Labour Migration and Ties of Relatedness: Diasporic Houses and Investments in Memory in a Rural Philippine Village

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Putting migrant remittances into house construction and rebuilding is generally seen as either conspicuous consumption or productive investment, but in both cases the perspective is economistic. This article argues that only when the cultural dimension of economic action is understood will it be possible to comprehend migrant spending on houses. Specifically, this article seeks to understand why, in the case of the rural Tagalog village in this study, located in upland Batangas Province in the Philippines, overseas labour migrants build houses that they do not even live in, but are given to parents or simply left unoccupied. The explanation is framed in relation to the meanings of houses in a culture of bilateral kinship, which the Philippines shares with most parts of Southeast Asia, but inflected by distinct colonial influences. The article demonstrates the ways in which houses as memorials serve as idioms of ties of relatedness within kin groups and the broader community, ties that are being transformed by global migration and experienced differently yet maintained, renegotiated yet sustained transnationally.