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Accepted Paper:

Parental supervision via CCTV in translocal families in China  
Zhenwei Wang (Bielefeld University)

Paper short abstract:

By investigating the experiences of migrant parents supervising their children doing homework from afar via CCTV, this study reflects on the practice of virtual presence as ways of accompaniment and control at the same time in distant childcare provision.

Paper long abstract:

In the last decades, the tens of millions of children in China lived apart from parents who work in remote places. This study examines how parents produce the sense of presence by installing CCTV at home and how this specific type of “presence” is experienced by children and parents respectively.

Drawing on multi-sited ethnographic data obtained from 2020 to 2021 in migrants’ destination city Hangzhou and their rural hometown in Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces in China, the study finds, on the one hand, “being there” through CCTV reduces the spatial distance between parents and left-behind children during labor migration. It decreases the parents’ guiltiness for unable to meet the parental obligation, and it allows parents to supervise the children’s after school study activities as much as other non-migrant parents. On the other hand, it exaggerates the sense of mistrust in parent-child relation, especially from the perspective of children. The use of CCTV may finally lead to deterioration of the already fragile family relationship due to separation. Besides empirical analysis, this research further reflects on the role of presence as both accompanying and controlling.

The findings of this study enrich the body of scholarship by giving voices to both parents and children in translocal living arrangement, helping them to construct meanings of the CCTV-assited virtual presence. Documenting the intertwining moral and emotional experiences, this paper also underscores the consequence of sensory-physical transformation in caregiving during migration.

Panel P111a
Being there - but how? On the transformation of presences I
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -