«Title of dissertation: GENDER, KINSCRIPTS AND THE WORK OF TRANSNATIONAL KINSHIP AMONG AFROCARIBBEAN IMMIGRANT FAMILIES: AN EXPLORATORY ANALYSIS Ivy ...»
Title of dissertation: GENDER, KINSCRIPTS AND THE WORK OF
TRANSNATIONAL KINSHIP AMONG AFROCARIBBEAN IMMIGRANT FAMILIES: AN
Ivy Forsythe-Brown, Doctor of Philosophy, 2007
Dissertation directed by: Professor Bonnie Thornton Dill Department of Women’s Studies Affiliate Faculty Department of Sociology Using an integrated, quantitative and qualitative, research design this study explores the type, frequency, duration and circumstances of transnational kinship ties among Afro-Caribbean immigrants in the U.S. Focus is on how immigrants maintain kinship connections across international boundaries, the delegation of kin work tasks among family members, and the impact of gender and/or kin designated roles on these activities. Qualitative data is from in-depth semi-structured interviews with multiple members of four English-speaking Afro-Caribbean families, key informants and two group interviews among immigrants with transnational kinship ties (n=41). Quantitative data from a sub-set of the National Survey of American Life (NSAL) re-interview, an integrated, hierarchical national probability sample, is utilized to examine the statistical significance of factors that impact transnational kinship contact (n=101). The notion of kinscripts posited by Stack and Burton (1993) is with combined theoretical perspectives on doing and performing gender, the household division of labor, and literature on Caribbean families and migration to create a lens through which the activities and behaviors of study participants are analyzed. Findings indicate that gender, social class, family size and gender composition, parents residing in the Caribbean, and length of stay in the host nation impact the frequency, extent, and direction of kin contact among NSAL respondents and study participants with transnational kinship ties. Men were found to engage in kin work in the absence of available women in the family to perform kin work tasks. Additionally, the study finds that who executes the majority of kin work in immigrant families tends to be voluntary and closely linked to individual skill and personality.
AN EXPLORATORY ANALYSIS OF GENDER, KINSCRIPTS AND THE
WORK OF TRANSNATIONAL KINSHIP
AMONG AFRO-CARIBBEAN IMMIGRANT FAMILIESby Ivy Forsythe-Brown Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Maryland at College Park in partial fulfillment of
Professor Bonnie Thornton Dill, Chair Professor William Falk Professor Reeve Vanneman Professor A. Lynn Bolles Assistant Professor Dae Young Kim © Copyright by
There are few things that one accomplishes in life which are products generated solely from our own efforts, independent of others. This research project is the culmination of so many individuals that it is difficult to determine where to begin the acknowledgements and my gratitude runs extraordinarily deep for all those involved.
Therefore, I would like to thank my many mentors at the University of Maryland, College Park and at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan for their generous and continuous support in all facets of this research project. In particular, I am forever indebted and deeply grateful to my dissertation advisor, mentor, and dear friend Bonnie Thornton Dill. Her wisdom, thoughtful guidance, keen insight, and encouragement were invaluable throughout this research from the study’s initial conception to its completion. I must thank A. Lynn Bolles for sharing her vast knowledge and insight on scholarly literature on Caribbean people and their diaspora. In addition, a very special thank you must be extended to James S. Jackson for enabling access to data from the National Survey of American Life which added dramatically to this study. Many thanks also to the staff of the Program for Research on Black Americans at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan for their immense assistance and support, in particular Jane Rafferty. I must also extent a special thank you to Reeve Vanneman, William Falk, Lory Dance, Sharon Harley, Val Skeeter and Dae Young Kim at the University of Maryland for their contributions,
I am deeply grateful to my family and friends for all of their encouragement, assistance and support throughout this research project, especially my husband, Chris, and daughter Marlena, for their love and patience. I will be forever grateful to my mother, Dorothy, who has been a source of unending support and encouragement. I must extend my enormous gratitude to my father, Earnest [Ted], a Jamaican immigrant, who was the catalyst for my interest in Caribbean migration and the maintenance of family ties to the home country. I also acknowledge my aunties, uncle and the rest of my extended family from Jamaica, who have persisted in maintaining close family relations across distance, time and at least three nation states. In addition, thank you to my good friends Janice Johnson Dias, Bridget Goosby, Susan Frazier Kouassi, Michelle McGarrity, Shannon Byard, and Nadine Hall. Finally, I must acknowledge and thank the many participants and respondents referenced in this research for the generous contribution of their personal and family experiences which will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the importance of family – near and far.
Table 1: Demographic Characteristics of Afro-Caribbean Population 53 and Samples Table 2: Logistic regression models for predicting contact frequency 83 Table 3: Frequency of contact with family for first generation English- 88 speaking Afro-Caribbean immigrants by gender [NSAL] Table 4: Frequency of contact with family for first generation English- 89 speaking Afro-Caribbean immigrants with most family residing outside of the US by gender Table 5: Frequency of contact with transnational family by feelings of 91 closeness to family members Table 6: Family closeness for respondents with most family residing 91 outside of the US by gender Table 7: Frequency of contact with transnational family by perceived 93 parental expectations of reciprocity Table 8: Frequency of contact with transnational family by gendered 94 expectations for daughters in the care of older parents Table 9: Frequency of contact with transnational kin by educational 96 attainment Table 10: Frequency of contact with transnational kin by income 97 Table 11: Frequency of contact with transnational kin by length of stay 99 in the US Table 12: Frequency of contact with transnational kin by frequency of 100 “Giving Help” to family members Table 13: Frequency of contact with transnational kin by frequency of 102 by “Getting Help” from family Table 14: Frequency of contact with transnational kin by frequency of 103 helping to family members financially Table 15: Helping family members financially by gender 103 Table 16: Logistic regression models for predicting contact frequency, 107 everyday vs. others, presenting odds ratios. NSAL Table 17: Logistic regression models for predicting contact frequency, 109 everyday & weekly vs. others, presenting odds ratios. NSAL
GENDER, KINSCRIPTS AND THE WORK OF TRANSNATIONAL KINSHIPIntroduction International migration flows arising from the movement of labor within the system of global capitalism have created transnational1 families and kin networks that necessitate the maintenance of international kinship connections. Increasingly, immigrants to the U.S. have immediate or extended family members residing not only in different households, but also in several different nations, as well as their country of origin. The work involved in maintaining international family relations occurs to a greater or lesser extent in all immigrant families, regardless of their national origin or their settlement location. Yet, within international migration literature, the means by which immigrants maintain transnational family and kinship ties has been largely overlooked.
