Mothers on the MoveReproducing Belonging Between Africa and Europe

Mothers on the MoveReproducing Belonging Between Africa and Europe

Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226389745

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Mothers on the Move tells the story of Cameroonian migrants in Germany through the lives of women who navigate belonging—in Europe and in Africa—through birthing and caring for children. It explores the social strategies and community resources mothers mobilize when facing dilemmas engendered by migration. Cameroonian mothers sustain their goals of reproduction when they go abroad, although their international migration makes reproduction more difficult. As they say about Berlin, “It’s hard being a mother here.” By reproducing, mothers generate belonging for themselves and their children. Migration complicates belonging, stretching some connections to the breaking point while facilitating new ones. Through vivid case studies based on interviews with and ethnographic fieldwork among Cameroonian mothers, government bureaucrats, and humanitarian service providers, the book explores the strength and tenuousness of these connections. The ties Cameroonian women build are shaped by reproductive successes and insecurities experienced when migrant mothers pursue their ideal modern Cameroonian family while balancing the urban and regulatory demands of life in Berlin. To have and keep their children, Cameroonian mothers switch on and off emotionally-laden network ties—described through the metaphor of electric circuitry—with husbands, kin, co-ethnics, co-nationals, and German state and NGO workers. These networks require careful management, simultaneously facilitating the exchange of support and goods while contributing to women’s insecurity through the possibility of gossip and exposure to the “shadow” of state regulations. Interrelating concepts regarding reproduction, belonging, social networks, and legal conscious, this book offers an uplifting account of African migrants as mothers.