Kenyan emigrants maintain family ties with stay-behind relatives through significant money gifts, which are converted into school fees, consumer goods, and significant household and community investment. Mobile money has also rapidly become a part of value circulation in Kenya. Its lower risks and costs and its promise of private and direct remittances could increase the benefits of remittance flows to women and youth. This project will examine how and why Kenyan emigrants to the UK and USA send remittances to stay-behind families in Bungoma County, Kenya, and how their relatives save these remittances or convert them into cash, commodities, foodstuffs, land, labor, livestock, school fees, and other forms of value. The anthropological approach utilized in this study treats remittances as performances of transnational kinship, and shaped by cultural understandings of reciprocity, generation, gender, seniority, and household prestige. The project will thus use both qualitative ethnographic approaches to the cultural understanding of remittance value and social network analysis to measure and describe how remittance values are transferred through social networks. The goal of the research, in sum, is to examine the individual and household use of mobile money to send, spend, and save international remittances within broader extended families as cultural/economic institutions.
About the Researcher(s)
Sibel Kusimba is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University. Her fieldwork in East Africa has examined land use patterns, kinship and leadership, and technological change.
Synopsis of Research Results
1. Link to working paper: Social Networks of Mobile Money in Kenya.
2. Link to blog post: Grandmothers as Mobile Money Brokers in Kenya.
3. Link to live webinar with NetHope and MChanga.