Desire, obligation and familial love: Mothers, daughters and communication technology in the Tongan Diaspora’

Makiko Nishitani

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.

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Submitted by Anita Togolo
July 12, 2022
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