Migrant mothers: Performing kin work and belonging across private and public boundaries

Reynolds, Tracey; Erel, Umut and Kaptani, Erene (2018). Migrant mothers: Performing kin work and belonging across private and public boundaries. Families, Relationships and Societies, 7(3) pp. 365–382.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/204674318x15233476441573


This article explores how migrant mothering kin work challenges private and public boundaries, giving rise to new conceptions and practices of citizenship. We highlight the potential of participatory theatre methods - specifically, forum theatre and Playback – for understanding the relationship between mothering, ethnic belonging and citizenship. We also assess the significance of migrant women’s kin work within their families and communities for re-framing notions of citizenship (Erel et al, 2017a, 2018). Our analysis gives particular focus to two scenes developed as part of the participatory theatre project that took place with a group of ethnically and racially diverse mothers in East London. The first scene, entitled ‘Where is my food?’, draws attention to the mothers’ kin work and reproductive labour operating at the boundaries of the public/private dichotomy, and also highlights gendered household dynamics. The second scene, entitled ‘At the community centre’, examines everyday encounters at the centre, and how ‘cultural work’, which is pivotal to the mothers’ kin work, informs intergenerational relations. The article argues for a more embodied understanding of citizenship in order to broaden understanding of migrant mothers’ kin work in making new citizens.

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