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Mothers on the MoveReproducing Belonging Between Africa and Europe$
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Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226389745

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226389912.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 May 2022

In the Shadow of the State

In the Shadow of the State

(p.164) 6 In the Shadow of the State
Mothers on the Move

Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores threatening and protective shadows cast by the German state upon Cameroonian migrant mothers’ pursuit of belonging. When Cameroonian migrants meet German state and humanitarian NGO authorities, they choose among cultural and legal toolkits and restructure their repertoires of family life, mobility, and separation. Through a legal consciousness framework, this chapter traces migrant mothers’ development of collective understandings of the symbols, norms, and organizational forms of German laws and regulations. It explores a series of encounters with the state: at the foreigner’s office; with an asylum seekerat the welfare office; the bureaucratic labyrinth surrounding birth; re-casting what counts as family, marriage, and childhood well-being; and recourse in case of domestic violence. Papers, documentality, and the discretionary judgment of low-level bureaucrats play a big role in migrant mothers’ lives. Social relationships are crucial in managing life under the shadow of the state. To access public benefits, migrants depend on the information that circulates among their fellow migrants. In this way individual experiences crystalize into collectively held orientations toward the law, the state, and life in a new land. The shadow of state regulation recasts affective circuits among kin, and constrains mothers’ autonomy in caring for their children.

Keywords:   birth, bureaucracy, documentality, domestic violence, family, law, legal consciousness, marriage, migrants, state

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