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Migrant Men's Fathering Narratives, Practices and Projects in National and Transnational Spaces: Recent Polish Male Migrants to London

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Abstract

Historically migrants have been constructed as units of labour and their social reproductive needs have received scant attention in policy and in academic literature. The growth in ‘feminist-inflected’ migration research in recent decades, has provoked a body of work on transnational care-giving that poses a challenge to such a construction, at least as it relates to female migrants in general and mothers in particular. Researchers, however, have demonstrated less interest in how migrant men give meaning to and perform their fathering roles. Such neglect is increasingly problematic in the context of rising social, political and academic interest in the significance of fathering in European (and other) societies. With the purpose of making a preliminary contribution to knowledge on migrant men's fathering narratives, practices and projects, this article draws on findings from interviews conducted with recent migrants from Poland to the UK. By focusing on migrant fatherhood, we add to the understanding of transnational care-giving by illuminating the many parallels between migrant mothering and fathering. Our findings are consistent with much of the literature on transnational mothering, highlighting tensions between breadwinning and parenting and the various strategies fathers deploy to reconcile these tensions. Nevertheless, we find that migrant men's fathering narratives, practices, and projects, while challenging the construction of male migrants as independent and non-relational, remain embedded within the dominant framework of the gendered division of labour. More uniquely, the article also demonstrates the importance of situated transnational analyses, in this case the institutional arrangements between the UK and European Union new Member States, which gave the Polish migrants privileged labour market access and social rights within the UK's highly differentiated migration regime. This access allowed mobility, settlement and or family reunion according to the migrant's specific circumstances and preferences with respect to the labour market and parenting.

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