Families in Motion: Ebbing and Flowing through Space and Time

Cover of Families in Motion: Ebbing and Flowing through Space and Time

Synopsis

Table of contents

(16 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xi
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Abstract

This chapter introduces the argument that pervades the collection that families are in motion both conceptually and in practice. It articulates the motion of family and families, which are made through space and time, and explains the ways in which the book develops current thinking on family. It also situates the concept and practices of family within wider debates and contexts. The chapter then details the contribution of each of the chapters to this argument, which are organised around three thematic parts: moving through separation and connection; uneven motion and resistance; and traces and potentialities. The chapter draws out six conclusions from the chapters in the collection.

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Part I: Moving Through Separation and Connection

Abstract

David Morgan’s (2011) influential concept of ‘doing family’ has yet to be applied to the cultural shaping of fatherhood and emotions. Drawing from two case studies, of a Scottish and a Romanian father, the author reflects in this chapter on the interconnections between ‘doing family’ and ‘loving’, as types of relational and emotional activities which maintain family bonds despite intimate separations and work migration. These two case studies are taken from a larger, qualitative research project, which explored the experiences of involvement and love for 47 fathers in their personal lives. The specific case studies of Sergiu and Keith, marked by relational give-and-takes across different spaces, illuminate the contradictions of their emotional involvement in their close relationships to their children and ex-partners. For these two fathers, the process of ‘doing family’ after separations was a disjointed and renegotiated one. It mainly involved developing their emotional reflexivity as a response to their changing life circumstances. In this process, both fathers recount how they began reconfiguring their masculine identity from providing to establishing caring fathering. These changes occurred when the normative precepts of their personal lives were transformed due to the separations. Situations of emotional upheaval, movement and relocation were thus created. As their families were in motion, fathers mentioned instances of changing their communication strategies to express love in more visible ways to their children, directly constructing their ‘good fathering’ identity from renewed positions. Family separations in this context offered the potential to challenge the traditional father’s role.

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The title of this chapter was inspired by Martin, a prisoner the author met while conducting fieldwork. Martin remarked that, despite the common rhetoric around prisoners ‘maintaining’ their family ties, the reality was that during imprisonment it became more about trying to cling on to them. Imprisonment is perhaps one of the most brutal disruptions a family can undergo, leaving them little choice but to adapt to this enforced transition. Immediately, the spaces where family life can happen narrow severely and become dictated by the prison environment and the plethora of rules that regulate it. The immediate physical separation, onerous restrictions on physical contact and the heavily surveilled nature of family contact during imprisonment constricts space for emotional expression, often rendering romantic relationships clandestine and fatherhood attenuated. Further, the temporal space for family is reduced as limited opportunities for visits lead prisoners to eschew contact with wider family members and prioritise their ‘nuclear’ family. Drawing on empirical research conducted at two male prisons in England and Wales, this chapter then, will detail the complexities of how families navigate this transition and the limitations on what family can mean in the prison environment. The chapter will conclude with the implications of these restrictions for the ultimate transition when prisoners return ‘home’.

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‘Living together apart’ (LTA) is the practice of remaining in close domestic proximity following the ending of an intimate relationship. Using the conceptual framework of families in motion, in which families are re-envisioned as in flow, responding to all kinds of disruptions, chosen and unchosen, by ‘holding on’, adapting, adjusting and redirecting, this chapter explores the family practices involved in LTA. Using collaborative autoethnography – a research process in which the authors jointly explored data from their own lives – the authors were able to develop an understanding of LTA that was attentive to everyday life and the interconnections of time and space within families. The authors found that when families are living within less normative constellations, there are fewer scripts to rely upon and the potential for non-legitimacy and anxiety increases. The data also showed how deeply families are embedded in practices that are always in relation to an experienced past and imagined future. The importance of having a family story to tell that ‘works’ socially and emotionally, as well as having a home that can spatially encompass such new flows in family lives, is crucial.

