Dissertation Abstracts

Migrants’ Remitting beyond Altruism and Self-Interest: A Study of Remitting Practices among Bangladeshi Migrants in Tokyo and Los Angeles

Author: Mahmud, Hasan , hasan.mahmud@northwestern.edu
Department: Sociology
University: University of California Los Angeles, USA
Supervisor: Professor Min Zhou and Professor Ruben Hernandez-Leon
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Migrants' Remittances , Critical Realism , Bangladeshi Migrants
Areas of Research: Migration , Social Transformations and Sociology of Development , Comparative Sociology


Social science discourses on migration and development emphasize migrants' altruism or self-interest as the determinants of their remitting practices, which is countered by alternative explanations focusing on social culture and structure. Due to the dichotomy of structure/agency, the current approaches offer unsatisfactory explanations of migrants' remitting practices. This dissertation proposes a corrective by developing an alternative model of understanding the determinants of migrants' remitting practices. It synthesizes three strands of social science literature and derive the conception of remitting as a collective social act. From a realist approach following Durkheim, it begins with the empirical manifestations of migrants' remitting practices, but looks at deeper levels of social reality (the actual and the real) in identifying the determinants. It focuses on the internal social relations between the individuals involved in the acts in question as well as the external relations between the individuals and their social world to recognize the determinants of acts. Thus, it adopts a mixed-methods approach involving ethnographic fieldworks supplemented by small-scale survey with convenient samples. Following the theoretical case selection strategy of global ethnography, it investigates remitting practices among Bangladeshi migrants in Tokyo and Los Angeles. Holding the migrants’ origin constant allows for isolating the role of their different destinations in determining their remitting practices. This dissertation recognizes social norms in origin culture, advances in family life-cycle, legal status and social incorporation and/or marginalization in the destinations as the determinants of migrants' remitting practices. While confirming the centrality of migrant family in remitting practices in the NELM perspective, it goes beyond by explaining how internal family relations and external social relations collectively determine migrants' remitting. It advances our knowledge of migrants' remitting by incorporating both migrants' agency and social structures embedding remitting practices. Besides generating satisfactory explanations of migrants' remitting, this study demonstrates how to combine agency and structure in migration studies in particular and sociology in general. It also offers valuable insights for development policy-making utilizing migrants' remittances in their origin communities. It concludes with a call for extending the scope of the studies on migrants’ remittances by extensive and systematic use of both qualitative and quantitative data and to include familiar destination countries of temporary migration in future studies.