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Accepted Paper:

“Keep practicing English!” Transnational Motherhood, Citizenship and Belonging among Return Migrants in Central Mexico  
Alison Lee (Universidad de las Américas Puebla)

Paper short abstract:

Return migrant mothers in Mexico enact transnational motherhood through practices that create U.S. citizens from children in a transnational context. Mothers’ “acts of citizenship” break with the established status and habitus of citizenship and challenge the boundaries of political communities.

Paper long abstract:

How do the hopes and practices of returned migrant mothers challenge the exclusionary effects of the nation-state? How do these mothers question the normative ideas of the political community and upset established scales of claiming rights? Based on ethnographic research in Central Mexico among return migrant mothers, I argue that transnational motherhood is enacted through mothering practices that create citizens from children in a transnational context for two countries simultaneously. Return migrant mothers, who lived as undocumented migrants in the United States, are active subjects engaging in processes of constructing citizens by countering the constant undermining pressures of “illegality” and normative ideas of the nation-state and political communities. Not only do their actions point to new dimensions in our understanding of transnational motherhood, but they also open up new possibilities for the “politics of belonging”. By encouraging U.S. citizen children to practice and maintain their English skills in rural and peri-urban Mexico, mothers shape their children’s futures, attempting to position them favorably in the transnational context in which they are being raised. Motherhood shapes how return migrant mothers are contesting political exclusion and claiming spaces for their children from a marginal position outside—geographically, socially, politically—the U.S. nation-state. By developing the substantive elements of citizenship, return migrant mothers countered the effects of racism that erode the citizenship rights of racialized subjects. Their “acts of citizenship” break with the established status and habitus of citizenship, opening up new possibilities for transforming the boundaries of political communities and membership.

Panel P013a
Motherhood Transformed and Transforming; Discussing the role of motherhood(s) and mother work in constructing futures of hope I
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -