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Reconstituted lives : children's experiences in the context of transnational migration between Canada and Taiwan Hsu, Wei-Shan

Abstract

It is becoming increasingly common for current-day migrants to build transnational connections transcending national borders. Amongst recent immigrants from Taiwan to Canada, an "astronaut" type of family arrangement has emerged. In the "astronaut" families, either one or both parents continue working in Taiwan to maximize the financial resources of the family, while the children reside in Canada. These children affected by transnational migration between Canada and Taiwan no longer experience a radical break from their place of origin—Taiwan. Instead, both the settlement society and their ethnic origin have continually informed the processes of these children's home-making and identity development. Based on eleven individual interviews conducted in Greater Vancouver regional district of British Columbia, Canada between June and September, 2001, this study explores the impact of transnational family arrangements on children's lives, and children's.senses of home and identity. Findings suggest that the families of the children interviewed undergo a reconfiguration of the traditional family structure, a reconfiguration based on the establishment of various transnational connections linking family in Taiwan and family in Vancouver. The new transnational family structure is operating within new forms of interdependence between family members and within changing family relationships. The transnational family arrangement has affected how the children define "home" and where they consider to be "home". The children's senses of home are influenced by the interaction between their quotidian experiences in Vancouver and their transnational connections with Taiwan. In terms of identity, the children interviewed reveal a persistence of Taiwanese identity over time and at the same time a fluctuation in the intensity of their Taiwanese identity. The main factors affecting the children's senses of identity are: cross-cultural contacts they have experienced in Vancouver, the significant flow of people and cultural items from Taiwan to Vancouver, and the primordial attachment to their place of origin. The children have learned to negotiate within "astronaut" families. They have become new kinds of "transnational" people—those who can situate themselves somewhere between being Taiwanese and being Canadian and yet, be both.

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