event organized in 2004 to bring together Filipino familieswho had participated in our research on family separation, an olderparticipant turned to me and said: “I would like to ask you. After doing thisresearch, what are you going to do with it?” He and his wife earlier hadspoken at length and with great honesty about their marital conflict aftertwelve years of separation while she worked as a domestic worker in Van-...
5. Acting on Attachments: Intimate Witness to State Violence in the Philippines
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The Philippine Women Centre and I have striven to make visiblethe lived experience of government programs in Canada and the Phil -ippines that regulate Filipina migrant domestic workers’ lives. Many Cana-dians, including government workers, fail to see the violence of these statepolicies despite often living close to women (and then their families) whoare experiencing it. There are two failures of perception: seeing and feel-...
Conclusion: Research into Action
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This book has been an effort to unsettle complacency aroundtemporary labor migration, now commonly framed by policy makersand some academics as a “win-win-win” solution to labor-market short-ages in the global North and poverty and debt in the global South. Wehave argued that a language of migrant choice and freedom obscuresprocesses of forced economic migration and affective tonalities and rela-...
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012