Migration and Economy: Global and Local Dynamics

Article excerpt

Lillian Trager (ed.), Migration and Economy: Global and Local Dynamics. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2005. 332 pp.

Trager begins this volume by noting that migration is often framed as an unusual activity that needs to be explained. She argues that rather than being unusual, migration is a key historical process "that responds to and is shaped by broader economic, cultural, and social forces" (34). In her introduction she not only explores migration as a worldwide phenomenon but also addresses various theories of migration, as well as the relationship between economic anthropology and migration studies. In her lucid discussion of theory, Trager argues for an approach that combines macro and micro perspectives and that places particular emphasis on linkages-between individuals in the form of networks, and between places-as shaped for example by remittance practices or by hometown associations. Here she raises the importance of networks and of transnationalism, concepts that have become central to anthropological approaches to migration during the last decade (Brettell 2000). Trager suggests that internal and international migration should be considered together. While there certainly are similarities between these two processes, there are also features of international migration that make it quite distinct. I think specifically of the issues of legal status and citizenship.

The remainder of the book is organized into two parts: "Migration, Households and Stratification" (which includes five chapters); and "Remittances and Beyond" (which includes four chapters). With one exception, all these chapters are based on in-depth field research in local places and thus offer us rich ethnographic case studies of how migration impacts local places. Using data drawn from household surveys and life histories, Ricardo Ferez focuses on mobile livelihoods in his analysis of the development of transnational labor and family networks in and from Puerto Rico in the 1950s and 1960s. Much like Douglas Holmes (1989) has argued for "worker-peasant" households in Italy, Ferez contends that migration is a strategy of economic survival for Puerto Rican fishing households. Puerto Rican migration to the United States is characterized by high rates of return and an attachment to "home." This attachment to home is equally present among the Malian ruralurban migrants that Dolores Koenig describes in her chapter. Koenig uses the concept of multilocality to frame her discussion of a population that "participates in social and economic activities in several places" (77). Like the Puerto Rican fisherfolk, Malians in the agricultural hinterland of Kita have long relied on mobility to make ends meet. But Koenig also argues that migration enhances village inequality by generating remittance income for only some households and by decreasing labor availability in areas of origin. Despite this inequality, all strata participate to a degree in multilocal social networks that develop as a result of population mobility. These networks allow households to access rural, urban, and international resources.

Jeffrey Cohen equally draws on the concept of social networks in his analysis of nonmigrant households in Oaxaca, Mexico. He argues that the unequal distribution of assets available to rural households explains why some people migrate and others do not. He offers helpful analytical distinctions between marginal nonmigrating, common, and successful households, using particular case studies to illustrate the differences. He also clearly demonstrates that some local places are drawn extensively into international migration and the global system while others are not. Cohen does an effective job of showing how internal migration streams and international migration streams emerge.

In their essay on Kazakstan, Meltem Sancak and Peter Finke point to the arbitrariness of Soviet boundaries, what this has meant for population movement in the post socialist period, and how migration is in part motivated by the need to realign citizenship and ethnicity. This is truly an original contribution to the literature on migration. It forces us to think about new dimensions of migration and about how limiting current migration theory is in helping us to understand what has been going on in the new nation-states that have emerged in Eastern Europe and the former republics of Soviet Union. The case studies included in this chapter illustrate quite powerfully the variations in economic attitudes, including degree of risk-taking, that exist among different diasporic Kazak groups that have "returned to a place where they had never been before" (151).

The final essay in Part I, by Sasha Newell, explores the relationship between migration and consumption in Côte d'Ivoire, arguing that a focus on sending communities of migrants highlights consumption theory as a major motive for departure. Her interest is in the symbolic process of migration, as represented by the dream of the Bengiste (Beng is Ivorian slang for the "the land of the whites") of migrating to Paris and then returning home as a rich person who could build a large house and live "a life of luxury happily ever after" (164). Of course, the Bengiste has his counterpart in many other countries: the brasileiros and franceses that I have written about in the context of Portugal (Brettell 2003); the americano that anthropologist Michael Kenny (1976) has written about for Spain; the Pakistanis in Britain who have built pakka houses in their home communities (Dahya 1973); and the Indians from Kerala who have migrated to the Middle East (Kurien 2002). It is inaccurate to argue that there has been little focus on sending societies more generally, or the consumption motive more specifically, including the process by which minimal economic capital is converted into extensive prestige capital. But, this said, Newell offers a rich analysis of an African manifestation of this process. Certainly Newell's call for a more comprehensive exploration of migration as a process of "consuming otherness" is warranted.

