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July 05 , 2007

The Scattered Family

Parenting, African Migrants, and Global Inequality


Today’s unprecedented migration of people around the globe in search of work has had a widespread and troubling result: the separation of families. In The Scattered Family, Cati Coe offers a sophisticated examination of this phenomenon among Ghanaians living in Ghana and abroad. Challenging oversimplified concepts of globalization as a wholly unchecked force, she details the diverse and creative ways Ghanaian families have adapted long-standing familial practices to a contemporary, global setting.

Drawing on ethnographic and archival research, Coe uncovers a rich and dynamic set of familial concepts, habits, relationships, and expectations—what she calls repertoires—that have developed over time, through previous encounters with global capitalism. Separated immigrant families, she demonstrates, use these repertoires to help themselves navigate immigration law, the lack of child care, and a host of other problems, as well as to help raise children and maintain relationships the best way they know how. Examining this complex interplay between the local and global, Coe ultimately argues for a rethinking of what family itself means. 

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