Young Muslim Women in France: Cultural and Psychological Adjustments


de Wenden, Catherine Wihtol. 1998. "Young Muslim Women in France: Cultural and Psychological Adjustments." Political Psychology 19 (1): 133-46.

Author: Catherine Wihtol de Wenden


Even though France has experienced increasing and inevitable feminization in its immigrant population since 1974, research has tended to ignore the role of immigrant women, especially Muslim women, in the migration process. Public attention has been diverted by concern over such relatively marginal issues as the headscarf affair, and insufficient attention has been paid to the important role Muslim women play in France, especially those coming from Algeria. These women function as cultural mediators between the traditional culture of the sending country and the modern one of the host country. They see themselves as both tradition-bearers and integration proponents. The demands of immigration have given rise to the growth and development of different leaders, among them cultural mediators seeking a bridge between Islam and modernity, economic mediators seeking to establish women in the media and as entrepreneurs, and political mediators who seek access to power at the local level for the immigrants. These new mediators will eventually shape a new generation of female actors very far from the traditional countries of origin, although for the time being they still suffer from the inequality of rights for women and chances in their overall social life.


  • In her article, Wihtol studies the role of Muslim women who have emigrated to France, arguing that they serve as mediators between traditional culture of their homelands and the modern culture of their new environment. She explains that while many Muslim women face racism and discrimination in France, all in all, the migration to Western society affords them greater autonomy and gender equality.

  • Wihtol uses her sample of Muslim women who migrated to France between 1990 and 1996 to illustrate the fact that the majority of migrants to France are women. Due to this, the percent of women participating in the labor force in France has increased. In addition to this, women have also begun to play larger roles in French civic society. Many of these associations have focused on advocating rights for Muslims, which has allowed these women to integrate their former identities into their desire to conform to French society.

  • While Muslim women in France strive to find employment and embrace the modern elements of French society, they struggle to reconcile this with the traditional demands of their family lives. For example, while the headscarf is valued as a religious and cultural emblem within the family, it is condemned by French society and even outlawed in public schools.

  • Wihtol concludes that Muslim women who migrate to France are confronted by the need to compromise some aspects of their former identities in order to fully integrate themselves into French society. She predicts that the growth of multiculturalism in France may lead to the ability for these women to identify as “French otherwise,” which would allow them to uphold their identities as Muslims while also embracing new French identities.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Women, Religion Regions: Europe, Western Europe Countries: France

Year: 1998

Land, Ethnic, and Gender Change: Transnational Migration and its Effects on Guatemalan Lives and Landscapes


Taylor, Matthew, Michelle Moran-Taylor, and Debra Rodman Ruiz. 2006. "Land, Ethnic, and Gender Change: Transnational Migration and its Effects on Guatemalan Lives and Landscapes." Geoforum 37: 41-61.

Authors: Matthew Taylor, Michelle Moran-Taylor, Debra Rodman Ruiz


Migration to the United States of America from Guatemala effects many aspects of Guatemalan life. We document, through extensive ethnographic fieldwork, how migrants and their remittances effect gender relations, ethnicity, land use, and land distribution. Our evidence is drawn from research in four communities. San Pedro Pinula and Gualan represent communities of eastern Guatemala. San Cristóbal Totonicapan is an Indigenous town in Guatemala’s western highlands, and San Lucas is a lowland frontier community in the Guatemalan department of Ixcan, which borders Chiapas, Mexico. Our results reveal that migrants and their remittances, both social and tangible, result in significant changes in land use and land distribution in Ixcan. Migrant money permits the conversion of rainforest into cattle pasture and also results in the accumulation of land in the hands of migrants. In terms of land use, we see in San Pedro Pinula that migrant money also allows the Pokoman Maya to make small entries into the Ladino (non-indigenous) dominated cattle business. In San Pedro Pinula, the migration and return of Maya residents also permits them to slowly challenge ethnic roles that have developed over the last five centuries. When we look at how migration effects gender roles in Gualan and San Cristóbal we also note that migration and social remittances permit a gradual challenge and erosion of traditional gender roles in Guatemala. We point out, however, that migration-related changes to traditional gender and ethnic roles is gradual because migrants, despite their increased earnings and awareness, run into a social structure that resists rapid change. This is not the case when we examine land transformations in Ixcan. Here, migrants encounter few barriers when they attempt to put their new money and ideas to work. Despite the advantages that migration brings to many families, especially in the face of a faltering national economy and state inactivity regarding national development, we conclude that migration and remittances do not result in community or nation-wide development. At this stage migrant remittances are used for personal advancement and very little money and effort is invested in works that benefit communities or neighborhoods. We call for continued studies of the effects of international migration on Guatemalan hometowns that build on our initial studies to better understand the longer-term ramifications of migration in a country where no community is without migrants.

