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Caring for a Responsible Self: Migrant Motherhood and the Politics of Reproduction

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Ugarte, Sofía 


For Haitian women who live and work in Santiago, expecting a baby entitled to Chilean nationality involves recognizing their maternal bodies at different institutional levels and transforming who they are and how they care for themselves and others as migrants, workers, and mothers in a new country. Based on ethnographic research, this article examines how the pregnant body’s moral legitimacy is generative of a form of agency among racialized migrant workers who become mothers. Pregnant migrants’ sense of self as working mothers and migrant workers emerges from the embodiment of institutional discourses of self-responsibility and self-care as they navigate the contradictory forms of recognition and belonging to the global economy and the nation’s reproduction. The experience of migrant motherhood shows how the gendered politics of reproduction affords modes of being and caring that expose the lived contradictions of making life happen. By grounding the meanings of care and social reproduction through migrant selfhood, the analysis expands on the scholarship of gendered migration, reproductive and care labor across unequal registers of migrant and non-migrant livelihoods.



care, reproduction, migrant motherhood, selfhood, labor migration

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Signs: journal of women in culture and society

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University of Chicago Press

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ESRC (ES/V011294/1)
Economic and Social Research Council of the United Kingdom (G108115 JFAG/116).