Abstract

Drawing upon ethnographic research in contemporary California, with case studies of migrants from Mexico, Central America, Korea, and Yemen, we analyze children's presence and participation in processes of migration and in the constitution of transnational social fields. Various facets of child-adult relations enter into children's movement across national borders, including their economic dependence and growing capacity to contribute labor; varied ways in which the needs and capacities of children of different ages and genders are defined; and their status as persons who are being "raised" and "developed" toward desired end points. These dimensions help shape patterns of chain and circulating migration; decisions about leaving children behind and sending for them; and the unusual circumstance of children who take the lead in migration (South Korean "parachute kids" living in suburban Los Angeles). "Sending children back" (or threatening to do so) is a deliberate strategy of child rearing used by transnational families. We consider how children help families stay connected across long distances, as well as the strains, conflicts, and emotional costs that may be involved. Children help constitute and reconfigure transnational social fields, and transnational practices, in turn, shape the contours of particular childhoods.

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