Keywords: migration, land transformation, gender transformation

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Gender Roles, Indigenous, Livelihoods, Rights, Land Rights Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Guatemala

Year: 2006

International Migration and the Restructuring of Gender Asymmetries: Continuity and Change among Filipino Labor Migrants in Rome


Tacoli, Cecilia. 1999. "International Migration and the Restructuring of Gender Asymmetries: Continuity and Change among Filipino Labor Migrants in Rome." International Migration Review 33 (3): 658-682.

Author: Cecilia Tacoli


This article examines the different factors which may explain gender-selectivity among Filipino labor migrants in Rome, where women are around 70 percent of this nationality group.  Following the analysis of labor demand in the domestic service sector, it explores  supply aspects, ranging from economic conditions within the Philippine labor market to noneconomic constraints, such as ideologies and expectations of gender. The research findings show that migrant women's commitments and obligations toward their households in home area are generally stronger than those of their male counterparts.  However, spatial distance and increased financial independence may provide some women with the opportunity to pursue 'self-interested' goals while at the same time keeping within the  'altruistic' role dictated by normative gender roles. Important elements affecting women's increased autonomy are life course paths, households’ developmental cycle, class and migration form.

Keywords: international migration, labor migration, gender transformation, employment, gender-selectivity, gender roles


  • In the 1970s, labor migrants, primarily from Third World nations, began moving to Southern European countries in search of work. In her article, Tacoli explores the reasons for the predominance of women within the Filipino immigrant population in Rome. In her analysis, she examines “the role of migrant networks in providing access to specific employment opportunities, employers’ perceptions of gender and ethnicity, and the impact of Italian immigration policies on the labor market” (659). In her first section, “Gender and Migration Theories,” Tacoli writes that the study of gendered migration is a recent one. Gender-selective migration has come as a result of the incorporation of females into low-paying, low-skilled occupations; however, this does not explain why some women migrate while others do not (i.e. why migrants to Rome from the Philippines are predominately female while migrants from other countries include very few women). Tacoli characterizes migration as a “socially-embedded process” (662), which depends largely on the household as a determinant of gender roles in the labor market. Additionally, the Filipino government has encouraged international labor migration, which may have had a greater impact on the decision of women to work abroad.
  • When Filipino migration to Italy began in the 1970s, the migrant community was primarily composed of women working as household helpers. One factor accounting for women’s domination of the migrant labor force in Italy is the fact that women are more likely to be employed full-time (often as live-in nannies), whereas men oftentimes work part-time. Demand for live-in work has been greater than that for part-time work in Italy, so migrant women have been employed to a higher degree than their male counterparts.Tacoli proceeds to examine the reasons for labor migration from the Philippines to Rome. 
  • These reasons range from the desire for higher wages to the desire to experience a westernized lifestyle. The majority of the women who have migrated to Rome are widowed or separated women who were not previously employed, signaling their desperation for employment and the difficulty for women to find jobs in the Philippines. Because of the high cost of moving from the Philippines to Italy, however, those migrating to Italy have tended to be the more affluent members of the Filipino population, which would suggest that survival is not the primary motivator for migration. Surveys indicate that social mobility is actually a more commonly cited reason for moving. Because divorce is prohibited in Filipino society, married women often move as a way to escape unhappy marriages and affirm their independence. In her analysis of intrahousehold relations (p. 671), Tacoli questions whether the decision to migrate is made by the migrants themselves or by other members of the family unit. Findings show that daughters are more likely than sons to migrate as a result of parental pressure, indicating the emphasis placed on duty towards relatives in Filipino culture, particularly among women. Pressure to marry also presents a unique incentive for women to emigrate; as Filipino women seek education abroad, they increase their prospects for marriage upon returning home. Thus, migration allows women to simultaneously pursue the own freedom of movement while conforming to altruistic expectations and familial loyalty. International migrations offers them the possibility to combine self-interest (freedom from the conventional gender roles ingrained in Filipino society) with self-sacrifice (working abroad in order to make more money for their families back home). 

