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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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161 7 Conclusion “Whose culture has capital?” The findings in this project provide some complex answers to this question. The participants deployed a range of strategies from embracing to rejecting, from selectively utilising to care- fully critiquing various dominant evaluative norms of New Zealand mainstream society. The participants also simultaneously proactively promoted and criticised Chinese traditional values. The migrant mothers were forging a new culture by selectively combining the two. McLeod (2005) observes that in the 1980s educational research ap- plying Bourdieu’s work had the tendency to put emphasis on social and cultural reproduction. She argues that a more productive way for femi- nist researchers applying Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and field is to simultaneously study both reproduction and transformation of gender relations and identities. Although McLeod makes this observation from a feminist perspective on gender; a similar notion is also applicable to ex- amine class and ethnicity. The findings of the current study demonstrate the instability and continuity of gender, class, and ethnicity. Complicating the Notion of Capital Traditional interpretation of social and cultural capital generally limits itself only to dominant forms of capital. In the existing research literature, dominant and non-dominant capital are viewed as relatively independent of each other and the boundaries between them as more or less clear. The current research findings, however, complicate such a notion. In this study, the participants belonged to the dominant middle class in their birth country but experienced social downward mobility and became members of a visible ethnic minority group...

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