Mothers in limbo – place, space and culture in Direct Provision

Authors: Karin White*,
Topics: Migration, Women, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Mothering, Asylum, cultural variations, Ireland
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Endymion, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the experiences of mothers seeking protection in Ireland, living in Direct Provision. The women describe their space and place as a limbo, with intangible futures. Living with trauma, loss, displacement, without supportive kin network, dealing with new cultures and culturally constructed ideas of ‘good mothering’ and ‘good childhoods’, the women and children endure a life in poverty and in restricted and confined living conditions. Examining ideas of being a good mother, attachment and methods of disciplining children, we find that African mothers’ methods may be at variance with Irish culture. Kavapalu (1993), for example, shows that physical discipline in Tonga is seen as a positive form of teaching, while Le Vine and Norman (2001) provide studies detailing variations in ideas about attachment and the ways mothers promote values such as independence. Furthermore, we ask if and how mothers maintain and/or modify their own original culture and values, and how they manage this under surveillance, in fear of their children’s safety, living in one room per family with the use of limited economic resources. We agree with LeVine’s findings that child-rearing practices are cross-culturally adaptive processes making sense within their own environment and enabling children to grow up as capable adults who understand the norms and rules of their society. The women who assisted with the research are mothering their children to become functional adults in both societies, native and Irish societies, in addition to a third space: the Direct Provision setting – a temporary limbo.

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