22/05/2024 – GTD colloquium with Prof. Julia Pauli on Kin Navigations, Homebuilding and Return Migration in Rural Mexico

A House for My Son. Kin Navigations, Homebuilding and Return Migration in Rural Mexico

Julia Pauli

Wednesday 22 May, 15:30-17:00 in c0.311b, Bouillonstraat 1-3 (Faculty of Law), Maastricht – followed by drinks at Paulus (opposite the FASoS entrance at Grote Gracht, 90-92).


Studies on Mexican return migration often focus on political or economic aspects. They analyze the violence of deportation, the racist migration regime or evaluate the economic reintegration of returnees. Social dimensions, especially kin relations, are mentioned but seldom scrutinized in depth. This is the more surprising as survey research has shown that for many returnees reuniting with their families is the most important incentive for return. But who exactly is this ‘family’? Migration research has largely focused on two kin constellations: either couples, often with a migrating ‘husband’ and a staying or accompanying ‘wife’, or complex arrangements of parenthood, foremost transnational ‘mothering’. Much of this research thus only addresses an important but limited portion of the larger kinship universe embedding migrants before, during and after their return(s). It is rare to find ethnographic work on migration explicitly addressing and theorizing affinal kinship, extended kinship, fictive kinship or siblingship. I suggest that one reason for this lacuna is the lack of concepts that grasps wider and more complex kin arrangements beyond specific ties. Based on my ethnographic research in a rural community in the highlands of Central Mexico for almost 30 years, I build on Henrik Vigh’s work on social navigation and explore how the concept of kin navigation might help to illuminate the multiplexity, fluidity and dynamic of complex kin arrangements in highly mobile, transnational communities.

Short bio

Julia Pauli is Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Hamburg (Germany). Her research concentrates on kinship, migration and social class. She has conducted long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Mexico (since 1995) and Namibia (since 2003). She has published extensively on kinship and mobility. On ethnographic writing, she has edited a special issue in 2021 (“How to write?” Ethnoscripts 23 (1)).