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Gendered Relations and Filial Duties Along the Greek-Albanian Remittance Corridor

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abstract

Remittances stand at the heart of the migration-development debate. However, they are overwhelmingly considered in financial and economic terms, neglecting important dimensions, such as gender and patriarchal family structures. This article contributes to rectifying this oversight by analyzing flows of remittances resulting from Albanian migration to neighboring Greece. We draw on a detailed questionnaire survey with 350 remittance-recipient households in rural southeast Albania and 45 in-depth interviews with a selection of these respondents and with remitters living in the Greek city of Thessaloniki. We found that gender is interlinked with generation and life-course stages within the context of Albanian patriarchal norms and that remittances are shaped accordingly. Although remitting to older parents is a filial duty for unmarried sons, upon marriage only the youngest son has this responsibility—other sons send small amounts as tokens of respect and love. Sending remittances is overwhelmingly seen as a “male thing.” Single young women rarely migrate on their own for work abroad. Meanwhile any remittances sent by married daughters to their parents are considered “unofficial,” referred to as “coffee money.” Within nuclear households, some increased power-sharing among husband remitters and wife recipients takes place. However, the latter are far from passive recipients, since they struggle to combine caring for children and the elderly with farmwork or day labor. We conclude that a deeper understanding of how remittances are gendered can be gained by placing their analysis within the migratory and sociocultural context into which they are embedded.

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