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Flexible families? 'Astronaut' households and the experiences of lone mothers in Vancouver, British Columbia

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Abstract:

This paper examines the recent emergence of the 'astronaut family' as a migration strategy, practised by Hong Kong and Taiwanese business and professional families and manifest in immigrant gateway cities such as Vancouver, Sydney and Auckland. Exemplifying transnationalism as 'social morphology' (Vertovec 1999), the household is literally split across the Pacific Ocean, as the male head pursues his career in Asia, while his wife and children are relocated overseas. Based upon in-depth interviews with 'astronaut wives' in Vancouver, Canada, I examine these circumstances, challenging a prevalent representation of powerful and cohesive Chinese migrant families. In so doing, I hope to contribute to a much broader literature on transnationalism and transnational social forms. In addition, in light of research on household migration and patriarchal relations, I consider women's distinctive experience of this arrangement. This paper demonstrates the context dependency of female oppression, and highlights the enduring relationship between spatial distance and social relations within a profoundly transnational setting.

Keywords: ASTRONAUT FAMILIES; CHINESE DIASPORA; MOTHERS; TRANSNATIONALISM; VANCOUVER; WORDS

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649360220133907

Publication date: June 1, 2002

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