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Whose culture has capital?

Class, culture, migration and mothering

Bin Wu

In no previous generation have so many educated Chinese women with young children immigrated to western countries. Whereas most of the existing research literature in this field tends to study Chinese immigrants in general, this book focuses on a group of skilled female migrant mothers in New Zealand. It aims at understanding the dilemmas and ambiguities particularly concerning skilled female migration: although they belonged to a privileged group in their native land, these women become members of a visible minority in the new country. Middle-class professionals in their birth country, they experience downward social mobility when taking on unskilled jobs in their adopted land; besides having to shoulder heavier domestic workloads as the traditional support for childcare is no longer available in New Zealand. Centering on their mothering practices, this book provides detailed descriptions of how mothers deploy various strategies to maximise the benefits for their children’s education amidst changes and readjustments after migration.

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A Note on Translation and Spelling ....................................................... 11 Preface .................................................................................................... 13 1 INTRODUCTION .................................................................................. 15 Different Family Life ......................................................................... 16 Different Cultural Norms ................................................................... 17 Mothering and Childrearing .............................................................. 18 The Conceptual Framework .............................................................. 19 Different Forms of Capital ........................................................... 19 Habitus and Field ......................................................................... 21 The Study ........................................................................................... 23 The Study through Bourdieu’s Lens ............................................. 24 Organisation of This Book ................................................................ 26 2 PUTTING THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK IN CONTEXT.................... 29 Early Childhood: A Context with Multiple Fields ............................ 29 Women and Children: “A Foot in the Door” ..................................... 32 Women’s Work and Professionalism ................................................ 34 Te Whaariki: The High Ideal and Its Practices .................................. 37 Diversity in Early Childhood Education ........................................... 40 Summary ............................................................................................ 43 3 TRANSNATIONALISM: WHAT IS IT REALLY?....................................... 45 Big OE, But a Different Style ............................................................ 45 Birds of a Different Feather? ............................................................. 51 Where Do We Belong? ...................................................................... 59 Summary ............................................................................................ 65 4 THE SILENT PARTNERS? .................................................................... 67 Our Choices ....................................................................................... 67 “Connecting links” between home and the centre ....................... 68 It is more than affordability .......................................................... 71 The meanings of quality................................................................ 76 8 Daily Communication and Dealing with Concerns ........................... 80 No special treatment ..................................................................... 81 Maybe it was the “language barrier” .......................................... 83 But it is about the “Dos” and “Don’ts” ...................................... 85 The Portfolio: A Critique ................................................................... 88 Are They Playing or Learning? ......................................................... 94 Learn through play, but where is the learning? ........................... 95 Teaching and learning through play ............................................ 99 Summary .......................................................................................... 101 5 THE MOTHERING WORK .................................................................. 103 Reinforcing, Extending and Bridging .............................................. 103 Language and Learning Languages ................................................. 111 Bilingualism: A Compromise ..................................................... 112 “English is our second language.” ............................................ 120 Polly’s Story: Too many languages? .......................................... 127 “It’s just for them to have some fun.”.............................................. 131 Summary .......................................................................................... 137...

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