The gendered work of receiving and consuming remittances

Authors: Araby Smyth*, University of Kentucky
Topics: Economic Geography, Gender, Latin America
Keywords: economic geography, feminist, gender, remittances, finance
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Capitol Ballroom 4, Hyatt Regency, Fourth Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Remittances, money sent by migrants to friends and family in their communities of origin, are increasingly being linked to financial services in what is being called the "financialization of remittances." International organizations, state, non-governmental and private actors claim that the financialization of remittances will leverage migrant money into more productive uses, and increase access to formal financial institutions, which they suggest may aid female empowerment. This paper challenges the dichotomy that remittances are either for productive use or for consumption, a claim that aids the production of financialized capital, as it questions the discourse on women's empowerment.

Based on a case study of an indigenous village in Mexico, this paper is grounded in feminist literatures that challenge assumptions that financial capital is abstract (Ho 2009; McDowell 2009) as it answers calls from feminist economic geographers for studies on the effects of transnational capital flows and migration trajectories in the everyday (Nagar et al. 2002; Werner et al. 2017; Massey 1994). I draw on ethnographic field work to move the discourse on the financialization of remittances from the decontextualized to detailed empirical terrain. Women's daily work in the management of family finances and how they feel about these processes, are often lost in studies on the movement of global remittances. My analysis of these details will show how women do a mountain of multifaceted work to render remittances as productive in their families and communities as I argue that remittances are more than a sum of money to be consumed.

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