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This chapter focusses on multi-local families and more specifically on the ways in which children of separated parents, living in joint physical custody arrangements, define and construct their ‘home’ in a context of circular mobility. It is based on two case studies drawn from ongoing fieldwork conducted in Belgium with children aged 10–16 in the context of the ERC Starting Grant project ‘MobileKids’. The main aim is to understand how family relations structure children’s ‘life spaces’ and ‘lived space’ (di Meo, 2012). The authors explore in particular the meanings and feelings that family relations confer to the space of the ‘house’ in children’s experiences, including both the physicality of the place of residence, and the relations and emotions that children attach to it (Forsberg, Autonen-Vaaraniemi, & Kauko, 2016, p. 435). The authors also highlight the various strategies that children develop to mediate/influence their family relations through ‘space’, including strategies of spatial appropriation and territorialisation. The authors conclude by summarising the main findings and considering future developments.

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Part II: Uneven Motions and Resistance

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This chapter is based on a study of 60 migrant women in Washington State, USA, and their communication with their families in and across borders through information and communication technologies (ICTs). Four themes were identified in the research concerning the uneasy ways family members used the ICTs to: (1) predicate migration decision-making through word-of-mouth and social media; (2) facilitate the movement of members across borders through stepwise migration; (3) affect the transition to a transnational family through establishing a sense of co-presence; and (4) mediate care through communication chains. The significance of the study demonstrates the need for relational thinking about transnational family communication and the mobilities of families. Transnational family members develop sophisticated ways of communicating through ICTs, albeit with difficulty, and which are embedded in interdependent systems of migration and mobilities.

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This chapter argues the importance of ritualised family occasions in the moral economy of intergenerational families. The chapter draws on 34 semi-biographical interviews with 13 men and 21 women aged 20–90, focussing on stories about troubled or failed rituals. The analysis shows that family members depend on the support and recognition of each other to maintain their moral identities. Ritualised occasions work as magnifying glasses, focussing and intensifying the ongoing relationship work, and forcing family members to take stock and signpost the state of their social bond, and as cultural reference points, providing a window into normative expectations of how parents and adult children should perform relatedness.

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This chapter considers the mobilities of families subject to child protection involvement at the threshold of the birth of a new baby. The author presents data arising from an ethnographic study of child protection social work with unborn babies. This study aimed to draw near to social work practice within the Scottish context through mobile research methods and included non-participant observations of a range of child protection meetings with expectant families. Research interviews were sought with expectant mothers and fathers, social workers and the chair persons of Pre-birth Child Protection Case Conferences. Case conferences are formal administrative meetings designed to consider the risks to children, including unborn children. This chapter focusses on the experiences of expectant parents of navigating the child protection involvement with their as yet unborn infant. The strategies that parents adopted to steer a course through the multiple possibilities in relation to the future care of their infant are explored here. Three major strategies: resistance, defeatism and holding on are considered. These emerged as means by which expectant parents responded to social work involvement and which enabled their continued forwards motion towards an uncertain future.

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The study of family mobilities necessitates an examination of how practices are orchestrated in time as well as space. Conventional approaches to the study of family time use either quantitative analysis of time-use data or qualitative studies of time pressure and work/life balance. The limitation with these approaches is that they assume a rather static family structure that is dominated by parents with young children. Moreover, these studies do not capture the dualistic quality of time; that time constitutes and is a constituent of family life. In this chapter, I use one-day diaries on organising and experiencing time, collated as part of the UK Mass Observation Project in Autumn 2017, to interrogate the relationality of family time. The analysis examines how family practices maybe sequential, synchronous, planned or serendipitous and how these different temporalities permeate the busyness of time pressure. These one-day accounts confirm how time is experienced through and by family and intimate relationships.

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Part III: Traces and Potentialities

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The author’s story of a familial connection on the move was part of the research process of an ethnographic project about a demolished ex-industrial village. Growing up in the 1970s, the author’s fatherless childhood was silently lived out in its spatial geography. The author’s proximate, unknown father was a potent figure that the author would glimpse in the street spaces but was never allowed to acknowledge. Twentieth century accounts of working-class life have little to say on the personal stories of families where ‘father’ was rarely present (Steedman, 1986). Here the author offers a daughter’s emotional geography of fatherlessness. To sketch a socio-cultural backcloth to the personal subplot, the author draws on scholarship about fatherhood, fatherlessness and lone motherhood as a way to discuss men’s involvement in fathering in relation to the author’s own experience of living without a father in a paternalistic company village. Turning to the author’s return in 2015 as a researcher, the author uses autoethnography to explore the personal familial subplot bubbling underneath the main project. The author charts how the methodologies used held affordances which offered a process of coming to terms with the inter-connections of spatial and familial absence and loss: the loss of author’s home-village where memories of an absent father were played out and the revelation of the loss of an already absent father through a DNA test. In this way, it traces the shifting movements of a familial (dis)-connection through memories, photographs and mobile research encounters against the backcloth of the absent spaces of an ex-industrial community.

