Mobile Lives in Peru
: The dynamics of relational anchoring

  • Rebecca Huovinen

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis explores experiences of mobility in Peru with a particular focus on the dynamics of family relationships. Over the past decade the ‘migration and development’ debate has gained prominence in academic and policy circles. The debate has focused on international migration and there is an identified need for movements within countries to be revisited, especially given that the majority of poor people in developing countries move within rather than between countries. A further limitation has been the focus on economic dimensions of development particularly in terms of the impact of remittance flows. An emergent argument in the literature supports a holistic notion of development and within this support for a wellbeing perspective is gaining momentum (IOM, 2013; Wright, 2010, 2011, 2012; Wright and Black, 2011). The distinctiveness of a wellbeing approach lies in its emphasis on people’s own perceptions and experiences of life (White, 2010). Wellbeing is understood to incorporate the material, relational and subjective dimensions of life and the interplay between these. Emphasis is placed on the socio-cultural context in shaping these dimensions of wellbeing. The study employs wellbeing as a ‘sensitising lens’ to explore people’s perceptions and experiences of mobility in Peru with a focus on the dynamics of family relationships. The research explores experiences of mobile lives from the perspective of poor urban residents of a ‘human settlement’ on the outskirts of Lima, the capital. This is supplemented with interviews with residents of rural, peri-urban and urban communities of the highlands [sierra]. The thesis points to the necessity and routineness of mobility in the search ‘to get ahead’ [salir adelante]. Central to understanding experiences of mobility is the dynamic of how people anchor relationally. ‘Relational anchoring’ (Auyero and Swistun, 2008) reflects a sense of togetherness [estar juntos] and closeness [estar unidos] in family and is based on relations of cariño [affection, warmth and love]. The thesis details the struggle surrounding the establishment of anchoring routines (phone calls, visits and ‘sending’), especially when anchoring to kin relations (parents and siblings in particular) and to ones immediate family (partner and children) create competing demands on limited resources. Senses of wellbeing in experiences of mobility are expressed through the contrasting emotions of pena [sorrow] and being tranquilo/a [content]. Pena expresses a sense of disruption in relationships and conveys the socio-cultural meaning of separation and living apart from kin. Narratives of an enduring pena and isolation are predominantly female narratives and reveal the significance of the relational circumstances of mobility in shaping experiences which are marked by ambiguity and vulnerability.
Date of Award12 Jun 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJoe Devine (Supervisor)

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