Migration and Economy: Global and Local Dynamics

By Brettell, Caroline B. | Anthropological Quarterly, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Migration and Economy: Global and Local Dynamics


Brettell, Caroline B., Anthropological Quarterly


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. …

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