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Born Out of PlaceMigrant Mothers and the Politics of International Labor$
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Nicole Constable

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780520282018

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520282018.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

The Migratory Cycle of Atonement

The Migratory Cycle of Atonement

(p.216) 8 The Migratory Cycle of Atonement
Born Out of Place

Nicole Constable

University of California Press

What happens when mothers and children leave Hong Kong, as most ultimately must? This concluding chapter presents stories of returnees and the challenges they face. Many such stories point to what I call a migratory cycle of atonement, in which mothers migrate again—or make plans to. As I argue, this pattern is not propelled by greed or material desire or by a lack of maternal commitment, as critics might assume. Instead, it is largely propelled by the complex mix of stigma and social pressure that many single mothers face at home. Migration shields their children and their families from the shame of their single motherhood and the failure of their earlier migratory experiences. It offers the women a temporary escape and the possibility of compensating her family with remittances, one of the few available routes to a better future. Money is a lure that initially draws women into global migration and exposes them to its potentially immoral transgressions. Migration is also a means through which they believe transgressions can be forgiven and absolved, mediated by a self-perpetuating global-capitalist cycle of precarious labor.

Keywords:   migratory cycle, atonement, single motherhood, shame, stigma, return migration, uncertainty, family

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