The Material Lives and Journeys of the Women of Dhërmi/Drimades, Southern Albania
In the past decade, numerous migration studies have explored the phenomenon of mass migrations in Albania. Only a few of them have focused on the role of women in these processes. The article discusses their role and meaning through the material flows between women migrants from Dhërmi/Drimades and their husbands who stay behind in their natal village in southern Albania. Material flows are not only emblems but also agents of migrant worlds as they contribute to the formation of transnational marriages that are necessary for the construction of material flows. Material flows form a part of recipro- cal relations as they preserve and reconstruct marriage and social relationships in general. They act as insurance policies and reaffirm the habitation and the dynamic presence of the absent women migrants.
KEY WORDS: material flows, gift economy, migrant worlds, women migrants, southern Albania.
THE MATERIAL LIVES AND JOURNEYS OF THE WOMEN OF DHËRMI/DRIMADES, SOUTHERN ALBANIA
Nataša GREGORIČ BON
The paper explores the role and meaning of women in migration processes in the village of Dhërmi/ Drimades in southern Albania. Their role and meaning are viewed through the material and financial resources which the women migrants sporadically send or bring to their husbands who have stayed behind. Material and financial resources are defined as material flows, connecting various geopolitical borders and boundaries and reaffirming, recreating and reshaping the relationships between the women migrants and their husbands. They are the material presence of the absent wives which materialise the transnational links and bonds between spouses and make the transnational world of continuous change more closely felt. To paraphrase Valentina Mazzucato (2010), who sees material and financial incomes as part of reciprocal social relations, I argue that material flows work following the principles of the gift economy as defined by Marcel Mauss ( 1990). Material flows are part of the reciprocal rela- tions and as such they reaffirm and recreate marriage relationships and social relationships in general, and work as insurance policies as they reaffirm the habitation and the dynamic presence of the absent migrants.
The ethnographic material presented in this paper is based on a long-term anthropological study carried out in Dhërmi/Drimades between 2004 and 2011. Except for one case-study where I describe the story of a returnee, the roles and meanings of migrants from Dhërmi/Drimades are represented through conversations with their husbands and the material flows seen in the construction or rebuilding of houses or different goods such as food, drink, clothes, etc. which are sent back by women migrants.