Retiring Home? House Construction, Age Inscriptions, and the Building of Belonging among Mexican Migrants and their Families in Chicago and Rural Mexico


  • Julia Pauli Universität Hamburg Institute of Social & Cultural Anthropology Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1, West (ESA W) 20146 Hamburg Germany
  • Franziska Bedorf Freie Universität Berlin Latin America Institute Scientific Associate Habelschwerdter Allee 45 Raum JK33/232 14195 Berlin



Mexican migration, Chicago, house building, kinship, retirement


The vacant retirement house has become a central feature of many areas of the Global South. Over the years,  migrants’ savings are invested in the building of conspicuous houses for retirement in their areas of origin. But  despite these substantial efforts, a number of migrants postpone their return or do not return at all. Their houses  remain empty, their purposes shifting as their owners reach old age. This stretching of time does not only affect  the migrants’ livelihoods and ideas of home. Furthermore, kin-scripts as conceptualized by Stack and Burton  (1993) are being reconfigured substantially. This goes hand-in-hand with the reframing of culturally prescribed  responsibilities, meanings, and social roles attached to certain stages of the migrants’ lives. Based on long-term  and multi-local ethnographic fieldwork in rural Mexico and urban Chicago since the 1990s, we analyze how  remittance houses are tied and untied with their owners’ life courses in the later stages of life. Furthermore, we  examine how kin groups on both sides of the border deal with the new challenges this entails.

Author Biographies

Julia Pauli, Universität Hamburg Institute of Social & Cultural Anthropology Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1, West (ESA W) 20146 Hamburg Germany

Full professor, Institute of Social & Cultural Anthropology, Universität Hamburg, Germany

Franziska Bedorf, Freie Universität Berlin Latin America Institute Scientific Associate Habelschwerdter Allee 45 Raum JK33/232 14195 Berlin

Experienced researcher, Uppsala University


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