Children Sent Behind: the Dynamics of Transnational Families through the Prism of European Citizenship as Enacted by Bulgarian Muslims Migrants
Sociology and Social Anthropology Central European University Budapest, Hungary
This paper aims to address the transnational parenthood practices of Bulgarian Muslims migrants in Spain. While most studies explore the aspect of children left behind, here I focus on the issue of sending children back to the place of origin after an initial period of living together with them in Spain. I look at the motivations of parents and the particular practices which are involved in the process of sending children behind. Based on extended ethnographic field work in a Bulgarian Muslim migrants' community both in Bulgaria and in Spain, I look in details at the care arrangements and their transformations over the last few years. I explore the everyday interaction between the children, the carers and the parents, as well as the flow of goods, money and symbolic items between Bulgaria and Spain.
In addition to that, I argue that the phenomenon of sending children behind is related partly to the particular generational dynamic of the migrant community and it is to be explained with the age structure of the migrant group and the particular care arrangements between generations. At the same time, another motivational aspect is related to the flexibilization in all aspects of migrants' lives. Thus sending children behind to go to school to Bulgaria is an expression of the temporality of the migrants' plans to stay in Spain and it is a symbolic link with their place of origin. Finally, Bulgaria's accession to EU is another motivational aspect. Conceiving Bulgaria and Spain as part of one space, rather than two oppositional points creates an incentive of linking the two places through their own lives. Thus, sending children behind links the migrant community with Bulgaria in a physical way, but also in a temporal way, oriented towards the future.