20170424-Cochrane-Thesis.pdf (2.28 MB)
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Migrant Motherhood Project: Search for an Everyday Security

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posted on 25.04.2017, 23:59 by Brandy Cochrane
The main purpose of the thesis is to examine everyday security for refugee and asylum-seeking mothers who encounter border securitisation. In order to undertake the thesis investigation to answer the lack of understanding about refugee and asylum-seeking mothers’ security, I structured methods of research based on qualitative feminist research that focused on reflexivity, ethnography, and narrative interviewing. I interviewed mothers from Iran and Afghanistan who were asylum seekers or refugees and currently lived within Melbourne.

States of the Global North are increasingly securitising their borders through physical and technological deterrent tactics aimed at the migration of people from the Global South. The tactics of states cause physical and psychological harms that are direct and structural in nature to women, especially mothers, due to their precarious security. Masculine, statist, single point crises frameworks like human security do not encompass mothers’ security needs when encountering border securitisation tactics. In order to determine refugee and asylum-seeking mothers’ security needs, it is essential examine their home country, journey, and settlement experiences.

Security and citizenship are precarious for women, especially mothers, due to structural gendered inequalities. Precarity is increased in certain regions where legal measures either heighten or ignore gender inequality, specifically in the realms of reproductive health and violence against women. The lack of basic security for mothers is further complicated by migratory journeys, in particular journeys which have been illegalised by states.

Examining the interviews, I find the women describe a lack of basic security in their home country and the security becomes more perilous during illegalised journeys. The precarity of security is additionally complicated by mothering within insecure contexts due to structural inequalities and state practices. There are immediate crisis points during migration which are often the focus of refugee experience, but the daily devastations incurred by mothers emerge as focus points for the women themselves. The daily insecurities are a result of structural violence that arises from border security tactics.

Despite the harms from border securitisation and the bigger crises faced, women’s agency is clearly present when navigating the daily challenges of motherhood and carework within insecure spaces. I demonstrate how women exercise their agency and build security through carework. Taking into account factors of temporality, spatiality, and needs of mothers, I centre carework, as identified for mothers, to reconceptualise security for mothers.


Principal supervisor

JaneMaree Maher

Additional supervisor 1

Sharon Pickering

Additional supervisor 2

Leanne Weber

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Social and Political Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Arts