Envisaging power in Philippine migration
The Janus effect
Pauline Gardiner Barber
The people who are social subjects (recipients, clients, targets) for empowerment interventions typically live in a home base described as a 'community'. While empowerment is usually associated with a bedrock of 'community' and is thought about in localizing terms, threats to local empowerment are often seen as originating in processes of modernity and globalization. This chapter investigates empowerment through migration scenarios where community and a sense of what is local take on different connotations. It questions how migration scenarios can enhance our understanding of empowerment in a context of local–global processes. Migration engages local and global spaces, and produces multiple and mobile attachments to place, thereby detaching empowerment scenarios from one locale. The Philippine migrants described here traverse and negotiate mutually entangled local and global spaces and power structures. For them, globalization processes at the macro-level are rendered concrete in the micro-politics of daily routines that entail attachments to various people in the local spaces of communities far flung from the place where daily life is being lived. This applies to Philippine migrants living in the Philippines who desire to re-migrate as much as it does to migrants living overseas and longing to be back in the Philippines. The migrant narratives presented here extend over different configurations of community and nation. They express the spatially mobile yet contingent qualities of agency and empowerment. Their example provides a challenge to localized and community-based understandings of empowerment and how the articulation of the local with global processes is represented in development writing.
The shifting vistas of empowerment and migration invite further critical unpacking of how community development scenarios and their social dynamics are discursively located in time, not just in space. Migration reveals the ways in which development writing can over-represent the temporal continuity of social and cultural rhythms in the local, for example the expectation that communities are bearers of indigenous knowledge. Because of migration and other interruptions in communities, local continuities such as knowledge cannot be assumed and should be a matter for research. Where this is not done, empowerment discourses continue a 'tradition' of romanticizing notions of community in