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Making meaning and negotiating authority in everyday narratives of transnational family lives Ann Phoenix Thomas Coram Research Unit In association with.

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Presentation on theme: "Making meaning and negotiating authority in everyday narratives of transnational family lives Ann Phoenix Thomas Coram Research Unit In association with."— Presentation transcript:

1 Making meaning and negotiating authority in everyday narratives of transnational family lives Ann Phoenix Thomas Coram Research Unit In association with the University of Sussex

2 What counts as knowledge? Commonly agreed that there is no knowledge from nowhere (Haraway, 1998, bell hooks). How we understand things is underpinned by (implicit) theories of knowledge (epistemologies). Much that has been produced as social knowledge is gendered, racialised and from particular social class perspectives. 2

3 3 Challenges to what counts as knowledge

4 Racialising the UK riots: Taken-for- granted knowledge gives right to speak BBC defends Newsnight after David Starkey said 'white chavs have become black‘ Daily Mail Daily Mail The BBC has defended a Newsnight debate which prompted almost 700 complaints about historian David Starkey's 'offensive' views. The writer and broadcaster was accused of racism after appearing on the BBC2 news show on Friday and saying that 'white chavs have become black' while debating last week's riots....David Starkey sparked anger as he suggested that black 'gangster' culture had become the norm.

5 5 Young hegemonic masculinities and ‘cool pose’ (Majors and Billson) Racialised, pathologising taken-for-granted ‘knowledge’. But Palmer's achievements are no protection from racism. He enjoys telling a story about keeping an appointment at an establishment he tactfully refuses to name. He later discovered that his host, surprised by his non-appearance, rang reception to be told: "Professor Palmer hasn't arrived. But there's a black guy who wants to see you - I've told him to wait." Times Higher Education Racial profiling has got to stop,” he said. “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum”. Representative Bobby Rush chided for wearing hoodie on House floor for Trayvon Martin By Rosalind S. Helderman Washington Post Rosalind S. Helderman [There] was a white woman who had been a manager … And she had very racist opinions which she covered up, or tried to cover up …I can remember one case in particular, where there was a young child whose mother was suffering from domestic violence, parents weren’t married, and she assumed that the child was black, which was an on-going thing with her. … And she made some remark about ‘that’s what they do, it is just normal’, you know and it’s what they do and I asked her ‘what do you mean? What do you mean!’ ….[She said] Well with a West Indian family it’s not too unusual … I just flipped my lid and said ‘What are you talking about abuse and violence are not normal patterns of life! …[And anyway] she has got blonde hair and blue eyes, just like you’... The shock that came onto her face and she went really red… (Gail Lewis, 2000) Racialised/gendered/classed hegemonies Africa as symbolic of pathology--metonymy

6 Talk covers Briefly some theoretical ways of understanding/constructing knowledge in research Study of serial migration as contribution to knowledge construction. 6

7 7 Focus on white, middle classes when the normative is being addressed. Focus on black/working classes when the pathological/problematic is being addressed. (Re)produces in normalisation of white middle classes. Normalised absence / pathologised presence common in research and everyday practices

8 Conceptual language for recognising simultaneous positioning in social categories—e.g. gender, class, sexuality and ethnicity (Crenshaw, 1989; 1994). Associated with power relations Non-additive & non- essentialist Intersectionality: Knowledge production as counter-hegemonic Mamie Clark Doll studies with Kenneth Clark (1930s & 40s USA) Racism damages identities 1954 Brown versus Board of Education desegregation of schools

9 Negotiating authority in research Participants Narrative construction in telling stories Critical engagement with societal discourses Critical engagement with familial practices Co-constructing data Researchers Analytic narrative constructions Critical engagement with normative societal constructions. Critical engagement with participants accounts. Co-constructing research accounts. Deconstructing literature.

10 Major claim to authority through theoretical framing Theories in constant flux & contestation Provides both way of seeing and claims to authority Less cited Foucault; Giddens; Beck & Beck- Gernshein More popular Deleuze & Guattari— rhizomes; assemblages Butler--performativity Karen Barad—intra- activity; apparatuses; entanglements; matter- discourse

11 Butler, J. (2004) Undoing Gender Judith Butler--discourses of the normative construct ‘livable’ or ‘unbearable lives’ Cannot recognise themselves in their culture’s canonical narratives of what it is to be a person. Those constructed as having ‘unbearable lives’ have to assert their claim to a livable (or bearable) life.

12 Vanessa Feltz – BBC Radio London 14 September 2007 FatHello Vanessa. Vanessa Feltz:So you were left in Sierra Leone? FatYeah. RAnd how old were you? Fat6. RGod and what was that like…

13 Separation from parents constructed as producing ‘unbearable lives’ “ Yes but eventually you become used to it, you become a Londoner, you have your own friends, your own life, your own loves, and then your own children. Fatima thanks so much for that call, amazing. And then went through uni and then ‘I got my degree’ oh my god, if I were her I’d just be trying to get dressed in the morning that would have been enough, just to clean my teeth and put on a clean pair of knickers would have just been enough of an achievement how amazing. Honestly.”

14 Telling their stories claimed ‘liveable lives’ Gained public recognition for a collective story and for themselves. Constituted themselves within the norms of personhood as intelligible subjects. Subjection to normalizing discourses of what families ought to be like; collusion with those discourses and resistance to being viewed as ‘non-normative’.

