Remitting the gift: Zambian mobility and anthropological insights for migration studies

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56 Scopus citations


This article brings together anthropological theories of gift exchange and ethnographic data on migrant gifting ('remitting') in order to understand the core of investing in social relations through remitting practices. Migration literature from throughout the developing world documents important patterns of remitting that furthers our understanding of how migrants' earnings help rural investment. In contrast to the majority of migration literature, scholars working in different regions of Zambia have documented migration patterns and remittance practices that do not echo the documented findings from other regions of the developing world. In Zambian migration, remittances consist more of food, 'town goods' or cash, rather than the larger sums of money or durable goods that other migration studies describe. The Zambian literature also documents cases of non-remitting. Rather than provide significant support to relatives in sending communities, Zambian migrants invest in social networks over time through 'gift-remitting'. These 'gift-remittances' facilitate options to return to home communities, or to maintain mutually beneficial social ties for both migrants and relatives in home villages. These findings compel policies directed towards enhancing migrants' remitting power to consider the core social foundation of their ties to home, and how investing in social relations can be incorporated into policy development. The article draws on fieldwork with the Gwembe Tonga people of Zambia's Southern Province since 1994, and recent ethnographic literature from Zambia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-48
Number of pages14
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Economy
  • Gifts
  • Intergenerational relations
  • Migration
  • Remittances
  • Zambia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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