Topics: Class, Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Households, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, Southern Europe Countries: Italy, Philippines

Year: 1999

Embodying Transition: FGC, Displacement, and Gender-Making for Sudanese in Cairo


Fábos, Anita Häusermann. 2001. "Embodying Transition: FGC, Displacement, and Gender-Making for Sudanese in Cairo." Feminist Review 69: 90-110.

Author: Anita Häusermann Fábos


In this article I analyze both generalized propriety as a boundary marker of Sudanese identity in Cairo, and gendered attitudes toward morality and female genital cutting (FGC) as a fundamental aspect of that boundary. Sudanese have been profoundly affected by the ongoing political crisis in their home country, by the displacement triggered by political and economic collapse, and by their deteriorating legal and social status in Egypt. The dramatic changes in the circumstances of Sudanese residence in Cairo have challenged the cultural norm of gender complementarity as men 'stay at home' for want of work while women seek and find new opportunities for themselves. This unstable situation has led Sudanese to place more emphasis on 'proper' ways of behaving and being, an assertion that helps define the ethnic boundaries of the Sudanese community in Cairo. I demonstrate the inconsistencies between discourse and reality through ethnographic data while analyzing how Sudanese have found new ways of asserting their identity and resisting the practice of FGC.

Keywords: displacement, gender making, gendered identity, female genital cutting


In her article, Fabos seeks to answer the question of which FGC (female genital cutting) practices have persisted among the Muslim population in Sudan despite social and political change in the region. She analyzes the situation of Sudanese women who have migrated to Cairo (mainly due to the civil war in Sudan), exploring the implications of changing gender norms brought about by their displacement and using FGCs as a boundary marker for the Sudanese ethnic identity in Cairo. She argues that Sudanese attitudes toward FGC have shifted in recent years, as Sudanese migrants to Cairo have used the practice to distinguish themselves from Egyptian natives. The experience of displacement had altered both gender relations and propriety norms, leading to new conflicts between men and women involving sexuality and morality.

Because of the increased levels of migration among Sudanese to Cairo due to the ongoing crisis in Sudan, Sudanese social ideals and traditions are being challenged in a new way. The mass migration of Sudanese to Cairo is leading to deteriorating household structures and financial situations, which necessitates a shift in gender roles and relations. For example, the concept of gender “complementarity,” which is based upon the notion that the husband should earn the household income while the mother rears the children, is not conducive to the situation of the Sudanese populations in Cairo, where the traditional family structure is often dismantled.

Fabos also addresses the way in which conceptions of modesty among the Sudanese population have changed as a result of migration to Cairo. In an attempt to preserve their values, the displaced Sudanese in Cairo often characterize Egyptians as immodest, including the failure to practice FGC into this definition of immodesty. These gender ideals that link modesty with sexual propriety and other traditional Arab values informs the social interactions of Sudanese men and women in Cairo.

Because morality and sexual propriety are considered endemic to a Sudanese woman’s gendered identity, FGC represents the embodiment of these cultural ideals. FGC is therefore seen as a rite of passage for Sudanese women; however, it is rejected by many Sudanese women who deny a correlation between their morality and their sexual behavior. While it may be expected that instances of FGC would increase among the Sudanese populations in Cairo in an effort to assert their conservative identity, it has been prevented by dissent among displaced Sudanese women who refuse to subject their daughters to the torture of the practice.

