Yojkanäj Wawe' (We Remain Here): Kaqchikel Migrants' Wives under Surveillance
Webb, Meghan Farley
University of Kansas
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Indigenous Maya men have long looked to domestic migration as an economic strategy. Increasingly, these men engage in transnational migration from Guatemala to the United States as a means of achieving economic security. Men’s decision to migrate has important implications not only for them, but also for their families. This dissertation examines the impacts of Kaqchikel Maya men’s migration on their wives who remain in the highland town of Tecpán, Guatemala. In contrast to other scholarly accounts of transnational migration, which emphasize benefits for, and improved social standing of, women in sending communities, this research reveals that migration can adversely affect migrants’ wives and exacerbate longstanding gender inequalities. Based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I demonstrate how migrants’ wives become subject to additional social control upon the departure of their husbands. Despite their physical absence, migrants monitor their wives by establishing a virtual presence through cell phones and social media. While previous scholarship focuses on these technologies’ ability to facilitate transnational communication and touts social media technologies as emancipatory, this intimate ethnography demonstrates their disciplinary function. However, it is not male migrants alone that exert control over their wives; gender socialization and patrilocality position mothers-in-law as key agents of familial surveillance, helping to control younger women. My analysis explores how such familial surveillance functions as both a form of social control and care. By connecting wives’ experiences of surveillance and intimacy in Kaqchikel transnational households, I complicate previous ideas of transnationalism, gendered power dynamics, and women’s agency, while providing insights into the personal dilemmas of indigenous migrants and their families who remain “at home.”
- Anthropology Dissertations and Theses 
- Dissertations 
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