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Living in Limbo: Transnational Households, Remittances and Development



In recent years, the reception of remittances by migrant-sending countries has been quantified and well advertised. Many have predicted economic development based on the magnitude of these aggregate figures, leaving aside the fact that new family arrangements, emigration expectations, consumption patterns and demographic changes impact the prospects for development. This paper shows how remittances link distant locations economically, socially and culturally creating unique transnational dynamics that shape development at both ends. I use multi-sited ethnographic work conducted over seven years in different places of migrant origin and destination. The paper challenges common assumptions regarding the developmental effect of remittances, by contrasting the hyper-rational, atomistic and perfectly informed theoretical actors of the neoclassical account with the complex actors who make their decisions on the basis of imperfect information, and the values and meanings constructed within a transnational web of family and community ties.