"Whose culture has capital?": Chinese skilled migrant mothers raising their children in New Zealand

Wu, Bin
Devine, Nesta
Smith, Richard
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Doctor of Education
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis is concerned with a group of Chinese skilled migrant mothers’ experiences in relation to their children’s early childhood care and education in New Zealand. Utilising Bourdieu’s concept of capital, habitus and field, the current research addresses the complexity and ambiguity of the Chinese migrant mothers' lives whose social position transcends multiple fields. Because their children attend mainstream education, and the local educational system is different from those where the migrant mothers were brought up, the migrant mothers had to transcend different cultural fields. Chinese skilled migrants, who were middle class professionals in their native country, usually experienced social and financial downturns in New Zealand. Although skilled, the migrant mothers encountered difficulties in finding paid employment that matched their pre-migration job status. These mothers were more likely to give up paid work or reduce paid working hours on the birth of their children than were their male partners. The current study focuses on these transcendent experiences, encompassing both embeddedness and ambiguity across different fields by examining the interplay of class, gender, and ethnicity in the daily lives of these mothers. Traditional interpretations of cultural capital usually refer only to dominant social and cultural capital, whereas the current thesis expands the concept to include both dominant and non-dominant forms of social and cultural capital. The findings showed that the migrant mothers redefined and reconstructed the concept of capital. The migrant mothers’ attitude towards mainstream education was ambiguous and complex: covering the full spectrum from willing embracing, reluctantly following, selectively utilising to firmly rejecting. Simultaneously, the mothers promoted, criticised, and rejected various traditional Chinese practices and beliefs in order to maximise benefits for their children.

Social and cultural capital, habitus, field , Gendered migration , Sociology of education , Early childhood education , Mothering , Ethnicity, social class, gender , Chinese migrants
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