Annotation: Chamberlain, Mary. 2006. Family Love in the Diaspora.

Chamberlain, Mary. 2006. Family Love in the Diaspora: Migration and the Anglo-Caribbean Experience. New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Publishers.

Using oral histories of migrant African-Carribean families spanning several generations, and residing in the Carribbean and the United Kingdom, Chamberlain tells the “story of emotional attachments and family support network that extends vertically through lineages, horizontally through kinship networks, and transnationally across the oceans” (5). Afro-Carribean social organization is premised on extensiveness, inclusiveness, and communitarian principles, which together structure lineage and kinship practices. The author traces back today’s Afro-Carribean family practices to the history of slavery, and their consolidation later on during the post-Emancipation period. Particular features of Afro-Carribean families after 1834 include the family reunion (i.e. after long separation during the time of slavery), care for the kin, making sure that children do not participate in field labour, etc. (26). It is then through the networks, values, and structures that families create and endorse that migration was enabled and that identity “across generations and oceans” (36) was created. Looking closely at three transnational family narratives, Chamberlain finds that a prominent familial feature is the emphasis on “closeness,” despite the physical distance between family members. “Family” and “household” have a broader definition than the nuclear family, and the members need not be connected via marital bonds. Chamberlain argues that “far stronger” than conjugal relationships in Afro-Carribean families, are the “ties of consanguinity, affinity and lineage” (83). This complex kin structure is certainly an important factor in explaining the high incidence of single parenting and of female-headed households. Families, Chamblerlain finds, “make you ‘feel someone’”, an important aspect of identity-building among Afro-Carribean families (84) – identity being a “source of belonging and resource for survival” (112). Living transnationally, families “are able to withstand the absence of members” as families have been “accommodated to migration, rather than disrupted by it” (95). Distance and national borders, thus, are not barriers to “family connectedness,” and families’ narratives focus on the “celebratory rather than the problematic, aspects of their relationships” (110). These same narratives are important to the linking of families across time and space, and have “very practical implications in enabling migration and facilitating return” (110).

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