The concept of transnationalism2 is utilized across a variety of social science disciplines to describe sustained social, cultural, and economic activities and relations among individuals and organizations that extend beyond national boundaries (Portes et al.
“[T]he processes by which immigrants forge and sustain multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement (Basch et al. 1994:7).” For a summary of the development of transnationalism see Smith and Guarnizo 1998.
1999). These transmigrants3 maintain family, social, economic, political, organizational and religious affiliations that span national boundaries and may include close relatives and associates in several nation-states (Levitt 2001, Basch et al. 1994, Glick Schiller et al.
1995). The growing numbers of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants coming to the U.S. have focused research attention on the development of transnational immigrant social fields4. For these transmigrants the close proximity of both the United States and Canada facilitates frequent transnational contact with family, friends, and other associates in the home country, as well as those residing in other parts of North America. AfroCaribbean immigrants have consistently maintained the kind of cross-national connections that are typical of contemporary transnational activities, perhaps predating the scholarly conceptualization of transnationalism5 (Chamberlain 2004). The recent transnational activities of growing Mexican and Latin American immigrant groups have received the bulk of scholarly attention within the last twenty years or so, and this study seeks to extend this attention to other immigrant groups by exploring transnational kin relationships among English-speaking Afro-Caribbean immigrants.
Research Significance This dissertation research seeks to make contributions in four areas. First, this A transnational immigrant who “engages regularly in cross-border activities” (Levitt 2001:6; Glick Schiller et al.1995; Guarnizo 1997).
Combinations of ties, positions in networks and organizations, and networks of organizations that reach across the borders of multiple states. (Faist 2000).
A foundational transnationalism work by Basch et al. (1994) documented the crossnational activities of Afro-Caribbean immigrants. See also Basch 2001; Basch et al.
1994; Chamberlain 2004, 1997; Guarnizo 1997; Ho 1999, 1993, 1991; Olwig 2002, 2001;
Pessar 1995; Plaza 2000; Schiller and Fouron 1998, Thompson and Bauer 2000.
research focuses on transnational family and kinship relations over time concentrating on the internal processes of familial communication, prioritization in contact, and the distribution of kin work among family and/or kinship networks. Special attention is directed toward investigation of gender differentiation and kin-designed responsibility of kin work activities. Second, this research defines transnational family and kin broadly to encompass participant conceptualizations of family in contrast to imposing a nuclear family classification. Third, it explores English-speaking Afro-Caribbean immigrants, or West Indians, in understudied settlement locations, those outside of the New York City metropolitan area which has been the primary location for studies of West Indian immigrants.
Finally, this dissertation is mixed-method utilizing both qualitative and quantitative data. The qualitative data, based on in-depth interviews, provides a unique perspective on the conceptualization, participation, and distribution of kin work in the family by interviewing multiple family members identified as significant within the kin network. This approach allows for substantial triangulation increasing the depth of information about family decision making and the distribution of kin work and permitting the role of gender and/ or kin-designated responsibilities to emerge from participant responses. The quantitative data is from the National Survey of American Life (NSAL), an integrated, hierarchical national probability sample which contains the only nationally representative sample of first, second, and third generation Afro-Caribbean immigrants in the United States (n=1,625). This dissertation research was originally planned as a solely qualitative study. After learning about the NSAL dataset, I decided to take the opportunity to extend the understanding of Afro-Caribbean immigrant families addressed in the study by examining national survey data. The incorporation of a sub-set of the NSAL data (n=101) allows for significance testing of factors, identified in the qualitative data, that may impact the frequency of contact between family members.
This dissertation will add to the scholarly understanding of family and kin network organization, circumstances of contact, and transnational practices among AfroCaribbean immigrants. It is not uncommon for a West Indian immigrant residing in the U.S. to have immediate or extended family members in their home country, several other Caribbean nations, Canada and possibly Britain as well. Therefore, this population is ideal for studying transnational family and kin networks. The exploratory nature of this research, using case studies of English-speaking Afro-Caribbean immigrants, will serve as a catalyst for further investigation. Additionally, the current research on AfroCaribbean transnational immigrants will add balance to international migration theory building literature which has heretofore focused primarily on the transnational experiences of Latin American and Asian immigrants.
As mentioned above, transnational kinship has been an underexplored area of transnational social spaces (Schmalzbauer 2004a, 2004b, Foner 2001, Lima 2001, Plaza 2000, Thompson & Bauer 2000, Ho 1999). Foundational works on transnationalism often commented on the transnational nature of immigrant families as a byproduct of their intended focus on a variety of topics from cultural/ ethnic identity, dual citizenship, assimilation, and political involvement in their nation of origin, to the evolution of gender roles and relations (Fouron and Schiller 2001, Stepick 1998, Pessar 1995, Basch et al.