Keynote Speech

gMigrant Mothers and the Varieties of Absent Childrenh

Professor Nicole Constable

Professor at the Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh


How do onefs biological children, perhaps the most familial of kin, become (un)familiar strangers through contemporary processes, technologies, and practices of migration and separation, and how, in the process of migration, conventional and unconventional sorts of families are made and unmade? Taking a two-pronged approach, I explore the link between an on-the-ground ethnographic and affective approach to gpeopleh with a more gmid-rangeh and distanced approach to the institutions and expert knowledge, the gglobal assemblages,h that promote and shape the practices and forms of migratory separation of biological mothers and their children. Based primarily on stories told by Indonesian and Filipino migrant women in Hong Kong about a spectrum of different sorts of absent children, this essay builds on previous studies of gleft-behind children,h calling for greater attention to the spectrum of sorts of absent children, and to queer or less normative or forms of migratory families.