The pleasures and dangers of family life driving today’s international migration

Haenn_Cover Art for ARC.jpg

Marriage after Migration tells the stories of five women in rural Mexico, each navigating the tricky terrain that is men’s international migration. With their husbands and sons working in the United States, will the women hold their families together? Haenn draws on twenty-five years of experience in Mexico to relate the pleasures and dangers driving labor migration. With their men abroad, women find new romance, unimagined wealth, and, for some, relief from constraining gender roles. But for these women migration’s dangers are just as real: a return to poverty, pressure to live up to impossible standards, emotional betrayal, divorce. When men return home with a drinking problem, wives can face life-threatening domestic violence.

Marriage after Migration shows how globalization changes people but also how marginalized people, including indigenous people, drive globalization. By following the women’s journeys, readers go beneath the surface of globalization to see its roots in people’s most intimate relationships.

Through rich and highly readable ethnographic narratives, Haenn explores the subjective experiences of migration and its varying impact on the marital relationships of men and women in the Mexican region of Calakmul, Yucatan. The lives of these five women open a window of understanding about both the opportunities and disadvantages of migration, about changing Yucatecan gender roles and ideologies, about household and family structures, and about intimacy and economics. Haenn skillfully delineates the impact of a global process at the local level and of the interconnections between mobility and immobility.

—Caroline B. Brettell, Southern Methodist University, member American Academy of Arts and Sciences

  “This compelling ethnography invites readers into the lives of southern Mexican women as they work to keep their communities and families together when their spouses migrate abroad. Not merely ‘left behind,’ these women help maintain and reproduce a globalized labor force even as they find their own lives tightly constrained by gender, kin relations, and socioeconomic marginalization. Haenn’s keen ethnographic eye and accessible prose will engage scholars, students, and interested readers alike in this rich account of a dimension of globalization that is rarely told.”

 —Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz, Loyola University of Chicago and author of Labor and Legality

 Marriage after Migration provides an approachable look into the economic and social issues that the women of Calakmul are facing in today’s global world. Haenn’s writing style makes this ethnography fun to read while providing important theoretical insights into anthropological theory and gender studies.”

 —Nobuko Adachi, Illinois State University and author of Japanese Diasporas


Haenn_Cover Art for ARC.jpg

Table of contents

Chapter 1 Why Marriage and Migration                                                                                                     

Chapter 2 A Very Brief History of Globalized Calakmul

Chapter 3 Elvia: Marriage before Migration

Chapter 4 Selena: The Model Wife                                                                                                             

Chapter 5 Aurora: The Pleasure-Seeking Wife

Chapter 6 Rosario: Coping with a Husband’s Return

Chapter 7 Berta: Healing Families                                                                                                       

Chapter 8 Bringing It All Home


About the Author

Nora Haenn, Ph.D., teaches Anthropology and International Studies at North Carolina State University

Her scholarship focuses on the culture and politics of international migration, environmental management, and economic development.

She is the author of Marriage after Migration: An Ethnography of Money, Romance, and Gender in Globalizing Mexico which traces the pleasures and dangers of family life that drive international migration, and Fields of Power, Forests of Discontent (2005) which explains rain forest conservation from the standpoint of the rural people most impacted by environmental protection efforts.

Her research and other writing has been published in scholarly journals, edited collections, newspapers, and blogs, including Current Anthropology, Conservation Biology, World Development, The Conversation, the News and Observer and the Chatham County Line.