Tongan Women and Migratory Circuits of Wealth and Value(s)
AbstractWealth transfers are key to the “how” and “why” of contemporary global population migration. For example, remittances are much-analyzed and fiercely-debated transfers of wealth from migrant populations to their home countries. Yet wealth can be transferred in the opposite direction – from homeland to hostland – and in various different forms. Using an ethnographic approach to understanding the impact of migrant’s (micro) decisions on wider (macro) global practices, this paper records, compares and contextualizes the global movement of things carried, left behind, pined for, and (re-)created by transmigrants. It seeks to nuance our understandings of the “who” of contemporary migration by tracing the role and cross-cutting paths of traditional wealth from the Kingdom of Tonga between groups of Tongan migrants who live in, and move between New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Hawai‘i. The case study illuminates Tongan women’s choices about carrying and creating objects of value that reify homeland gender and labor practices, while also affording them a role in impacting global wealth transfers that both entwine and eschew cash remittances.
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