City

In May 2015, I met individually with over twenty Polish mothers of young children living in Birmingham. We met in community centers, playgroups, and in private homes. Each conversation started with the question “How is it for you to be a mother in Birmingham?” to which each woman responded visually. The question has two main foci. First, since all the women I talked to are Polish immigrants, asking them how it is for them to be a mother in the new place of residence is also a question about immigrant mothering. Second, I didn’t ask them about living in the UK, in England, or, more generally, outside of Poland, but insisted on the urban context by asking how it is for them to live in that particular city. By making the two thematic foci implicit rather than explicit, I wanted to examine the relevance of the conditions of being an immigrant and a Birmingham resident rather than taking them for granted.

I turned to creative methods inspired by the work done by Dawn Mannay of Cardiff University and the Berlin-based migrantas collective. While some research participants welcomed the invitation to draw as a fun task, others felt initially intimidated by it and needed some time to warm up. The creative exercise, conducted with colorful felt-tip pens and white sheets of paper, has yielded most interesting narrations on migration, child-rearing, and city life. Each drawing presented here is accompanied by an excerpt from the accounts of immigrant mothering in Birmingham and Munich, which emerged from the image elicitation interviews. A detailed analysis of the visual and narrative material will soon be presented on the publications page of this website.