Saturday, November 12, 2016

Week 13: Migration, Remmittances, and Relations

This week's readings focus on the economics of migration--both looking at money that migrants send to one another (remittances) and the money that makes money off of migration. Thinking about the stories in the readings, how does money mediate migration? How do remittances mediate/transform/shape relations? How does love, relationships, kinship intertwine with money in these stories?


  1. For me, the most interesting perspective in the readings was that of the people left behind. Kwon explains how, “those who remain at home feel displaced and marginalized, as their surroundings change rapidly due to remittance-driven development.” It is fascinating and really sad to think that people are willing to suffer so much for money. I do make a distinction between the migrants of O’Donnell’s story and those of Kwon’s. Maybe it is not a fair assessment but somehow I see a difference between people suffering to finance their second or third houses versus people who actually cannot survive in their homelands such as the West African, Syrian, and other migrants of O’Donnell’s stories. I wonder what distinguishes a “migrant” from a “refugee?” In my mind, it seems that being a migrant implies that the person is making a choice to leave, whereas a refugee is pushed out by circumstances beyond her/his control (like war or famine). Does anyone have any thoughts on that question?

    In terms of the relationships, it is clear that no matter what the circumstances, migration puts a tremendous strain on relationships and on individuals. I have to wonder, is it worth it? It’s difficult to imagine what this life would be like, but I am not sure that financial gain would be enough to motivate me to leave my family. To me, the saddest thing is that so many people are making this choice, or being forced into leaving by whatever awful circumstances, and that the wealthy nations are not doing anything to help them. I can’t understand why so many nations in the EU (and the US, although I think the route would be even more long and dangerous) are refusing to acknowledge or address the migration situation. That it is treated as an essentially black market phenomenon perpetuates the “emergency” and impedes the potential of so many men and women to make meaningful contributions to both the societies they wish to enter as well as those they leave behind.

    1. I think you are correct, a migrant makes a choice to leave his/her home country but at the same time some of them have no other option. For example, if someone who is from a small agrarian town in the middle of Mexico with no way to help his/her family and little or no education could considered to move to other country to help his/her family. In other cases, migrants do not need the money but they would like to work somewhere else than their home country.
      Also I agree with you that it must be hard to leave a significant other for a long period of time and work in another country to make more money but I also understand the other side of the issue. Some people might not have a retirement plan and if they do it consists in buying land and homes to rent them out to people and live our of that profit.

  2. As I was reading the relationships between money and migration it remind me about the illegal or legal migrants in the US. As Kwon describes there are many husbands, wives and families missing one member that is working in other country. I personally have interacted with Mexican migrants and they have explained to me how hard it is emotionally hard. Although in most cases, migrants are not refugees, both groups have to start all over in a different culture and a different environment.
    Moving to another country requires sacrifice, in some cases it is worth it. For example, a person that has no other option moves to another country where he/she could find a job that pays enough to support a family in another country and still maintain a relationship could be worth it. Especially if there is communication, for example phone calls. Another example is the remittances that continue to get into the significant that stayed in the home country. As Mr. Ho mentioned as long as the remittances keep coming there is hope to maintain the relationship with his wife. Unfortunately that is not the case for every relationship dealing with migration.

  3. These readings show ( to me atleast ) that the US isn't the only nation with issues of immigration. We see a lot of things in media regarding the US-Mexico border situation and the Syrian refugee crisis. The remittances migrant workers and refugees send back to their families is parallel to that of what we encounter within the US and Mexico immigration patterns. The strain migrant workers face is harsh, and they endure a lot to support their family. The emotional strain on families, as talked about wihtin the article, is difficult. As Farma explained, there was no work in his home country. Although his father was in tears pleading for him to return home, he knew there was no work for him there. The struggles some migrant workers face parallel that of the struggles of refugees.

    I agree with Megan that it amazes me that countries seem to ignore those who need help. People pay to be smuggled into the EU and US as border security increases for both. I wonder with those who have no choice but to become migrant workers, are they then, by definition, seeking asylum and support from an economic crisis? While States paint these issues as black and white, it seems to all turn gray from the people's points of view. Either way you put it, people are seeking to improve their way of life by traveling temporarily and permanently, and no one is making it easy on them.

  4. I think that these readings really display that migration is a global phenomenon and as Megan stated, wealthy nations due little to facilitate this. Instead it is moved largely to the black market where families can be easily exploited and lied to. This leads me to ponder what drives migrants to make the "big leap" and undertake these tremendous journeys. I think what it comes down to is that in many of the countries that are seeing large out-migration, there is a feeling of lack of opportunity. Wealthy nations like those in western Europe look appealing because it is likely that people will be able to find work.

