Theses Doctoral

Portraits of Motherhood: A Multimodal Inquiry About Civic Engagement with Immigrant-Origins Mothers

Galvani de Barros Cruz, Livia

This dissertation studies how immigrant-origins mother combine their mothering with their civic engagement. Framed from the theoretical lenses of critical motherhood studies, it zooms in into the everyday lives of four migrant mothers looking to get a better sense of how they create and share knowledge about their daily experiences, and of how they build senses of home and community for themselves, their children, and others in their communities. It aims to shed light on ways to be civically engaged that go beyond voting and protesting. While civic life is usually understood in dictionaries as having to do with the rights and duties of citizens, the civics and mothering praxis that emerges from this study is a praxis rooted in love and care.

Methodologically, this study combines multimodal, participatory, and poetic tools with Latina and Chicana feminist approaches to testimonio, to co-narrate the portraits of motherhood that are at the heart of this dissertation. Through storytelling that is attentive to ways of knowing and being that are rooted in our communities, these portraits aim to theorize mothering as action and to open space for mothers to express their voices and agency. Therefore, taking the lead from the immigrant-origin mothers with whom I work, this study proposes that the ordinary ways in which they impact the civic life of their communities through their labor of love sets the ground for a conception of citizenship that links transnational communities and exists across borders. What they do also stresses a dialectical praxis of civics that happens between mothers and their children, who are active agents and political beings; a praxis with implications that has political and theoretical implications for how we conceive motherhood, and that can also directly impact early childhood education and research.

Throughout, the aim of this dissertation is to make care a central principle of research by creating spaces for support and healing in which mother’s agency and creative is valued. Research as a form of civic engagement that opens spaces to nurture and include our body-mind-soul connection.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Ghiso, Maria Paula
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
November 9, 2022