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Transnational family, virtual copresence and re-construction of familyhood

Monica Schlobach

Research Framework: Many argue that the development of new information and communication technologies (ICT) would have given rise to a new way of retaining the emotional bond among transnational families. It would thus abolish the distance by establishing a virtual co-presence.

Objectives: The objective is to understand, through the study of the use of ICT, how transnational families manage to keep strong their familyhood. It also intends to discuss the limits of these practices on their ability to continue to « make family transnationally. »

Methodology: The analysis is based on data collected through in-depth interviews with Montreal-based migrants and their family members in Brazil.

Results: ICT has become a familiar tool in transnational family exchanges. They provide access both to ordinary and to special moments of family life. They give rise to new practices of family interactions. Nevertheless, they also imply constraints in the exchanges, as they appear to be an unsatisfactory solution to solve the problem of physical distance and separation.

Conclusions: The use of ICT has become an incorporated habit in transnational family life, for its informative power on the daily life of members of the transnational family. Virtual co-presence, however, is limited as far as the expression of emotions and family solidarity are concerned.

Contribution: The results presented allowed to identify the contributions, the ambivalences and the limits of the use of ICT to make family transnationally. They also revealed the formation of family micro-rituals, which act as mechanisms of regulation and expression of familyhood.