Accepted paper:

"They are ungrateful!" Cape Verdean notions of transnational obligations

Author:

Lisa Åkesson (University of Gothenburg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses perceptions of migrants’ economical obligations towards their family members. In Cape Verde migrants are sometimes accused of being ‘ungrateful’. The use of the concept ‘ungrateful’ shows that ideas concerning reciprocity play an important role. In a moral discourse, the migrants are seen as owing a debt to the non-migrants.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the transnational flow of money, gifts and services from the perspective of Cape Verdean non-migrants. In Cape Verde, remittances have become an institutionalized part of livelihood strategies. Nearly everyone has a close relative abroad, and between one third and two third of households receive remittances. In general, relations between migrants and non-migrants are characterized by an inherent asymmetry. The migrants and the non-migrants experience the relation in different ways, and this relation is often a source of frustration for both sides. Non-migrants in many parts of the world experience vulnerability and a need to make claims on the migrants. The character of these moral claims varies between different social contexts. In Cape Verdean transnational social space, the migrants are expected to prove that they are not ingrôt (ungrateful) to those they have left behind. The use of the concept 'ungrateful' shows that ideas concerning reciprocity play an important role. In a moral discourse, those who have left are seen as owing a debt to those who have stayed. This idea builds on the notion that close relatives are supposed to make sacrifices for each other. When somebody migrates this demand is transformed into an asymmetrical relation, in which the migrant is the giver and the non-migrant the receiver.

panel W042
Relations that money can buy: negotiating mutualities and asymmetries in local and translocal social fields