Annotation: Pratt, Geraldine. 2012. Families Apart

Pratt, Geraldine. 2012. Families Apart: Migrant Mothers and the Conflicts of Labor and Love. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Based on long-term activist research with the Philippine Women Center-BC, the book follows a feminist and postcolonial framework to argue against the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) in Canada, which is often promoted with a neoliberal framing as a “win-win” solution for both Canada and the Philippines. The consequences of the LCP often appear to be only short-term because of the assumed temporariness of migration. Pratt writes that the real consequences are long-term and can be seen in the effect of the LCP on women’s family and children. For example, the LCP has generated the problem of high secondary education dropout rates and low educational attainment among Filipino youths whose mothers were in the LCP (25). Family separation also occurs over great distances, and thus, the pain and trauma of separation are largely invisible in the Global North (xxiii). Critiquing the rhetorics of freedom and choice that tries to justify overseas migration (163), the book also argues that a look into women’s intimate stories reveals that there is “something rotten” in this kind of policy that leads to the systematic marginalization (i.e. economic seclusion and racialization) of Filipina women and their children–who often become ‘second-class’ Canadian citizens. Another phenomenon remaining largely invisible in Canada is the state violence experienced by many in the Philippines. As the book argues, the violence experienced by the women in both countries provides an understanding of the LCP within the broader framework of global hierarchies. Following San Juan, the book sees migration and transnationalism as “category mistakes that mis-specify the processes involved” (166), and which fail to contextualize the LCP within the “hierarchical alignment of nation-states globally” (167). The LCP effectively “seals the faith” of the women and their children who are destined to join Canada’s low-income classes. Using testimonies from Filipino (current and supposedly former) caregivers and their children, and helping give voice to their fates through public forms such as theatre productions, Pratt’s project contributes to the study of emotions and affect, with the hope of jolting its readers out of their “passive content” (xxvii).

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