Annotation: Ho, Christine G. T. 1999. Caribbean Transnationalism as a Gendered Process

Ho, Christine G. T. 1999. Caribbean Transnationalism as a Gendered Process. Latin American Perspectives, 26(5): 34-54.

The author writes that Caribbean transnationalism “rests on the foundation of the family and the careful cultivation of kinship ties” and that it is a “global drama,” whose protagonists are the women. The essay: 1) locates gender within the capitalist/industrialist productions in the Caribbean by looking at how women as both workers and mothers play an important role in the creation and maintenance of Caribbean relationships beyond the national territory; 2) suggests that families are reshaped according to the needs of global capitalism, and; 3) stresses the “tremendous human costs” brought about by transnationalism (36). The analysis of the family using a Western framework does not apply to the Caribbean case. For example, unlike the “family wage” paid (in the past) to workers in Europe and North America, which allowed women and children to stay at home, Caribbean men have always worked for low wages. Because of this, women have never been excluded from the workplace, and have been forced to work in the same low-paying jobs, while also expected to continue doing domestic work. As Ho writes, the dilemma of Caribbean women “has been the coercion into the public domain without the socialization of private housework” (41). On the debate whether or not the global restructuring of the 90s increased the participation of women and thus enhanced their status, Ho argues that in the case of the Caribbean, families only experienced worse chronic poverty and under- and unemployment, which pushed women back to more oppressive conditions (45). In the transnational sphere, Caribbean families realize through “painful experience” (i.e. parents’ experience of racism in their workplace, and their children’s experience of the same in their schools) that their families face glass ceilings that hinder their social and economic advancement. Migrants thus retain a strong Caribbean identity in the transnational sphere “in part because they lack political and economic security and want to keep their options open but mainly because of a sense of loss, displacement, exile, and alienation resulting from the destabilizing effects of capitalism” (51).


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