Desire, Obligation, and Familial Love: Mothers, Daughters, and Communication Technology in the Tongan Diaspora

Hardback: $68.00
ISBN-13: 9780824881771
Published: August 2020

Additional Information

204 pages | 1 b&w illustration
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  • About the Book
  • Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork among Tongan migrant mothers and adult daughters in Australia, anthropologist Makiko Nishitani provides a unique account of how gifts, money, and information flow along the connections of kin and kin-like relationships. Desire, Obligation, and Familial Love challenges the conventional discourse on migration, which typically characterizes intergenerational changes from tradition to modernity, from relational to individual, and from obligation to autonomy and freedom. Rather, through an intimate examination of Tongan women’s everyday engagement with kinship relationships, Nishitani highlights how migrant women and their daughters born outside Tonga together create a field of relationships with kin and kin-like people, and navigate between individualistic, personal desires and familial duties and obligations. Their negotiations are not limited to a local frame of reference, but encompass vast distances, including relationships with relatives in places like Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the “home” island nation. Tongan women manage these relationships across diverse modes of communication: face-to-face interactions in homes and at church, lengthy telephone conversations on fixed phone lines in kitchens, and interactions on social media accessed on living room computers shared between neighboring households.

    Relationships between migrant mothers and second-generation daughters are suffused with warmth and empathy, as well as tensions and misunderstandings. Nishitani’s work demonstrates the critical contemporary relevance of classical anthropological kinship studies and gift theories as tools that can help us to understand transnationalism in the “digital” age. Through reflections on feminist geography, social theory of technology, Bourdieu’s field theory, and media studies, Nishitani makes a convincing call for anthropologists to use relationships rather than geographical places as a site of anthropological fieldwork in order to understand the sociality of diasporic people.

    Filled with rich, intimate portrayals of diasporic women’s everyday lives and the everyday politics of familial relationships, Desire, Obligation, and Familial Love will appeal to students and scholars of the anthropology of migration, of communication technologies and social media, and of gender and familial relationships, as well as to those interested in fieldwork methodology, transnational and migration studies, and Pacific studies.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Makiko Nishitani, Author

      Makiko Nishitani is lecturer of anthropology at La Trobe University, Melbourne.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • This richly textured ethnography of Tongan mothers and daughters in Melbourne demonstrates how migrant women of different generations negotiate clashing cultural values through new communicative technologies. The book will be a model for understanding intergenerational relations, morality, gender, and social media in migrant communities throughout the world.
      —Niko Besnier, University of Amsterdam