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Gender and social control in negotiations over filial obligations: Adult children and their ageing parents in Iranian refugee families

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This article investigates gendered meanings attached to filial obligations when they are negotiated between Iranian refugee parents and their children. We investigate gender in intergenerational relationships by using the frame of social control, understanding it as a form of institutional, normative and internalized control. This research is based on an ethnographic study of Iranian families living in Finland. The data consists of observations and interviews with adult children and their parents. The results show that the daughters were able to negotiate their filial obligations with their parents in strategic ways. They actively spoke against their parents’ normative control to make independent choices. However, following their parents’ wishes was also a way for the daughters to actively maintain their own cultural values. The sons were often expected to take care of their ageing parents and had little agency when negotiating the intensity of these demands for support. So rather than making decisions about maintaining their cultural values like the daughters, the sons were often automatically expected to offer support and guidance. However, the sons experienced less normative control when interacting with their parents.
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Keywords: agency; filial obligations; gendered practices; intergenerational relationships; migrant families; social control

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: 0000000404102071University of Helsinki 2: Migration Institute of Finland

Publication date: October 1, 2019

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  • The course of cultures at both local and global levels is crucially affected by migratory movements. In turn, culture itself is turned migrant. This journal will advance the study of the plethora of cultural texts on migration produced by an increasing number of cultural practitioners across the globe who tackle questions of culture in the context of migration. They do this in a variety of ways and through a variety of media. To name but a few relevant aspects of this juncture of migration and culture, questions of dislocation, travel, borders, diasporic identities, transnational contacts and cultures, cultural memory, the transmission of identity across generations, questions of hybridity and cultural difference, the material and oral histories of migration and the role of new technologies in bridging cultures and fostering cultural cross-pollination will all be relevant. Methodologies of research will include both the study of 'texts' and fieldwork.
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