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Families Apart

Migrant Mothers and the Conflicts of Labor and Love

Geraldine Pratt

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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pp. 1-8


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-xi

This book is based on a series of collaborations: with members of the Philippine Women Centre (PWC) of BC, the Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance, the Philippines-Canada Task Force on Human Rights, and Vancouver theater artists (in particular Alex Ferguson an...


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pp. xiii-xiv

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Introduction. Collaborating with the Philippine Women Centre: Cultivating a Debate

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pp. xv-xxxv

On a beautiful summer evening in 2005, I approached a small stucco house in a working-class neighborhood in Vancouver. The Philippine Women Centre of BC had arranged an interview with a domestic worker who had recently reunited with her three children, and my re - search...

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1. Enterprising Women, Failing Children: Living within the Contradictions of Neo(Liberalism)

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pp. 1-40

When the PCW and I began to interview Lisa about her time working as a live-in domestic worker for Canadian families, her answers were brief. Despite working for numerous, in some cases abusive, employers and revealing fragments from her third employment situation,...

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2. Waiting and the Trauma of Separation

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pp. 41-71

In response to a call to produce a short five-minute film to reflect on the Philippine nation twenty years after the overthrow of Marcos, Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz created When the Rain Stopped, described in film notes as “poetry in a doorway.”1 In this film, the camera...

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3. Listening to Mothers’ Stories

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pp. 73-98

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...

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4. Creating New Spaces of Politics: Nanay: A Testimonial Play

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pp. 99-132

At an event organized in 2004 to bring together Filipino families who had participated in our research on family separation, an older participant turned to me and said: “I would like to ask you. After doing this research, what are you going to do with it?” He and his wife earlier had...

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5. Acting on Attachments: Intimate Witness to State Violence in the Philippines

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pp. 133-161

The Philippine Women Centre and I have striven to make visible the lived experience of government programs in Canada and the Phil - ippines that regulate Filipina migrant domestic workers’ lives. Many Canadians, including government workers, fail to see the violence of these state...

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Conclusion: Research into Action

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pp. 163-172

This book has been an effort to unsettle complacency around temporary labor migration, now commonly framed by policy makers and some academics as a “win-win-win” solution to labor-market shortages in the global North and poverty and debt in the global South. We...


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pp. 173-179


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pp. 181-220


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pp. 221-237


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pp. 239-263

E-ISBN-13: 9780816680092
E-ISBN-10: 0816680094
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816669998

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012