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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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6 “THE FAMILY” - 139


139 6 “The Family” In his article On the Family as a Realised Category, Bourdieu (1996) argues that the family is an important site for generating social and cul- tural production and reproduction. In Chinese tradition, extended fami- lies are involved in childcare and childrearing. Grandparents’ involve- ment in daily childcare was and is still common. However, in the previ- ous chapter, the participants talked about extended family support as ei- ther unavailable or inadequate to them in New Zealand compared to what they could have had in China. Ho (2004) describes that Chinese female migrants in Australia experienced heavier domestic workloads coupled with downward career motilities. As a result, the women played a more traditional role as mothers and wives after migration. Ho called this phenomenon “feminisation”. The migrant mothers in the current study experienced similar “feminisation”. So how did the women deal with changes within the family during the process of social and cultural production and reproduction? This chapter examines this issue by focus- ing on three areas. First, “two generations” investigates the extended family support for childcare. Second, “gendered parenthood” examines the gendered roles that fathers and mothers played in childcare and child- rearing. Third, “mothering and paid work” describes the mothers’ daily juggling of household work, childrearing/childcare, and paid work. Two Generations The Industrial Revolution has changed people’s ways of production and consequently reproduction. In a feudal society, home is an economic unit – people either work at their own home or in other people’s homes. With...

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