The Hidden Hierarchical Legitimacy of Marriage Migrant Mothers in Non-Normative Cross-Border Families in Hong Kong

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Abstract

Most extant studies on cross-border marriages focused on the unequal spousal dynamics and the vulnerability of female marriage migrants, family-level experience and outcomes have been relatively under-theorized. In particular, the experiences of non-normative families such as those led by a widowed, divorced or cohabiting marriage migrant mother have rarely been put under the spotlight. 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 or not legally recognized. The situation further complicates when these women possess a different legal or citizenship status from their children. Drawing on interview data with female marriage migrants in non-normative cross-border marriages between Mainland China and Hong Kong, this paper examines how the state constructed a hidden yet hierarchical framework of legitimate citizenship for widowed, divorced or cohabiting marriage migrant mothers and how these women struggled to claim for maternal citizenship in the society where their children legally belong. The fact that the granting of citizenship for women in non-normative cross-border families is only made through the discretions of the authority indicates the state’s intention to sustain the normative definition of “the family”. It also highlights the intensified inequalities between citizens and non-citizens as well as among non-citizen migrant mothers with diverse family and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventMarriage migration, Family and Citizenship in Asia - , Singapore
Duration: 31 Jan 20191 Feb 2019
https://ari.nus.edu.sg/events/marriage-migration-family-and-citizenship-in-asia/

Workshop

WorkshopMarriage migration, Family and Citizenship in Asia
CountrySingapore
Period31/01/191/02/19
Internet address

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