This dissertation concerns the labour youths perform in their search for well-being across borders. I draw from ethnographic, life story, and visual methods following 15 months of research with ten young people. These youths lived apart from and later reunited with their mothers who moved from the Philippines to Canada to perform domestic work. Through their stories of precarity, care, and hope, participants reveal how a good life or a better life is a relational construct with shifting significations depending on their past experiences, present conditions, and hopes for the future. Their imaginings of a better life, grounded in their understandings of happiness, hardship, and sacrifice, often defy neoliberal and capitalist emphasis on work and money associated with personal success, and instead are oriented towards time with loved ones, relational senses of happiness, and, in some cases, a return “home.” What they also revealed is the complex reconfiguration of home across borders where reunification creates and disrupts more complex social worlds that include but also extend beyond parents and nuclear family settings. Stories of friendships, romantic relationships, music, poetry, and photography illustrate how these young people formed relations and coped in ways often missed in literature pertaining to family migration and reunification. Placing youths’ perspectives at the centre of this ethnography ultimately reveals the living labour they inject into their social, familial, and economic lives to hold their worlds together through precarious times as they persist in living and dreaming otherwise.
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Thesis advisor: Dossa, Parin
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