Accepted Paper:

Precarious ties and heterosexual lies? "Cruel optimism" in the shadows of reproductive mobility  


Susan Frohlick (University of British Columbia)

Paper short abstract:

Precarity haunts heterosexual Euro-North American women as mobile subjects accessing reproductive trajectories beyond the borders of their home countries. Intimate ties and heterosexual imaginaries are precarious manifestations in the context of lifestyle migration to Costa Rica.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores two related sets of precariousness haunting heterosexual Euro-North American women's experiences of reproduction as expatriates or lifestyle migrants in Costa Rica. One is the precarity of intimate ties partially and imperfectly formed with local families when as foreigners they have children out of sexual relations with local men, in which economic and class differences are often stark. A second is the precarity of heteronormativity or heterosexual imaginaries underpinning dreams of being a nuclear family while forging a "new life" away from Europe or North America. While ties to intimate sociality and relatedness are sought by Costa Ricans in relations with foreigners, my research turns to a different narrative, one of foreigners' precarity in intimate ties with locals. As highly mobile populations, expatriates may have acquired the means to seek "families of choice" outside of their home countries and, especially, in desirable tourist destinations. Yet desires for the sought-after multi-cultural mixed race family animate power imbalances and the "thinness" of what some hope could be deeper "blood" relations. These narratives evoke broader questions about the effects of mobility engendered to heterosexual Euro-North American women in an era of international travel and "lifestyle migration" (Benson and O'Reilly 2009) on translocal kinship formations but also on the state of "the cruel optimism" (Berlant 2011) that continues to reign over heteronormative values.

Panel P064
Mobility, precarity, and the activation of kinship and intimacy [ANTHROMOB]