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Families Apart

Families Apart: Migrant Mothers and the Conflicts of Labor and Love

Geraldine Pratt
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Families Apart
    Book Description:

    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, documenting the difficulties of family separation and the problems that children have when reuniting with their mothers in Vancouver.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8009-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION. Collaborating with the Philippine Women Centre: Cultivating a Debate
    (pp. xv-xxxvi)

    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 research collaborators from the center, Cecilia and Glecy, would be there. In response to my knock, a visibly irritated, physically imposing older white man opened the front door. So obvious to organizers at the center, they had assumed that I would know that the domestic worker and her family would live in the basement of the house....

  6. CHAPTER 1 Enterprising Women, Failing Children: Living within the Contradictions of Neo(Liberalism)
    (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, which had the makings for a dramatic story, she truncated her account by stating: “I actually stayed with them for a while and finished my contract with them. I just wanted to finish my contract so that I could finish my twenty-four-month requirement under the LCP, leave them and finally get my family.” Asked how long she stayed...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Waiting and the Trauma of Separation
    (pp. 41-72)

    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 createdWhen the Rain Stopped,described in film notes as “poetry in a doorway.”¹ In this film, the camera is stationary, located just within the doorframe of a home at a child’s eye level, looking out into an unkept field, jeepneys occasionally passing on a distant road. Rain pours down. Time passes. The back of a woman appears. Carrying a suitcase, she walks across the field. A disembodied male voice says, “First...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Listening to Mothers’ Stories
    (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 media representations after his death. We were told that, despite the large numbers of Filipinos in Vancouver, “they are less obvious than their neighbours. There is no ‘Filipino Town’ as such, as there is a Chinatown or Little Italy.” To detect a Filipino presence, one must “know where to look.”...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Creating New Spaces of Politics: Nanay: A Testimonial Play
    (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 spoken at length and with great honesty about their marital conflict after twelve years of separation while she worked as a domestic worker in Vancouver and he cared for their children in the Philippines. I said we would use our research to write academic papers and to lobby...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Acting on Attachments: Intimate Witness to State Violence in the Philippines
    (pp. 133-162)

    The Philippine Women Centre and I have striven to make visible the lived experience of government programs in Canada and the Philippines that regulate Filipina migrant domestic workers’ lives. Many Canadians, including government workers, fail to see the violence of these state policies despite often living close to women (and then their families) who are experiencing it. There are two failures of perception: seeing and feeling the extent of family separation, and then seeing and understanding the implications of this separation for children’s lives in Vancouver. This chapter addresses a third site of invisibility that lies outside the borders of...

  11. CONCLUSION: Research into Action
    (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 have argued that a language of migrant choice and freedom obscures processes of forced economic migration and affective tonalities and relations that, quite simply, cannot be assimilated into a matrix of costs and benefits. Although the language of “win-win-win,” costs and benefits, and labor migration as a “right” suggests that migrants can be and are brought within the...

  12. Appendixes
    (pp. 173-180)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 181-220)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-238)
  15. Index
    (pp. 239-263)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 264-264)