Brother’s keeper? Siblingship, overseas migration, and centripetal ethnography in a Philippine village

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The Western optic of ‘nuclear family’, which is devoid of the individual’s embeddedness in the larger kin group, fails to explain the commitment of overseas Filipino migrants to the ‘extended family’. Yet, it underpins much of the qualitative field methods today. To explain interdependencies as well as tensions within kin groups, this article proposes a shift in theoretical ground from a ‘sociology of the family’ to ‘cultures of relatedness’. To understand migrants’ culture in the destination also necessitates that culture in the origin be given primacy, in a methodological shift referred to as ‘centripetal ethnography’. This dual and conjoined shift in perspective and method is applied in studying Paraiso, a rural-upland village in the Philippines, where overseas migration commenced in the 1970s. The interplay of autonomy and solidarity in siblingship is illumined by focusing on the house as practised in the village and, moving outward, in the overseas context.