EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006

(W054)

Informal child migration and transnational networks of care

Location Wills 3.33
Date and Start Time 19 Sep, 2006 at 11:30

Convenors

Cecilie Øien (Fafo) email
Esben Leifsen (University of Oslo) email
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Short Abstract

The workshop will explore the conditions for anthropological research with and on children in a time when the child as a social, analytical and bureaucratic category occupies an increasingly significant place in public discourses and policies.

Long Abstract

Informal networks of care constitute a social and cultural potential for children and adult caretakers who are involved in informal and illegal migration within and into Europe. Informal child migration, child circulation and social models of informal kinship care are phenomena that have been studied extensively by anthropologists in other parts of the world through the study of kinship, economy and gender. The now well-established migration of people from Asia to Europe, the opening up of Eastern Europe and its economic transformation in the 1990s, and the current influx of labour migrants from Latin America together with the more established African diasporic populations from former colonies constitute migration trends that (re)introduce the issues of informal child migration, informal kinship care and transnational networks of care to a European context. In anthropological research on children the focus is often on the child as a member of social networks and groups, whereas in rights discourses and policies s/he is normally defined as an individual, following the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Papers should explore some of the following issues: What impact do children's rights discourses have on anthropological research on children? What are the implications of widespread normative approaches to the child for this kind of research? What are the limits to methodological relativism in anthropological research on children? And what about the ethical issues related to working with and on children - have they changed and can there be any standard guidelines? Both ethnographic and theoretical contributions are welcome.

Chair: Cecilie Øien
Discussant: Esben Leifsen

Papers

Elasticity and entitlements: adolescent migrants' view on intergenerational care in rural Burkina Faso

Author: Dorte Thorsen (University of Sussex)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper problematises the way in which children's individual rights as globally applicable qualities are given priority in advocacy and child protection work without paying sufficient attention to children's perspectives on their own situation and opportunities. The starting point for the discussion is the way in which notions of care are often tied to one location and conceptualised as a unidirectional provision of basic needs, socialisation and emotional attention from parents to children not only in the more recent rights-based discourses but also in anthropological representations. By looking at relationships between children and adults through the lens of intergenerational contracts, I interrogate how adolescents think about care, what kinds of claims they feel entitled to make and what kinds of obligations they try to meet.

Drawing on empirical material from a context of high mobility of both adults and children, and in particular on a study of adolescents' independent migration within Burkina Faso that I undertook in 2005, I argue that networks of care are stretched to several locations reflecting the multiple locations of parents, guardians, children and children's siblings. Moreover, I argue that individuals are able to assert different sets of claims within these networks depending on entitlements linked with their biological and social relationships, and on the economic standing of various members of the network. Based on this empirical exploration of adolescents' perceptions of care, I will raise a set of theoretical questions that aim to unsettle universal ideas of rights such as those employed in child protection work addressing the exploitation of children in West Africa while still giving emphasis to the individual and thus to children as an analytical category and as actors.

Child migration and care in life stories

Author: Petri Hautaniemi (University of Helsinki)  email
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Long Abstract

Co-author: Helena Jerman, University of Helsinki

Supporting the view on memory as a site for studying the dialectics of individual and social processes our presentations introduce some ethnographic examples of child migration as process in time and space. We argue that multisitedness and multitemporality are significant notions in studies of childhood and migration. We approach the theme from two case studies, one from the Finnish Russian borderland, and the other from the Finnish Somali diaspora.

Hautaniemi deals with "fugitive memories" among young Somali men in Helsinki. As children these men were circulated within wide transnational family networks during the 1990s and finally they landed in Finland. He will discuss the way young Somali men recall displacements and emplacements in their childhood, and in what sense they consider it a meaningful experience. Hautaniemi argues that what is perceived as a dramatic change in childhood may become a pivotal point of crucial identifications in later age as memories are communicated.

Exploring existential and practical consequences of care of children in a transnational context in the Finnish Russian borderland Jerman will consider the ways in which practices, persons and institutions are perceived at any given time. Her multitemporal approach considers how informants interpret or transmit related experiences. Jerman´s presentation suggests that elderly persons' narratives and present perceptions on displaced childhood disclose memories, i.e. traces. Arguably, these affect human lives as memories of the past become present tense, a transition in space and time occurs.

Children's social experiences in the diverse migration patterns to Catalonia, Spain

Author: Silvia Carrasco (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)  email
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Long Abstract

In spite of being a rich area within Spain, social inequalities have increased in Catalonia in recent years, whereas efficient systems of social protection to address this have not been developed at the same pace. These inequalities unmistakably affect children in migrated families. And children are central in migration, because migration is always a family issue, a search for better opportunities that will be tested through children's well-being in time. Different forces lead to poverty of children in migrated families, including the legal status of adults, the transnational character of household economies and demands, family fragmentation processes and also the result of social policies addressed to immigration.

