Legal uncertainty and the road to maternal citizenship : single migrant mothers in Hong Kong cross-border families

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPresentation


Most extant studies on cross-border marriages focused on female marriage migrants in intact families, the experiences of non-normative families such as those led by a widowed, divorced, and separated marriage migrants have rarely been put under the spotlight. Given their non-normative marital status, these marriage migrants experienced multifaceted vulnerabilities and disadvantages. While female marriage migrants generally experience legal precarity due to their dependence on their husbands to petition for their resident and immigrant status to remain in the host country, non-citizen female marriage migrants in non-normative families are trapped in the state of “legal nonexistence” (Countin, 2000), as their rights to reside in or immigrate into the host country are forfeited when their marriage with a local citizen is dissolved. The situation further complicates when these women possess a different legal or citizenship status from their children. Drawing on interview data with 25 single migrant mothers in non-normative cross-border families between mainland China and Hong Kong, this paper first explains how these single migrant mothers can be considered as “the minority among the minorities” and elucidates how these women were compelled to live in the shadow of legal uncertainty. It then illustrates the women’s situated agency in coping with their “legal nonexistence” by highlighting the ways they strived for maternal citizenship in the society where their children legally belong through applying for discretions from the authority. Lastly, the intensified inequalities between citizens and non-citizens as well as among non-citizen migrant mothers with diverse family and socioeconomic backgrounds will be discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2020
EventAsia at the Crossroads: Solidarity through Scholarship - Online from Kobe Japan, Kobe, Japan
Duration: 31 Aug 20204 Sep 2020


ConferenceAsia at the Crossroads: Solidarity through Scholarship
Abbreviated titleAAS-in-Asia 2020
Internet address


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