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Once a week, almost one in ten Swedish children moves between two homes, replacing the routines and practices of one household with those of another. They are children in dual residence arrangements, dividing their time equally between two households after parental separation. Being on the move physically, as well as emotionally and relationally, is a part of their everyday lives. In this chapter, the author addresses children’s perspectives on living their everyday lives in two households and belonging to two homes and how they make sense of regularly shifting between different locations and (perhaps) contrasting family practices, rules and routines. Children’s accounts reveal how moving becomes a routine everyday practice, yet the regular change is perceived differently by different children. While highly valued by some, others find it difficult to handle the emotional stress of constantly leaving one parent behind, or the practical juggling of packing and moving. In the children’s accounts, they reveal how they take part in shaping their dual family lives, post-separation. The chapter draws on qualitative interviews with 20 children and young people living in dual residence arrangements. By using family practices as the analytical focus when analysing children’s accounts, the aim is to understand how everyday life is shaped by mobility. It is argued that the practices associated with dual residence are deeply embedded in physical, emotional and relational dimensions of mobility.

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In public health and sustainable transport campaigns, walking is positioned as an important way families can become more active, fit and spend quality time together. However, few studies specifically examine how family members move together on-foot and how this is constitutive of individual and collective familial identities. Combining the notion of a feminist ethics of care with assemblage thinking, the chapter offers the notion of the familial walking assemblage as a way to consider the careful doing of motherhood, childhood and family on-foot. Looking at the walking experiences of mothers and children living in the regional city of Wollongong, Australia, the chapter explores how the provisioning and enactment of care is deeply embedded in the becoming of family on-the-move. The chapter considers interrelated moments of care – becoming prepared, together, watchful, playful, ‘grown up’ and frustrated – where mothers and children make sense of and enact their familial subjectivities. It is through these moments that the family as a performative becoming, that is always in motion, becomes visible. The chapter aims to provide further insights into the embodied experience of walking for families in order to better inform campaigns which encourage walking.

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The chapter explores an overlooked theme across the literature: capturing the experience of childhood family disruption and transitional flux between foster family homes and the independent sensemaking into the present of young care-experienced parents. The chapter draws upon research that constructed 20 biographical life story accounts of a diverse sample of foster care-experienced young people. The chapter aims to reflect upon the findings garnered from six of these accounts through extracting the narratives of a selection of participants who were to become or had become parents. This chapter makes sociological connections between past family disruption, demarcating present families of choice, and reconciliation of the past through experiencing parenting into the future within constructed ‘family displays’ (Finch, 2007). The chapter illustrates this phenomenon through narrative accounts offering a family history of parents who have experienced a variance of transitions between family units and who were negotiating, or had negotiated, their post-care independence through the role of becoming a parent themselves. The chapter highlights the symbolic value of parenting to the lives of young people who have experienced care in recalibrating their past familial experiences, as demonstrated through their family displays. Through the family displays of care-experienced parents, the importance of the relational context to youth transition ultimately reveals itself, as does the development of relational agency, and ultimately the role of parenting in developing a young person’s independent ‘post-care’ identity.

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This chapter examines the contemporary migration of Italian families to Morocco. Situating Italian emigration studies in context, it describes how this ‘new migration’ is a result of both historical and economic factors. Beginning with how ‘being in motion’ shapes the everyday lives of Italian women and families, it points out that migration is a way to apply agency. Being on the move through migration is presented not only as a process that (re)shapes the family, but also as a means of attaining an imagined model of family, one based on cultural aspirations of a good life for one’s self and one’s children.

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Index

Pages 267-271
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Cover of Families in Motion: Ebbing and Flowing through Space and Time
DOI
10.1108/9781787694156
Publication date
2019-10-25
Editors
ISBN
978-1-78769-416-3
eISBN
978-1-78769-415-6