Remittance as Belonging

By: Hasan Mahmud  

Drawing on ethnographic research, this paper argues that migrants’ remittance is an expression of their belonging - a sense of connectedness, constitutive of one’s identity - to the home. Studies on migrants’ remittance either adopt an economic approach assuming an implicit contractual relation between the migrants and their household, or a social-cultural approach emphasizing structural and relational factors in the household. The former emphasizes spatial separation between the migrants and their household, whereas the later focuses on relational dimension in explaining migrants’ remittance. This paper illustrates that both the spatial separation of migrants from their household and relational transformations within it determine migrants’ sense of belonging. It is obvious that migration involves spatial separation. Yet, as this paper shows, the migrants may unite with their families abroad, which dissolves the spatial distance, and they still send remittance to the origin community if they do not feel ‘at home’ in the new destination. Again, the migrants may establish their household abroad with families and relatives and, thereby, create a sense of feeling ‘at home’, and still they may send remittance if their family-relations disaggregate to the point that they no longer feel ‘at home’ and realize the need for reconnecting to their origin community. This paper demonstrates that spatial separation does not generate remittance without relational closeness, whereas relational distance offsets the potential of remittance. Finally, it presents a detailed account of the emergence, growth, decay and drying of remittance in terms of changes in their sense of belonging to the home.

Migration, Belonging, Remittance
Identity and Belonging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Hasan Mahmud

Assistant Professor, Liberal Arts, Northwestern University in Qatar, Qatar

Im intersted in studying teh relationship between individuals and society and how globalization affects this relation. I explore how this relation shapes individual's thoughts and actions. My substentive areas of interest include migration and development, sociology of remittance, identity and belonging, identity politics, and ethnography.