Migration, Money and Masculinity in Kerala



This article examines migration, styles of masculinity and male trajectories through the life-cycle in Kerala, South India, in a region with a long history of high migration, most lately to the Persian Gulf states. Ethnography suggests that migration may be integrated into wider identity projects and form part of local subjectivities. The article considers four important local categories: the gulfan migrant, typically an immature unmarried male; the kallan, a self-interested maximizer or individualistic anti-social man; the pavam, an innocent good-guy, generous to the point of self-destruction; mature householder status, a successful, social, mature man holding substantial personal wealth, supporting many dependents and clients. Another theme to emerge is the relationship between masculinity and cash: migration appears as particularly relevant to masculinity in its enhanced relationship with money, an externalizable (detachable) form of masculine potency: maturity means being able to use such resources wisely.