Gendered Motherwork of Transnational Coorg Families in the Asia-Pacific

Dr Chand Somaiah1

1Asia Research Institute, National University Of Singapore, , Singapore

As part of an increasing cohort of transnational skilled labour, the Coorgs are facing contradictory pressures from community members to preserve Kodavame (obligations to the homeland of Kodagu and its customary ways). While moral communities are often founded and bounded upon thick social relations, my research participants’ practices of maternal transnational care towards others depicted an inter-weaving of both thick and thin social relations (Granovetter 1973). While I continue in the tradition of work which uncovers everyday transnationalism ‘on the ground’, I emphasize the gendered, maternal dimensions of doing this within the g/local South Asian, specifically Coorg context, using the site of kinwork, emotions, and charity beyond the family. Evidence is drawn from instances of reproductive caring interactions and (transnational) charity conducted by my participants. I orient the concept of ‘motherwork’ (Collins 1994), before foregrounding the ‘emotional terrain of families’ (Ryan 2008), and the affective labour of kin-keeping in transnational families. I discuss how the emotional carework of transnational Coorg families is practiced within the realm of extended kin and beyond. I conclude by offering my data as suggestion of an extended moral community with variant extensions of care and discuss its implications.


Chand Somaiah is Research Fellow in the Asian Migration cluster at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. She received her PhD in Sociology from Macquarie University. Her research interests include gendered experiences of migration and carework.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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