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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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29 2 Putting the Conceptual Framework in Context The family is an important site for social and cultural production and reproduction (Bourdieu, 1996). Existing research literature on cultural reproduction has mainly been in the areas of school and higher education. This study examines mothering work in relation to social and cultural reproduction with a focus on preschool children and early childhood education. The younger the children, the more dependent they are on parents and families to provide care and education. Parents’ responsibili- ties and obligations are more salient compared with parenting during other phases. Mothers are generally the primary caregivers for their young children, particularly so with preschool children. The gendered role of parenting has been insufficiently studied (Reay, 1995). In this chapter, I first explain how early childhood is conceptualised as a field. I then describe New Zealand’s early childhood education context. This brief description shows the sector is a social arena where women have battled to gain power and maintain autonomy in the midst of an array of cultural repertories and socio-political tensions. This description sets the scene for the migrant mothers’ stories to unfold. Early Childhood: A Context with Multiple Fields “Fields are structured contexts” (McLeod, 2005, pp.13-14). Zarycki (2007) proposes reinterpreting fields as dimensions of a context. In this way, a context comprises various fields. The above citations evidence the overlapping or interchangeable nature of the terms “field” and “con- text”. For the purpose of the current research, the former is treated as a context where...

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