Fabos concludes by reiterating the fact the gendered attitudes toward FGC are an intrinsic part of the conception of propriety that marks Sudanese identity in Cairo. As Sudanese communities are resisting the practice of FGC today, they are finding new ways of asserting their identity in foreign cities such as Cairo.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Ethnicity, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender Roles, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Households, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexuality Regions: Africa, MENA, East Africa, Asia, Middle East Countries: Egypt, Sudan

Year: 2001

Gender Roles and Cultural Continuity in the Asian Indian Immigrant Community in the US


Das Dasgupta, Shamita. 1998. "Gender Roles and Cultural Continuity in the Asian Indian Immigrant Community in the US." Sex Roles 38 (11-12): 953-74.

Author: Shamita Das Dasgupta


Ethnic identity is a part of positive self-concept that consciously anchors an individual to a particular ethnic group. Central to this identity is a sense of belonging, as well as a commitment to the group's values, beliefs, behaviors, conventions, and customs. This study focuses on the Asian Indian community in the U.S. to investigate their concerns with the continuity of ethnic identity via maintenance of traditional culture. Intergenerational synchrony in two specific values, attitudes toward women and dating, were examined as indicators of successful transmission of culture and identity. Forty-six educated, middle class Indian immigrant families, the majority of whom were foreign born and Hindus, participated in this study by responding to three questionnaires: Attitude Toward Women Scale, Dating Scale, and IPAT Anxiety Scale. Although the results show a strong similarity between parents and children on target attitudes, distinct intergenerational and gender asymmetries emerged. The conscious attempt to preserve certain critical attitudes, values, and behaviors characteristic of the group was labeled “judicious biculturalism,” an expression of active involvement on the immigrants' part to control the course of their own acculturation. The study has implications for women's status within the Asian Indian community.

Keywords: gender roles, immigration, gender transformation

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Ethnicity, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Households Regions: Americas, North America, Asia, South Asia Countries: India, United States of America

Year: 1998

The Impact of Male Labor Migration on Women in Botswana


Brown, Barbara. 1983. "The Impact of Male Labor Migration on Women in Botswana." African Affairs 82 (328): 367-88.

Author: Barbara Brown


In recent years scholars have become increasingly concerned with the role women  play in society. Researchers  studying women in the Third World have focused particularly on the impact of  development on the social and economic role of women. However, there continue to be large gaps in our understanding of women in the development process. One such gap is the impact of labor migration on women. Labor migration is a common phenomenon today both within the Third World and between it and the industrialized countries. Yet, while numerous scholars have analyzed who migrates and  what causes the migration, there has been little in-depth study of the effect  of this migration on women. Most of the existing literature assumes that migration is a rational response to a  given range of resources and choices and that, as such, the family as a unit, including the women members, benefits from such migration. This view, however,  oversimplifies the situation.  The evidence shows that high male outmigration has led to a modification in the structure of family life and has transformed women's social and economic position to their detriment.

Keywords: labor migration, gender transformation


  • In her article, Brown examines that ways in which male outmigration from Botswana alters gender relations. She argues that as men migrate out of the country, development slows, and the decrease in human capital leaves women with the burden of agricultural reproduction at very little pay. Brown notes that gender is disregarded by many researchers in the field, and she focuses her study on the extent to which gender plays into the process of capital accumulation in Botswana. She concludes that migrancy entails changes in family roles that are detrimental to women.

  • Brown uses South Africa to briefly illustrate the effect that migration has historically had on the country’s economic system, explaining how rural dwellers were forced into wage labor in order to increase human capital. She proceeds to draw a parallel between this and the situation in Botswana, as the economy in Botswana has shifted from subsistence to commercial agriculture as a result of labor migration. In her study, she focuses on the impact of migration on women, specifically. She argues that as a result of male outmigration, women have become more isolated in their marriage and family positions and their social and economic situation has also changed for the worse. 