    Further, I wonder if it would be more beneficial to these migrants to stay where they are and attempt to develop it further into a more thriving economy. This obviously falls into different circumstances, but in general if there are enough resources I think it would be better for people to develop their own communities before attempting to leave their families behind. Of course my view is a little bias because I have never been anywhere outside the US and Canada. The emotional tax must be extreme on these families, but the economics of it must not be easy either. Imagine if you send your young son to a people smuggler to get him somewhere with work and instead you never see him again. Not only have you lost your son which is a terrible thought but also all of the economic potential of that person.

  5. I am glad to know that others have similar ideas about how the migrant situation is symptomatic of a larger problem. I like Nick’s suggestion that it would be great if people were somehow enabled to work on their circumstances at home rather than having to bear the awful reality of leaving their families behind and facing perilous journeys to uncertain futures. I wonder if any of my friends in the IDS program could weigh in here - is there a possibility to redirect global attention away from “dealing with” these individuals and toward efforts to invest in the places that are in greatest need. Wouldn’t it save money, not to mention untold suffering, if the EU decided to move some of its tremendous investment in border control and regulation to the home countries where the largest numbers of migrants are coming from? I suppose this is very idealistic, but I do think an economic argument can be made for it!

  6. In regards to migration, some people do not have a choice but to migrate away from their homes. Whether it be because of violence in their country, a bad economic situation, or for a better opportunity somewhere else. But I would not call these people migrants, I would call them refugees. A migrant would be someone who left their country willingly. I found it very interesting when Kwon was talking about the hiker and how he had been waiting for his wife for ten years. When he made the comment, "As longs as money is still being sent back to china, there might still be love." I wonder if they really believe that their wives will come back? After ten years is it really worth the effort to come back to their home country, which they left to get away from oppression anyway. They coin the saying "waiting properly" or "heroically". Which I thought was interesting as well. My question is that, is there really such thing as a relationship between people anymore? I mean a genuine and true relationship or does money need to play a part in order to keep it alive? People always seem to be tied together in relationships, and it will always include money.

  7. Migration is a big money business and it can cost a lot of money to live in a different country whether they get to this country illegally or legally. I think that is it very difficult for some people who live in a country with not a good source of economic income or an abundance of violence that can affect their family. With these different factors it can open up a scenario where people have to do things they wouldn't normally do in order to provide for family. This can lead to an informal economy in order to obtain access things that can help them get into a new country whether that be a fake passport or someone who can smuggle you into a different country. This can make a difficult choice for families because the kind of informal economy they are participating in isn't always trust worthy and might have negative affects on a family.

  8. June Hee Kwons article "Love of money in Korean Chinese transnational migration" sheds much light on the value of remittances and how money is mediated through migration by providing examples of remittances from Yanbia Korea towards affiliation in China. According to Lauretta Baldassar' and Laura Mor, The transnational family has developed different ways to exchange assymetrical, recipricol care among familes and their kin; functioned as a form of moral economy of waiting for other families members who are abroad (highlighted by the connectedness entailed by transnation families). Migration and waiting are linked through the flow of remittances, "waitng properly" for remittances and spousal return create the possibility of mutual economic welfare as well as preserving intimacy by generating and sharing a deffered temporality. Affective labor suggests that waiting is an immaterial, yet also a form of unwaged and profit-produced labor. For example, waiting may start with love, but it can be transformed into work that requires constant management of monetary flows; which further defines the complex nature of remittances as "promises of love." The example of Ms. Kang's misfortune of three year long work in the Yanbian factory was interesting to me not because of the work she did, but the fact her first three year salary didn't supply her with any remittances; but acted as worked off salary towards debt of an illegal broker who facilitated her migration. This implies that their is an "unregulated" market of travelers and labor workers in Korean-Chinese migration. I also found it interesting that she communicated to her family by using international phone cards, not email because she was unfamiliar to the technology. This is important because there are many world travelers in pursuit of remittances who lack the rapid, global referral of technology.

    Anthropologists characterize a "global self-making" process of the pursuit of transnational marriage that strengthens transnational ties through international money and remittances. According to the articles, In Yanbia, the talk of remittances is everywhere. Remittances not only meet the economic needs of transnational families; but also builds connections and convey shared meanings between family members. Remittances transfer not only the value of their monetary equivalent but also show the sense of care toward the partner. Money directly transforms human bonds through dramatic intervention into relationships and its subjects. Waiting becomes oppressive when conditioned by factors beyond individualistic control, (conviction, state policy changes, etc) because it undermines the individual families to plan economic and social relations. In other words, waiting is = work when the key elements of production are demonstrated by affective deferrals and vulnerable economic conditions. This seems like a simple/implied distinction but since the heart of remittances revolve around "love", the only factor forcing "immobilized" transaction amongst parties is either trust or hindrances in the economic system by government policies.


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