Introduction

This website presents parts of the 2013-2017 research project Immigrant Mothers As Agents of Change conceived and conducted by Agata Lisiak at Humboldt University Berlin within the ERC-funded project TRANSFORmIG. The materials displayed here have been elicited with visual and creative methods. We would like to thank all the research participants for their time, engagement, and generosity. This project would not have been possible without them.

About the project

National discourses on motherhood, family, and migration continue to impact our daily lives in ways that are discriminatory and limiting: they privilege the dominant nation and the dominant classes and, thus, further deepen social inequalities, both within individual nation states and between them. By literally leaving behind national ideals of motherhood into which they had been socialized and encountering on a daily basis different ideals of motherhood present in their new place of residence, immigrant mothers are in a unique position to question both. As Umut Erel and Tracey Reynolds argue, immigrant mothers not only bring up future citizens, but also, crucially, make themselves as citizens. Since they play a central role in transmitting cultural capital on a transnational and transgenerational scale, immigrant mothers’ regular participation in and exposure to diversity in general and especially to diverse mothering practices and discourses leads, through social and material remittances, to a transformation of the understandings and performances of motherhood in the sending country. In this project, I inquire into everyday mothering practices in diverse urban contexts and the discourses and norms that influence said practices. I investigate how immigrant women do mothering locally and transnationally and how they navigate various nationalized, classed, and gendered ideologies of motherhood. My research in Berlin, Munich, London, and Birmingham centers on everyday encounters, observations, and displays performed by Polish immigrant mothers in urban space. Aside from semi-structured and narrative interviews and participant observation, I also make use of various creative and visual methods – this website was conceived to share and discuss some of them.

About the website

We put together this website to showcase the visual and narrative materials elicited through creative collaborations with research participants and to demonstrate how their contributions foster our research questions and research methods. The website includes the material collected during ethnographic research in Birmingham in May 2015 and in Munich in April 2016. In the CITY section, we present drawings made by immigrant Polish mothers living in Birmingham and Munich. The pictures are visual responses to the question: “How is it for you to be a mother in Birmingham/Munich?” One of these drawings in particular inspired us to consider possible ways of visualizing transfers of objects related to child-rearing – you can see the results of our undertaking in the OBJECTS section.

All research participants agreed in writing on the publication of their drawings and accounts of mothering practices. In compliance with ethical codes of conduct in academia, the names of research participants and their families and friends have been anonymized.