15 ESRC Professorial Fellowship Transforming Experiences: Re-conceptualising identities and ‘non-normative’ childhoods Research Fellows: Elaine Bauer and Stephanie Gill-Davis Retrospective narratives from adults from varied ethnicised groupings who grew up in ‘non- normative’ contexts. 40+ in-depth interviews with adults from each of three strands: serial migration (53); visibly different households (41); language brokers (40).

16 Adults looking back on childhood experiences Retrospective evaluation of family, experience & identities. Condensation of intimate memories. –Iconic memories –Memories as containers for pain Experiences always located in the geographical and historical context. Transnational families as context for negotiating ‘normative’ imagined families (Gillis, 2002).

17 Motherhood is focus of different theoretical traditions Discourses of attachment theory as central to identities & mental health. Virtual intimacies (Wilding, 2006) and simultaneity of lives (Levitt & Glick-Schiller, 2004) in ‘emotional transnationalism’ (Wolf, 2002) Mothers particularly disapproved of in transnational motherhood –’global care chains’ (Foner, 2009; Parrenas, 2005). Transnational motherhood raises intersectional issues (Lutz, 2011).

18 Negotiating ‘strangerhood’ for some Dynamic effectuality and potentiality of experiences (Charlotte Mathiassen) in dealing with memories of experiences. Past important in present and future, but not determinist Separated in reunion –long-lasting effects (e.g. Arnold, in press; Smith, Lalonde and Johnson, 2004). Recuperative processes for some (Arnold) Popular cultural understandings of motherhood central to negotiating new relationships. Physical affection treated as metonymic of attachment and proper mother-child relations.

19 Separated 7/8-14 years Angela: I remember sort of landing here... And this lumbering woman, this big woman lumbering towards me cos I can’t remember what she looks like, cos she left at 4, I don’t know do I? … So I didn’t know this woman, I didn’t know this person... I have never called her ‘mother’.

20 20 Contradictions between ‘mother’ as positional and personal JUNE: And in actual fact I was very resentful towards my mother for maaany (.) many years (.) I actually refused to call her my mum ROh right JUNEI would not call her mum (.) I did not call my mother mum until I was in my twenties. (3) I would not- I just didn’t call her anything (enunciated)

21 Lack of relationship in lack of naming Nanny: I don’t know how to talk to, I can’t, I don’t know what name to call her. And for the first few weeks I didn’t call her anything. More than that, more than that, for the first couple of months. If I wanted to speak to her I’d physically position myself in front of her and say something, cos the word couldn’t come out, mum could just not come out it had no meaning for me. 21

22 DIVISIONS BETWEEN PARENTS & CHILDREN Parents—child as economic project (c.f. Hallden, 2004) Children—construct selves as emotional project 22

23 Pain and mutual resentments Alison: …I came here and I use to cry so much that my mum use to say, oh my god, she’s bloody in that room crying again (laughing). But that’s how I use to get through life you know, I use to just sit and cry and then I maybe would cry for an hour … my mum and dad put it down to I was being selfish. Because they’d worked very hard to accumulate the funding to bring me over here and that was my ungratefulness you know. Shutting myself away from them, writing 100s of letters to home, to the West Indies. 23

24 Mothers and daughters positioned in opposition And how did she react to that, that you were sick after eating? LIZZIEI don’t know whether it’s a true memory or not but I don’t remember that it was good (laughing). But you see we didn’t have, I don’t think we had a very good relationship to begin with. Because I don’t think that she could understand that I was in trauma. …I think she was just thinking about what the effect was on her... (Separated 1-7) 24

25 25 Many children left loving relationships and remembered their islands nostalgically compared with (metonymic) cold and greyness in the UK. Parents employed long hours and see children as economic and educational projects. Emotions satisfied by reunion. Financial support as expression of maternal love (Chamberlain, 2006: 67) Disappointed if children are not grateful (Menjivar & Abrego, 2009).

26 Different temporalities and agenda Parents and children don’t know each others’ routines, practices and memories—lack of shared temporality. Mutual resentment about children’s pain, work and siblings. Inability/Refusal to say ‘mother’ is agentic, relational condensation of circumstances; see ‘childing’ as emotional project. Don’t consider themselves well mothered (intergenerational gender diffs)

27 Gendered transnational families Pervasiveness of discourses of attachment as part of current northern family imaginaries. Children living in different time and space from their parents. Mothers judged more harshly than fathers. Construction of strangerhood. Potentially contradictory ‘projects’ for children and parents. Redemptive narratives (McAdams, 2005); Claims to liveable lives and cultural legibility (Butler, 2004).

28 Telling their stories claimed ‘liveable lives’ Gained public recognition for a collective story and for themselves. Constituted themselves within the norms of personhood as intelligible subjects. Subjection to normalizing discourses of what families ought to be like; collusion with those discourses and resistance to being viewed as ‘non-normative’. Knowledge Production as radical and counter-hegemonic in disrupting normalised absence/ pathologised presence and naming the taken-for-granted.

29 Public recognition helps to make stories ordinary ‘I just think our stories have never been told.’ ‘I agreed to be interviewed because I don’t see my story out there.’ ‘I’ve just been telling everybody and so has my sister. This story has got to be told…’ Serial migration study


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