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Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement

Narratives of Communal Agency in the Face of Power Asymmetry


Lilian Cibils

Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement is based on the vivid accounts of seven Latina immigrant women of how they learned to navigate the school system in the rural southwest of the United States. Their stories are presented within several contexts, the socio-political conditions of immigration overarching them all. The process of acquiring a new socio-cultural script offers a common frame to the narratives, which illustrate the central role of the community in finding spaces for agency in circumstances of vulnerability. As a contribution to educational theory, this book explores the official discourse of parental involvement within the broader context of social policy by pointing to a common underlying ideal parent norm across areas of policy related to family and women. It also revisits the concept of parental involvement through contrasting ideologies of motherhood, as it applies the concept of participation parity in everyday institutional interactions as a fundamental measure of social justice. Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement offers deep insight into the institutionalized patterns of formal inclusion/informal exclusion in the relationship of schools with Latina immigrant mothers, even within the best intended programs. Its focus on the persistent need for the implementation of culturally and linguistically sensitive approaches to home-school relations makes this a must-read for undergraduate and graduate courses in teacher education, education leadership and sociology of education. Teachers, administrators and policymakers committed to moving away from the prevalent view of mothers as people who mainly need to be educated also need to read this book.

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Chapter 6. Belonging and the New Cultural Script



Belonging and the New Cultural Script

[…] the more experienced immigrant women offered newly arrived immigrant women a general orientation to living in the US: where to shop, how to enroll children in school, where to obtain emergency medical services, and how to obtain in-­home child care or paid domestic work. (Hondagneu-­Sotelo, 1994, p. 116)

In its basic meaning, belonging may be associated with “feeling ‘at home,’ ” and with “a sense of rootedness in a socio-­geographic site or be constructed as an intensely imagined affiliation with a distant locale where self-­realization can occur” (Yuval-­Davis, 2011, pp. 10–11). As such, it is often defined by contrast. The members of a community draw a sense of belonging from their shared sociocultural scripts, which are taken for granted, normalized. In the face of the displacement created by migration, the boundaries and requirements of belonging may need rethinking beyond these naturalized assumptions.

In a broader sense, the concept of belonging can be understood in relation to three analytical levels or facets: social locations; identification and emotional attachment; and ethical and political values (Yuval-­Davis, 2006, p. 199). These levels of belonging make for a dynamic process in which a complex set of power relations are at play. Massey’s (1994) exploration of the←133 | 134→ interplay of place, space, time, power and social relations may contribute to a less fixed and more fluid understanding of belonging.

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