Love, duty and burden: Mothers’ and daughters’ engagements with familial obligations

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The proliferation of transnational migration has attracted scholars from diverse disciplines to investigate the experiences of migrants from different cultures. While cultural anthropologists are trained to understand the subjects’ emic perspectives, other social scientists who grapple with cultural diversity tend towards applying an etic analytical lens, without deeper engagement with given cultural logics. In order to fully overcome the conceptual marginalisation of cultures in our discussion of family relationships and intimacy, cultural specificities need to be more thoroughly taken into account. This article adds to the discussion of diverse forms of culturally specific intimacy by exploring familial obligations undertaken by Tongan female migrants and their second-generation daughters in Australia. Ethnographic case studies examine their emotions in relation to love and the feelings of burden and duty in practices of the creation and maintenance of intimate relationships both in proximity and at a distance. Deep engagements with Tongan cultural concepts and their emic viewpoints enable this article to challenge the simplistic view that envisages first generation migrants as ‘traditional’ and their daughters as more ‘Westernised’ or ‘individualised’ along the scale of individualisation.

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Makiko Nishitani

Lecturer, Anthropology, Department of Social Inquiry, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne, 3086, Victoria, Australia.

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