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Open Access Transnational Parenting and the Emergence of ‘Diaspora Orphans’ in Zimbabwe

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Transnational Parenting and the Emergence of ‘Diaspora Orphans’ in Zimbabwe

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This article explores the emergence of ‘diaspora orphans’ over the course of Zimbabwe’s crisis. The debates over this phenomenon reflect a range of real emotional and practical problems encountered by children and youth with parents abroad. But they also highlight the ambiguity of moral judgments of emigration and émigrés, and the crisis of expectation that assumptions of diaspora wealth have fostered within families and among those remaining behind. The negative stereotyping of ‘diaspora orphans’ reflects the moral discourse circulating within families, schools and society more broadly, which is revealing for the light it sheds on unfolding debates over changing parenting, gender, and extended family obligations as these have been challenged by crisis and mass exodus. The article furthers understanding of transnational parenting, particularly the perspectives of those who fulfil substitute parental caring roles for children left behind, and of the moral dimensions of debates over the role of money and material goods in intimate relationships of care for children. It adds a new strand to debates over African youths by focusing not on the problems created through entrapment by poverty, but on the emotional consequences of parents’ spatial mobility in middle class families where material resources may be ample. The article is based on interviews with adults looking after children and youths left behind (maids, siblings, grandparents and single parents), and the reflections of teachers and ‘diaspora orphans’ themselves.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Economic History, University of Zimbabwe, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe ushehwedu@gmail.com ; 2: Social Policy Research Centre, School of Law, Middlesex University, UK d.pasura@mdx.ac.uk ; 3: Department of Geography, School of Global Studies, Falmer, Brighton, UK j.mcgregor@sussex.ac.uk

This article explores the emergence of ‘diaspora orphans’ over the course of Zimbabwe’s crisis. The debates over this phenomenon reflect a range of real emotional and practical problems encountered by children and youth with parents abroad. But they also highlight the ambiguity of moral judgments of emigration and émigrés, and the crisis of expectation that assumptions of diaspora wealth have fostered within families and among those remaining behind. The negative stereotyping of ‘diaspora orphans’ reflects the moral discourse circulating within families, schools and society more broadly, which is revealing for the light it sheds on unfolding debates over changing parenting, gender, and extended family obligations as these have been challenged by crisis and mass exodus. The article furthers understanding of transnational parenting, particularly the perspectives of those who fulfil substitute parental caring roles for children left behind, and of the moral dimensions of debates over the role of money and material goods in intimate relationships of care for children. It adds a new strand to debates over African youths by focusing not on the problems created through entrapment by poverty, but on the emotional consequences of parents’ spatial mobility in middle class families where material resources may be ample. The article is based on interviews with adults looking after children and youths left behind (maids, siblings, grandparents and single parents), and the reflections of teachers and ‘diaspora orphans’ themselves.

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/content/journals/10.1163/18725465-00701006
2014-01-01
2017-12-14

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