Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 January 2014
Not much analysis has yet been conducted on the global patterns and global interactions of family life. Anthropologists and sociologists have tended to analyse families as local, ethnically based organizations, whose rules and structures have been inherited from the ancestors and reproduced without much regard for the outside world. While the ethnic particularities of families are unmistakable, it would be strange if families were uniquely resistant to global influences in a world where economic, political and ideological trends are now thought to have circulated and interacted widely.
Migration opens an obvious avenue for thinking of family in transregional terms. One need only think of merchant families, stretched across the lengths of their trade routes, to recognize the significance of migration as a non-local factor influencing family life. Working from this insight, the present study considers migration and its influence on family structure. I argue that there exists a social nexus linking migration to family structure—that migration, though highly variable, is typical in family history. This interpretation focuses on modelling the dynamics of family structure, the dynamics of migration and the familial mixing resulting from their interaction. I present my interpretation of change and interaction in families by deploying and documenting several simplified models of family, migration and their interaction. If family structure can be shown through this analysis to have been influenced significantly by migration, the door is then opened to further studies of the influence of migration on the governance and ideology of family life.