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Remittance networks and stratified reproduction

Remittance networks and stratified reproduction

Ryan Schram

Mills 169 (A26)


September 6, 2017

Available at http://anthro.rschram.org/1002/6.2


Colen, Shellee. 1995. “‘Like a Mother to Them’: Stratified Reproduction and West Indian Childcare Workers and Employers in New York.” In Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction, edited by Faye D. Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp, 78–102. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.

Care chains

Just like the production of commodities for Western markets is now highly globalized, so too is the commodification of care also globalized.

There are commodity chains of reproductive labor, or “global care chains” (Hochschild 2000).

Commodity chains are assembled by capitalist firms using container ships. How are care chains created?

Sending so much more than money

Remittances are transfers of cash from person to person between countries, usually by a migrant worker sending money home to family or relatives to support them.

Remittances are, in other words, gifts of money. They are ways of doing kinship when you can't be physically present to provide the care you normally would in your role as a family member.

From a macro perspective, remittances are also a major part of the contemporary global economy, especially from the perspective of the so-called developing world, where many immigrants come from.

Gifts make the world go round

Remittances, migrant labor, and the global economy

  • In 2015, globally, over US$ 582 billion were sent home as remittances.
  • 133 billion US dollars was sent overseas as remittances in one year (2015).

Remittances drive economic development in many small countries

  • In many receiving countries, remittances sent back are well over what the country receives in foreign development aid (OECD 2017).
    • In Haiti, 64% of external resource flows come from remittances, 33% from foreign aid.
  • In many of these countries, remittances are equal to or greater than what the country earns from exports (World Bank 2017).
    • In Tonga, remittances in 2015 equaled 27% of GDP (up from 20% in 2010)
    • In 2015, exports in Tonga accounted for 17.5% of GDP (up from 13.3% in 2010).
    • Other countries where remittances are worth more than export income: Liberia, Comoros, Nepal, Haiti, Tajikistan.
    • These countries, in other words, participate in global capitalism mainly by exporting people.

Commodity chains and care chains compared

A commodity chain gives us an image of one side of globalization, but it is incomplete.

If we conceptualize globalization as a transnational network of gifts, we get a better picture.

The city is not a big village

Cities are transnational hubs

Cities are microcosms of global capitalism


Hochschild, Arlie Russell. 2000. “Global Care Chains and Emotional Surplus Value.” In On the Edge: Globalization and the New Millennium, edited by Anthony Giddens and Will Hutton, 130–46. London: SAGE Publications.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 2017. “Resource Flows beyond ODA in DAC Statistics.” Accessed September 5. http://www.oecd.org/dac/stats/beyond-oda.htm.

World Bank. 2017a. “Exports of Goods and Services (% of GDP).” World Bank Open Data. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NE.EXP.GNFS.ZS?view=chart.

———. 2017b. “Personal Remittances, Received (% of GDP).” World Bank Open Data. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/BX.TRF.PWKR.DT.GD.ZS.

A guide to the unit

1002/6.2.txt · Last modified: 2017/09/05 00:10 by ryans