Uncertainty as Precarity or Hope? Migrant Mothers in Non-normative Cross-border Families between Mainland China and Hong Kong

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Using uncertainty as the conceptual lens, this paper focuses on the case of non-normative cross-border families between Mainland China and Hong Kong to examine how widowed, divorced and separated marriage migrants were compelled to live in the shadow of uncertainty before and after the dissolution of their marriage with Hong Kong men. First, it explicates how the immigration regime has instilled elements of uncertainty into their marriage through institutionally stipulating a long-term separation (at least four years) with their Hong Kong husbands, thus challenging the marital stability and normative functioning of the family. As they lost eligibility to apply for Hong Kong residency upon the dissolution of their marriage, the uncertainty that these women faced has been further intensified and prolonged. To tackle the uncertainty impinged on their legality, these women had to constantly cross the border to renew their visitors’ visa so that they could legally stay in Hong Kong to take care of their children, or their children had to cross the border after school every day for maternal care in Southern China. Second, it documents how these women strived for maternal citizenship in Hong Kong through applying for discretions from the authority. It shows that while the mechanism of discretion had presented uncertainty to women in non-normative cross-border families, the flexibility given by such mechanism had also provided a leeway for these women to obtain Hong Kong residency. In this sense, although uncertainty brings precarity, it also signifies hope, as uncertainty sometimes implies opportunity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventThe 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) - Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands
Duration: 15 Jul 201919 Jul 2019


ConferenceThe 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS)
Abbreviated titleICAS11
Internet address


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