Accepted paper:

It's never enough. Rethinking Cape Verdean food parcels in the light of the 'moral economy'


Heike Drotbohm (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)

Paper short abstract:

Following the 'social life of things' I will examine the asymmetric character of kinship relations expressed in food parcels connecting Cape Verde and its diaspora.

Paper long abstract:

In the transnational social space connecting the Cape Verdean islands with different diasporic sites in Africa, Europe and the US, food parcels already since centuries serve the maintenance and the strengthening of kinship ties and articulate solidarity for the 'terra pobri'. In this talk I will elaborate on another aspect of transnational commodity chains, which so far has been neglected in transnational kinship studies. Applying E.P. Thompson's model of the 'moral economy' I will describe the asymmetric character of these parcels, and their contrasting interpretation on both sides of the Atlantic. Following the 'social life of things' (Appadurai) I will illuminate that these parcels are not only expected and desired, but that they are also examined critically, used for evaluating the intention, the sincerity and the emotional proximity of the sender. In Cape Verde, finally, many items sent from abroad are thrown in the trash. This conduct will be contextualized within global asymmetries of power, in which non-migrant actors remind their travelling kin of their responsibilities, while migrants have to find means for remaining members of society.

panel P103
Food parcels: intimate connexions in transnational migration