Lecture Twelve: Transnational Family [December 2, 2013]
- Look at the way family formations change or transform or maintained when members of
both extended and nuclear family move around. Flows of migration pull these members
apart from one another –the duration of separation and resiliency of the family when this
Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierette & Ernest. Avila. 1997. “I’m Here, But I’m There: The Meanings of
Latina Transnational Motherhood,” Gender & Society 11(5): 548-71.
- Start out with the assumption that motherhood is something society sees as symbolic. It
is an important social relationship, and part of a functional society
- Symbolically, we attach meanings beyond practicality.
- Some of these attachments and meanings are said to be disrupted by transnationalism.
On the one hand, there is a middle class modeling of motherhood, predicated on the
nuclear family, hegemonic masculinity, and a stay at home mom. This middle-class ideal
is not surprising to us; the white-Anglo norm where the mother and child are isolated at
- Wealth of research, both historical and sociological, even in a family environment where
this formation did not happen, for example in colored families due to socio-economic
conditions, the mother and child is still not separated. The mother takes on work that
allows her to bring the child with her, or do work she can do at home, etc. When women
of color or lower income had to join the workforce, they can find niche and roles that does
not challenge their proximity with their child. They can still connect with the child in a
meaningful way, the relation is not disrupted
- The authors specifically look at the historical moment of globalization, where women have
to travel great distances across borders to make money to sustain their family. The
middle-class formation that previously existed simply cannot sustain family relationships
for this group of women. Transnational motherhood is both idealized notions called
“Latina” idealized models and white middle class model.
- Transnational migration can provide opportunities to create a new configuration. Scholars
of transnationalism ask how radical is the movement of people creating new roles that do
not reflect traditional forms of motherhood? Very often, scholars in transnationalism take
on a practical approach (how disruptive, etc.), undermining the sentimental or emotional
aspect of this separation. Politically, Hondagneu-Sotelo and Avila wanted to ground it in
- Worked in LA. Three different sectors of domestic work that determine amount of wage,
autonomy they have in their work lives, family formation, etc.
o First, domestic cleaners. Multiple employers with several homes in one day.
Repetitive, practical, isolated, etc. There is a bit more flexibility involved, setting
up their own timetable, and get flat rate that is more than the live-in help ($10
dollar to $4 dollar). This is the sector the people want in – highest pay, highest
autonomy, etc. Governed by contract, easier to protect the worker since the work
relation is more explicit. You have flexible, you can work for several families with
reduces your risk.
o Second, live-in house cleaner/nannies. Practically working 24/day, at the
employer’s beck and call. The hourly rate of this sect would be atrocious, despite
having board and food possibly provided for. The issues of wanting to get close
to the children you care for without exceeding the power of the biological parents
so they don’t get jealous.
o Third, live-out house cleaner/nannies. They leave and come at a set time, but do
not live under their employer’s roof. More complicated. To the benefit of the
employer because it is shifting, permeable, flexible, to the point where the worker
takes on roles they are not adequately paid for. - Paid labor of caring other people’s kids but they have to leave their children in the home
country to work.
- Methodology – surveys to 100 domestic workers, series of interviews with some of the
women, time spent in employment agency and bus stops (participant observation), etc.
o The survey found that 40% of these women had at least one of their own children
- Tripartite taxonomy of work arrangements determining desirability, the work involved,
o The more recent migrants take on live-in nanny/cleaner despite it being least
desirable. Economical niche because they have few connections and resources,
so they are the ideal candidates for exploitative work. They also demand that you
must leave your family.
o Linguistically, once people move into domestic cleaners, that person is probably
at a higher level of English than the others. As domestic cleaners, you have more
employers to deal with. The work involved, contract, requirements are more
explicit and needs to be told.
- Isolation in a communication, family, and the political ramifications.
o Live-in nanny/cleaners are the most isolated. Low resources and linguistic