Migration and Gender Identity in the Rural Philippines

Households with Farming Wives and Migrant Husbands

Author: Adam Lukasiewicz


Remittances associated with labor migration have been hailed by many as the most direct form of development to rural migrant-sending areas of the Global South, but focusing only on the quantity of cash flows does little to contextualize how migration has transformed social structures in rural areas. Through a qualitative focus on divisions of agrarian labor and decision-making, this article illustrates how the out-migration of men from rural areas of the Philippines is challenging preexisting gender ideologies of agricultural labor. The article examines how wives "left-behind" by their migrant husbands negotiate forms of farm work and responsibility that are culturally prescribed as "masculine." While a number of studies have detailed how female migration can destabilize conventional gender roles – as housebound husbands are shown to take up social reproductive work often considered "feminine" – the impacts of male migration on the participation of housebound wives in productive farming practices has been less studied. This article presents several vignettes of stay-at-home mothers who venture into farming and it analyzes how these women interpret their own gender identity.

Countries: Philippines
Topics: Migration | Women

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December 2011
© E.D. Starin