  • Because of the high levels of outmigration in Botswana, Brown argues, marriage is now delayed until a later age, which means that women oftentimes bear children before marriage and act as single parents. These single mothers face a variety of financial issues, including the fact that they are oftentimes denied child support. This forces women to turn to their immediate family for economic assistance; however, as individualism becomes more highly valued in society, family support becomes less reliable. Research shows that “households headed by single mothers are significantly poorer than male-headed households” (376), largely because women have fewer resources for farming (i.e. access to cattle) than men do. Brown also considers the effect of female outmigration on gender roles. Many unmarried mothers will leave their children with their own parents and search for work elsewhere, allowing her to earn more money.

  • In her conclusion, Brown writes that most of the new economic opportunities in Botswana go to men rather than women, making women dependent on men financially. As Botswana transitioned to a capitalist economy, the society became dependent on migrant labor. This increase in migration changed family ties and economic relationships, even leader to a “feminization of poverty” (387), as women are less easily able to access the resources needed to prosper economically.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Economies, Poverty, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Households, Livelihoods Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Botswana

Year: 1983

Migration and the Transformation of Gender Roles and Hierarchies in Yucatan


Bever, Sandra Weinstein. 2002. "Migration and the Transformation of Gender Roles and Hierarchies in Yucatan." Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development 31 (2): 199-230.

Author: Sandra Weinstein Bever


This study explores how gender relations and gender roles have been modified as a result of temporary male outmigration in a Yucatec Maya community. To understand the changes in gender relations brought about by migration the author provides a comparative analysis between migrant and non-migrant households. Moreover, the author examines intra-household gender relations and reveals how gender roles and gender ideologies are contested, reinforced and renegotiated in migrant and non-migrant households. One way to explore intra-household relations is by documenting the extent of control that men and women have over household expenses. A closer look at patterns of income allocation within migrant and non-migrant households illustrates how husbands and wives negotiate decision-making in the household and how intra-household gender hierarchies are established.  The findings suggest that while there may be obvious transformations in gender roles, gender ideology continues to be strongly defended by both men and women in this Yucatec Maya community.

Keywords: migration, gender transformation


  • In her article, Bever argues that male outmigration impacts intra-household gender roles in the Yucatec Maya community of Sudzal, in which migration activity generates 43% of the city’s income. She looks at data from 1997-1998 from both migrant and non-migrant households in order to gather information on their comparative household decision-making, gender roles, gender ideology, and gender relations.
  • In Maya communities, men are seen as the primary economic provider in the household. Because of the high levels of labor migration among men today, however, women have begun to enter the workforce in order to supplement their husbands’ income. The increase in women’s involvement in the labor force has led to a shift in gender roles that conflicts with traditional gender ideology. In her study, Bever finds that the division of labor among husbands and wives is much more equal in migrant households than non-migrant households. The majority of wives in both migrant and non-migrant households maintain, however, that their husbands’ work is the most important economic activity.
  • In her section entitled “Patterns of income allocation in migrant and non-migrant households,” Bever assesses the socioeconomic impact of temporary labor migration on the household and on gender relations. She distinguishes between “pooling households,” in which the incomes of husbands and wives are combined and the husbands control the family’s budget, and non-pooling households, in which the husband’s earnings are the sole contribution to the household’s budget. While women do contribute financially to the household in these pooling households, traditional gender ideologies still prevent women from realizing their roles as household providers. Generally, women who decide to earn an income without their husbands’ consent do so out of desperation, and this oftentimes creates tension in these husband-wife relationships, as they are seen as challenging their husbands’ authority.
  • Bever turns to a comparison between women in migrant and non-migrant households, arguing that while women in migrant households have more of an opportunity (and necessity) to enter the workforce and provide for their families, oftentimes, they would rather fulfill the role of caretaker and housewife than produce an income. She also finds that young migrant wives feel more pressure to obey their husbands and stay at home than do older migrant wives since they have not yet earned the respect of their husbands and they rely on their husbands to provide enough financially for their children. This supports her argument that when women do challenge their husband’s economic authority, it is usually out of pragmatism and necessity rather than a desire to change gender ideologies. Bever concludes that while the gender roles of Yucatec Mayan women are changing, traditional gender ideology continues to be upheld.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies Regions: Americas, North America Countries: Mexico

Year: 2002


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