Displacement of Self in Transnational Motherhood: Mainland Chinese Cross-Border Mothers in Hong Kong

Wai-chi Chee, Ping Lam Ip

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstractpeer-review


renegotiated within transnational contexts. Current literature has focused on the capital mobilization of migrant mothers to create new meanings of motherhood. For example, mothers who migrate for work resort to their newly gained financial capital to rationalize their contribution to family prosperity and to contest the stigmatization that they have abandoned their children. However, in the case of the cross-border mothers in our research who have very limited capital or even diminishing capital as they migrate, they lack the agency to counteract conventional demand on idealized motherhood such as physical and emotional proximity with children and prioritization of children. These women also lack protection because of their low socioeconomic status and precarious
migration status. The consequence is, we argue, an internalization of the traditional moral imperative of mother sacrifice and intensified prioritization of children, leading to what we call displacement of self, i.e., the constant subordination, blaming, alienation, and minimization of their own self.
Drawing on in-depth interviews with 26 Mainland Chinese cross-border mothers aged 31 to 51, staying in Hong Kong on tourist visa to take care of their children who go to school in Hong Kong, this paper delineates these mothers' self-subordination, self-diminishing and self-sacrifice. We discuss three major areas of their social life: (1) Tensions between maintaining family relationship and childbearing; (2) Precarious social networks; and (3) Self­ sacrifices. All this results in internalization and intensification of the conventional motherhood ideal, making the child the only core of the mother's life. The mother self is gradually lost as mother sacrifice is taken for granted, leading to increased migrant mother vulnerabilities and gender inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2023
EventXX ISA World Congress of Sociology - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 25 Jun 20231 Jul 2023
https://www.isa-sociology.org/en/conferences/world-congress/melbourne-2023 (Conference website)
https://isaconf.confex.com/isaconf/wc2023/meetingapp.cgi/Home/0 (Conference programme)


ConferenceXX ISA World Congress of Sociology
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