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Mothers on the Move

Reproducing Belonging between Africa and Europe

The massive scale and complexity of international migration today tends to obscure the nuanced ways migrant families seek a sense of belonging. In this book, Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg takes readers back and forth between Cameroon and Germany to explore how migrant mothers—through the careful and at times difficult management of relationships—juggle belonging in multiple places at once: their new country, their old country, and the diasporic community that bridges them.
Feldman-Savelsberg introduces readers to several Cameroonian mothers, each with her own unique history, concerns, and voice. Through scenes of their lives—at a hometown association’s year-end party, a celebration for a new baby, a visit to the Foreigners’ Office, and many others—as well as the stories they tell one another, Feldman-Savelsberg enlivens our thinking about migrants’ lives and the networks and repertoires that they draw on to find stability and, ultimately, belonging. Placing women’s individual voices within international social contexts, this book unveils new, intimate links between the geographical and the generational as they intersect in the dreams, frustrations, uncertainties, and resolve of strong women holding families together across continents.

280 pages | 15 halftones, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2016

African Studies

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology


"Mothers on the Move is a detailed study of Cameroonian migrant mothers in Berlin and their sense of belonging and notbelonging through birthing and childcare practices. The most innovative...aspect of the book is its link between historical reproductive insecurity in Cameroon and women’s current experiences in Berlin."

International Migration Review

“In a wonderful book full of rich and compelling ethnographic cases, Feldman-Savelsberg tells the story of Cameroonian migrants in Germany through the lives of women who navigate belonging—in Europe and in Africa—through birthing and caring for children. Without sugarcoating the challenges that these woman face, Mothers on the Move presents a refreshingly uplifting account of African migration, offering a welcome corrective to the predominant focus on abjection. International migrants commonly frame their motivations to move in terms of providing better lives for their children. This book develops a much-needed and highly insightful perspective on migrants as mothers.”

Daniel Jordan Smith, author of AIDS Doesn’t Show Its Face

“A sensitive, well-grounded, and beautifully written study of the dilemmas immigrant mothers face when they migrate and the social strategies and community resources they mobilize in handling those conflicts.”

Cati Coe, author of The Scattered Family

"Overall, this is a beautiful contribution to scholarship on migration and belonging" 

African Studies Quarterly

"Mothers on the Move manages to bring together migration and reproduction in fresh ways through a rich ethnographic case, situated in a broad temporal and spatial frame."

Medical Anthropology Quarterly

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements
Cast of Characters

Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Cameroonian Predicaments
Chapter Three: Starting Cameroonian Families in Berlin
Chapter Four: Raising Cameroonian Families in Berlin
Chapter Five: Civic Engagement
Chapter Six: In the Shadow of the State
References Cited

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