In the first essay in the second Part of this volume, Silvia Grigolini in some sense continues the discussion initiated by Newell by focusing on how remittances are used in sending communities to build houses that are "more than shelter." However her broader interest is in the productive use of remittances and the chapter opens with an extremely useful overview of debates in the literature on remittances. It is extremely important for anthropologists to contribute to our understanding of migrant remittances because for so long it has been the purview of economists who adopt a more macro and quantitative framework of analysis. Grigolini's analysis draws on ethnographic data from a village in Oaxaca, Mexico. She presents several examples of the "hidden" economic benefits of remittances that on the surface look as if they are only directed to consumption. It is curious that Grigolini does not at least acknowledge Peggy Levitt's (1998) research on the social remittances of Dominicans in the United States.

Trager's essay focuses on the ties that Nigerian migrant women maintain with home communities. These ties, "involve visiting; contributions of money and goods, both from migrants to those at home and from those at home to migrants; and participation in organizations based on place of origin" (226). Trager's data, based on surveys collected in five communities in Yorubaland, reveal that it is women of high status who are most involved in these activities and the status enhancement that they gain through this involvement is as important as that accorded to male migrants. This essay makes an important contribution not only to the literature on remittances and networks, but also the growing literature on gender and migration.

The final two chapters in the book are by Stephen Lubkemann, on labor migrants from Portugal and Mozambique, and Robyn Eversole on Migrant remittances and Development Assistance in more general terms. Lubkemann formulates the concept of "socially diverted migrants" to refer to those individuals who may have intended to return home at the time of their original departure but who become firmly settled in the country of migration yet continue to maintain ties to and invest in the home community. Others might of course describe these as migrants who are operating in transnational social fields. Lubkemann also writes about the houses that are built in the communities of origin and about the significance of kin in monitoring the investments of migrants in both rural Portugal and rural Mozambique. In an interesting theoretical twist, he refers to these investments as transactions "in both a material and a moral economy" (265) and offers several convincing suggestions for why migrants who have settled permanently abroad nevertheless continue to invest in moral capital. He offers a fascinating argument that is well worth the read.

Eversole's useful concluding chapter brings development into the picture, looking at remittances as a form of international or internal wealth transfer. The chapter begins with a discussion of grassroots development and antipoverty programs and then turns to an analysis of migration as a source of new resources. This is followed by a broad, macro-level discussion of the significance of migrant remittances, which are, in volume, greater than official development assistance. Eversole concludes that "real antipoverty commitment can be found on the part of migrant workers, who often make considerable sacrifices not to address a concept called poverty but to help out their own family, friends, and neighbors" (313).

This volume is an important addition to the literature on migration. It makes a valuable claim for the contributions of anthropology to an understanding of economic dimensions of migration. Several essays also contribute to a growing literature on the meaning and impact of return migration and remittances on sending communities. Above all else the essays in this volume are clearly written and well-grounded in rich ethnographic data from a number of places around the world. They attest to similar processes among diverse populations in a range of host societies.



Brettell, Caroline B. 2000. "Theorizing Migration in Anthropology: The Social Construction of Networks, Identities, Communities, and Globalscapes." In Caroline B. Brettell and James F. Hollifield (eds.). Migration Theory: Talking Across Disciplines, pp. 97-135. New York and London: Routledge

Brettell, Caroline B. 2003. Anthropology and Migration: Essays on Transnationalism, Ethnicity, and Identity. Walnut Creek, CA: Al ta M ira press.

Dahya, Badr. 1973. "Transients or Settlers." Race 14: 241-277.

Holmes. Douglas. 1989. Cultural Disenchantments: Worker Peasantries in Northeast Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Kenny, Michael. 1976. "Twentieth Century Spanish Expatriate Ties with the Homeland," In Joseph Aceves and William Douglass (eds.). The Changing Faces of Rural Spain, pp. 97121. New York: Schenkman.

Kurien, Prema. 2002. Kaleidoscopic Ethnicity: International Migration and the Reconstruction of Community Identities in India. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Levitt, Peggy. 1998. "Social Remittances: Migration Driven Local-Level Forms of Cultural Diffusion" International Migration Review 32:926-948.

[Author Affiliation]

Caroline B. Brettell

Southern Methodist University