Accepted Paper:

Unsovereign births: mobility and loss among professional Indonesian mothers in Singapore and Australia  
Leslie Butt (University of Victoria)

Paper short abstract:

Mobile professional women from Indonesia who leave the country struggle to maintain control over their reproductive lives. They accept the loss of traditional belonging to a place in order to give birth and raise children themselves.

Paper long abstract:

Stratified reproduction enables some women to reproduce and rear children at the expense of others --a child's life often occurs at the expense of the non-life of another child. Scholars have described a strong demarcation between affluent women who are putatively able to control childbirth and childrearing at the expense of less affluent women's reproductive choices. For globally mobile women, however, choices can be complex, and can force reckonings with other forms of loss, in particular around belonging, family continuities, and citizenship. Increasing mobility fragments place-based identities, and forces ruptures in allegiances to nations or regions. This paper describes the results of a study on reproduction and childrearing of professional, highly mobile mothers who have left Indonesia to work or study overseas. In-depth interviews and on-line observations reveal Indonesian women often travel to countries where they experience prohibitions on residency and on reproduction. Women's decisions around childbirth, childrearing and mobility are strongly shaped by these prohibitions, but also by concerns about the well-being of children, and their desire to be with their children. To maintain choice around childrearing women forego attachment to residency in a place, give little importance to nationality, and give up a long-term sense of "home." Belonging becomes a secondary concern, with mobility across locales and social loss viewed as necessary for the larger project of giving life to a child, and enabling parents and children to remain together.

Panel P31
Coming to life: sovereign births and other reproductive logics