Dissertation Abstracts

At Home and Across Borders: Gender in Guatemalan Households and Labour Migration to Canada

Author: Hughes, Christine , chughes2@gmail.com
Department: Sociology & Anthropology
University: Carleton University, Canada
Supervisor: Daiva Stasiulis
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: labour migration , gender , Guatemala , Canada
Areas of Research: Migration , Social Transformations and Sociology of Development , Family Research


This dissertation investigates change and continuity in household gender dynamics in the context of Guatemalans’ labour migration to Canada. Thousands of Guatemalans have challenged circumstances of economic precariousness by working in Canadian agriculture through Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. This study explores experiences of migrants and non-migrating partners and other household members through a social, critical, and feminist lens, specifically asking whether Guatemalan women’s and men’s seasonal migration to Canada has contributed to shifts in gender-related practices and relations of power in their households. The study is situated in ‘gender and migration’ scholarship, and rests theoretically on the idea that gender is expressed at individual, ideological, and institutional levels of society. I map this foundation onto the possibilities created by the temporary labour migration of individual household members. Specifically, I investigate shifts in the gendered selves of migrants and partners, gender consciousness and ideologies as social remittances, and the impacts of income and economic remittances. These lines of inquiry were pursued through critical feminist and ethnographic approaches to interview-based fieldwork in Guatemala with migrant-sending households in an indigenous community, complemented by organizational interviews in both Guatemala and Canada. Based on both during- and post-migration scenarios, this case study revealed in the main that migration has reinforced the status quo much more than it has encouraged disruptions to patriarchal household gender dynamics. Although occasional signs of change did arise in thinking about and practicing gender, this dissertation demonstrates a great deal of continuity in women’s and men’s gender practices and relations of authority, and draws attention to the profound influence of both transnational processes and local conditions that reinforce gender relations. In a context where Guatemalans’ migration to Canada shows few signs of ebbing, this dissertation identifies the need for further research to assess both longer-term and intersectional gender-related impacts.

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