Beyond motherhood: transforming sexualities and developing intimacies while maintaining transnational families (the case of Ukrainian caregivers in Italy)
Sociology and Social Anthropology Central European University Budapest, Hungary
My research is looking at one of the most popular survival strategies in post-Soviet Ukraine, i.e. temporary labor migration abroad. While migration to Italy constitutes only the third largest migration stream (estimated to be at 700.000 people) it is the most outstanding in terms of its gender composition; out of 195.000 officially registered migrants, 83% are women, majority of whom are in their late 40s (Caritas 2007).
In the light of this gender, age composition and prolonged absences( 2-7 years), women who migrate to Italy are often stigmatized as "loose women". To protect themselves from these accusations, the women emphasize that they are mothers, who sacrifice everything in order to give their children a better life. Thus, migrating women often find themselves carrying a "triple burden" of working and earning money, managing their lives in a new country and language environment, and providing emotional support for left-behind husbands and children.
The focus of the paper that will be presented in ESA 2009 will be on the intimate sphere of the relationships that migrants establish in Italy, while still maintaining their transnational families. While most of the transnational migration literature focuses on the position of women within their families and on their roles as mothers, the media and public discourse in Italy often stigmatize these women as a threat to Italian families and men - hunters. What falls in between these discourses is the widest array of intimate / romantic / sexual relationships, in which these women engage while their stay in Italy. Based on the year of filed work in Naples and Bologna, the paper will use collected ethnographic material in order to explore the transformation of sexuality, shift in the social age, new subjectivities and an intricate pattern of pragmatic, emotional, personal and "for-the-better-good" decisions that shape migrant women?s choices.