Ambivalence? Cultivation? or Simply Some Free Time? Transnational Short-Term Migrant Returns Across Three Family Generations

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Magdalena SLUSARCZYK, Jagiellonian University, Poland
Paula PUSTULKA, Jagiellonian University, Poland
The continuing importance of the extended kin in the globalized world has been pinpointed by studies in sociology of family and particularly highlighted by migration research on transnational kin. The lives of transnational family members are embedded in the dynamically constructed practices of managing ties and kin relationships beyond borders.

This paper examines family practices that occur during the short-term visits of Polish migrant women, seeing these as significant transnational family practices and a particular kind of return. The notion of “return” is akin to that of transnational mobility, with an imprinted non-permanence, elusiveness and ambiguity. An ambivalent return refers to space just as much as to affect and the obligations that migrants feel obliged to fulfil within and beyond geographic borders. Short-term returns are therefore a form of border crossing that can be viewed as visiting friends and relatives, yet must also be recognized as primarily marked by duties (absence compensation and cultivations of family relations) rather than its understanding as tourism or leisure.

We propose a multi-sited mixed-methods approach.  By combining data from Transfam project (2013-2016), and a doctoral study on migrant mothering (Pustułka 2014), the analysis benefits from data collected through web-surveys and in-depth interviews conducted with migrant women parenting in Norway (n=30) and United Kingdom (n=37). Furthermore, we provide backdrop data in the form of survey data deployed in the UK (n=81) and Norway (n=648).

The discussions feature the actions that women take towards their elderly parents on the one hand, and their children who normally reside abroad, on the other hand. The arguments showcase the tensions evoked by short-term returns home. They are viewed as resulting from nostalgia, guilt and ambivalence towards one’s parents and home-country, as well as being conditioned on the efforts focused on cultivation of familial propinquity and Polish culture among children.