Spanish social policies in the areas of early childhood and family-support institutions, health and education are based on the assumption of the permanent settlement of immigrants and standard family composition and this should be called into question, as well as prevailing strategies concerning social transfers that intend to reach the children whose parents' status remains illegal. Partly, this is one of the reasons why even children in migrated families from poorer countries often experience downward mobility of the family, particularly those who have come through reunification after a time of living on remittances that have given higher possibilities of consumption than their home average standards (due to the fear of loss of emotional ties partially compensated by extra investment in children's consumption or by gifts from migrant parents). They may also face downward assimilation—into poverty as well as into local intragenerational norms—which directly affects their subjective perception of well-being, leading them to an increased questioning of their parents' migration projects.

Through the example of Catalonia, I provisionally argue that there is a higher experience of poverty among children in migrated families in Southern European countries due to internal and external processes such as new multi-local/ transnational family strategies of permanent migration from poorer countries, the emergence of a specific situation of social polarisation due to a pattern of immigration that includes families with children from richer countries, and a lower level of social transfer to children in general, as states continue to rely on traditional family networks of support that—to a large extent—migrant families do not usually have.

This paper will mainly examine data from social indicators, immigrant parents' concerns and local social policies related to immigration included in the two CIIMU Reports on Childhood and Immigration (2002, 2004 and 2006) in order to defend the need of a processual approach than can allow us to capture the impact of migration on mobility through children's eyes, in the context of the specific and diverse patterns of migration to Spain from poorer and richer countries

Displaced care: children facing and shaping the migration project of their mothers

Author: Eulalia Torra Borras (Universitat de Barcelona)  email
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Long Abstract

Based in a fieldwork among Latin-American live-in domestic workers in Barcelona (Spain) the paper will reflect about the role of the children in some of the crucial issues faced by these workers. There are several interesting focuses from economy to kinship. Most of these migrant women leave their own family behind to move outside their country to take care of another family as a job, producing a global displacement of women taking care of other women's children. Through some ethnographic pictures we will observe how the children left behind keep going their relation with their absent mothers, how the mothers take decisions conditioned by their children responses, and how the children who can join their mothers in Barcelona deal with the implications of their mother's job. In all this cases children appear as actors who shape the realities of their mother's lives. In sum, this paper will deal with the role of children in conditioning and giving meaning to the migrant project of these women.

Informal child circulation of Russian children in transnational adoption

Author: Lilia Khabibullina (Universitat de Barcelona)  email
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Long Abstract

Transnational adoption is getting more and more popular and children are being "circulated" among countries of First and Third world or "silently migrate" from one country to another. Whereas the fertility rate in industrialised countries is getting lower, the lack of children is compensated by getting them from countries of development or countries in transition, where children abandonment is on rise. From 1996 Russia is one of the major "giving" country in international adoptions in Europe and the USA: in Spain Russia is second "giving" country after China. The growing demand of children from Third world for international adoptions have risen many concerns in "giving" countries and some of them replied to this process by restricting adoptions laws or total prohibitions of international adoptions. In case of Russia, foreign citizens adopted 9,4thousand (59%) in 2004, and Russian- 7thousand(41%) and these figures created a great tension in a camp of international adoption. Besides, legal cases of "killings"(13 starting from 1996) of children adopted in Russia abroad, abuse and "trafficking" added more to the negative image of international adoptions in Russia. As a consequence, following "best interests of a child", Russian laws have been modified and restricted international adoptions.

Therefore, my research falls into the framework, concerning adoption as a means of "child circulation" , in particular, as an informal child circulation. Although adoption seems to be highly formalised process, there are a lot of informal networks and "facilitators" around it, especially in reference to countries with limited access and extreme bureaucracy, as Russia. Besides, not all international adoptions go through adoption agencies, but also by "independent adoptions", which is still allowed in Russia. My objective is to see, following Leifsen, Yngvesson, Fonseca (2003) frameworks, how is a child "transacted", "negotiated" between one country or another, how a child objectified and how "best interests of a child" and "rights discourse" are interpreted by different parties in international adoption, in my case, Russia and Spain. I believe that this cross-cultural analysis will be fruitful for cross-cultural adoption studies in Europe,in general, and for Bristol conference, in particular.

The child in Western discourses: reflections on gender

Author: Elisabeth L'Orange Fürst (University of Oslo)  email
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Long Abstract

In this paper I will problematise the use of the category of the child as a non-gendered generalisation in bureaucratic and children's rights discourses. I will discuss implications of this practise by looking into classical interdisciplinarian gender theory which mostly has been preoccupied with situations in Europe and the USA. Gender socialisation has been focused taking outset in the typical middle class family of the Fifties. Weight has been laid on the gendered divison of labour behind the dichotomies of the caring housewife and the working male provider. Gender differences has been understood according to socialisation practises which reproduses such gender roles.

Feminist critique represents a deconstruction of such dichotomies, focusing on the revolution in gender relations which followed the collapse of the traditional division of labour, as women "left the home" joining the capitalist labour force on a mass scale from the Seventies. The paper will also consider the new situations in the era of globalisation and migration and discuss how gender still matters when it comes to children.