Renegotiating Obligations through Migration: Senegalese Transnationalism and the Quest for the Right Distance

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Hernández Carretero, María (2015) Renegotiating Obligations through Migration: Senegalese Transnationalism and the Quest for the Right Distance, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 41(12): 2021–2040.

​​This article explores the interplay between spatial and social distance and financial obligations and goals in the context of migration. On the basis of an ethnographic study of Senegalese migration to Spain, it discusses the idea that distance may be partly sought to gain leverage in renegotiating responses to redistributive demands and responsibilities that come at odds with goals of accumulation and investment. Financial prosperity may be thought easier to attain by temporarily distancing oneself but is also sought to gain a better capacity to assist others. Besides, both accumulation and redistribution contribute to migra​nts’ overall objective of becoming socioeconomically successful and gaining a respectable presence at home. Many migrants do not wish to break with or ostracise dependents and other relations, and expectations of redistribution often grow as a result of migration. Thus, rather than resolve the dilemma between accumulation and redistribution, migration transforms it. Seeking a balance, some migrants devise strategies to establish the right distance, in socially and morally acceptable terms, to retain control over financial priorities without undermining social ties. Too much distance could result in ostracism; too little might stifle or delay ambitions for savings and investments, which are considered a precondition for return.​

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Authors

María Hernández Carretero

María Hernández Carretero

Doctoral Researcher