Manual Family, Ties and Care: Family Transformation in a Plural Modernity

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In the course of everyday life, individuals and groups are redefining the cultural expectations and cultural practices they live in and with through a dialogue between individuals and groups that provides both the dynamics that generate broad cultural homogeneity at the level of the group and the heterogeneity of individual practice Philibert et Jourdan, But more importantly, the dialogue makes it possible for shared expectations about urban living to be elaborated into a new cultural urban modus vivendi that rural Solomon Islanders recognize as urban Jourdan, : increasing individuality; the power of money and education; distance from kinship obligations; negotiation and transformation of customary practices; Pijin as the universal medium of the town and the mother tongue of two generations of urbanites.

Indeed, Berg has argued successfully that urban life in Honiara consists in great part in managing difference. Linguistic and cultural differences have to be negotiated along with different ideologies that govern urban sociality Jourdan and Angeli, In addition, urban land is scarce. This leads to the development of large squatter settlements, as they are called locally, lacking all basic infrastructures Maggio, Others have to resort to informal economic activities in order to get the small amount of money that is often needed to feed their family or pay school fees.

The town is socially fragile, and so is the livelihood of most of its residents. Urban individuality is at odds with an ideology that favors collective obligations towards kin. As we will see further down in this article, this state of affairs requires that urbanites navigate, with more or less comfort, systems of meaning and behavior that are very different.

While some Honiarans have settled roots in town through work, neighborhood and families of procreation and have no ambiguity about their place and life in town, others are more circumspect. As employee they participate in the establishment and reinforcement of ways of being and acting that are removed from the ideology of reciprocity. This is particularly true of the middle-class, defined here in Weberian terms see also Gooberman-Hill, , and which encompasses people as socially and economically diverse as civil servants, small businessmen, teachers and nurses, medical doctors and lawyers.

This middle-class has adopted practices of consumption and distinction that set them apart from the working class. Having a house girl is one of them. Beyond the work she does, the presence of a haosgel signals that a household has the means to feed, lodge, and sometimes pay, an additional person on a regular basis.

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This is not negligible in a town where every thing costs money, houses are small and over crowded, and where food has to be purchased. It also indicates that the family has a need for such help, and that the lady of the house has moved to more important things than having to perform domestic chores.

My observations show that house girls are often found, as can be expected, in dual-income families with young children who also have the means to partake of consumer goods such as cars sig The house girl is part of a package of distinction that sets middle-class families apart from their neighbors. One had been in town for only two months at the time of the study; others had been there for six years; the mean time spent in town was 17 months.

All were single, a social status conveyed in Pijin, the local variety of Melanesian pidgin, by the word ianggel. Two of the youngest girls went to school. How they got to come to town is often the result of agreements between adults. Some girls were sent from the village by their family and had little say in this decision: the arrangement was made directly between her parents and her urban family.

When I asked them how they ended up in Honiara, some girls in my sample simply said:. Sabina arrived in town in January because her paternal uncle asked her father to send her. This is how she reports the event:. Den mi kam. My father said: Okay, you go with him and work for him, be his house girl. So I came. Photo 1. In this particular case, Sabina's father is the younger brother: out of rispek respect , one of the corner stones of Solomon Islands sociality, he could not refuse the request of his elder brother.

Girls also said:. It is considered bad-form and selfish on the parts of parents to refuse a request from kin to take foster children see also Donner, Though some of the urbanites may have lived in town for at least two generations almost as long as the life of the town itself as some of my long-term research participants have, many have kept alive their link to their rural kin. Many navigate carefully and with skill the complex world of obligations to kin and independence from them.

Many of the urbanites I know try to mobilize this link to their advantage. They were between the age of 17 and 21 and had left school. From their home in the village, they have constructed a vision of what being a haosgel entails; it includes freedom from parents they tend to forget that they will be under the watch of their urban hosts , independence for kastom , wokabaot walking around in town and leisure time.

This quasi-romantic vision of an exciting life fully lived is to some of them a distinct improvement over the life of hard work and general boredom that they associate with their lot in the village. The bonds of kinship will make this experience possible. Some girls spoke of the trip to town as if a rite of passage between childhood and youth, and for some into womanhood, akin to the almost mandatory trip to plantations, to town, to college, that young Solomon Islands men are often expected to take before they marry. When they go home after two years in town, and provided that nothing in their behavior there has contributed to soiling their reputation, the girls are surrounded by an aura of sophistication.

Usually, it does not take long before they find a suitor and get married. In the provinces where bridewealth is still paid, their sophistication will fetch a more important price. The girl's labor is a token of this bond: it opens the road for further exchange and obligation. Rules of kinship obligation and exchange, therefore, conflate with new gender roles and principles of domesticity imposed by Christian missions and globalization see Jolly and McIntyre, One cannot overlook the return expected from such a gift. They almost always answer positively a request coming from an urban relative.

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But, invariably, the urban folk are wealthier than the parents of the girls, and endowed with the aura of quasi-cosmopolitan sophistication that is often attributed to well establish urbanites in Solomon Islands see Gooberman-Hill, Here, financial means and locality create social differentiation within families and interact with rispek and the ideology of kastom.

In Honiara, people say that this arrangement is the safest for the wife, as it ensures that no foul play will take place between the haosgel and the husband see also Gooberman Hill, Yet, the data I have for the 28 house girls found in the 80 households in my sample show that 12 are related through the husbands and 16 through the wives. For the wife, the downside of having a house girl that belongs to her husband's kin is that little communication takes place between her and the girl, for reasons often linked to rules of avoidance between in-laws in-laws are classified as taboo.

In these situations, the husband mediates much of the interaction that takes place between the two women: the result is that the wife does not quite control the house girl. In some cases, women explained that they think the haosgel may be spying on them for the benefit of her in-laws and her husband. This may explain that some women prefer to take a girl from their own kin group as haosgel, and sometimes their own sister or cousin.

At times, they may expressly ask for a particular girl whom they know as being hard-working, malleable and homely. As Kraemer remarks with reference to Rollins , the house girl as employee is selected for her personal characteristics and not simply for the labor she can do. Whether they are part of the husband's or wife's kin group, these girls are usually the daughter of a cousin, male or female, or the daughter of a sibling. Women who do not have any family in town seek companionship from their own sister 6 cases out of 28 , their female cousin 4 cases or their niece 5 cases and invite them to be their haosgel.

Some women prefer to have a haosgel who is very young so that they can boss her around or simply control her better. These young girls are usually sent to school in town and come home at the end of the school day to do their domestic chores. The host family pays the school fees as a compensation for the work they do in the house. Some girls complain that they have to work even if they are sick.

Their responsibilities often involve being a maid, a gardener, a baby sitter, a guard for the house, and a companion for the wife. At times, they have to fit all these chores around their days at school. Some haosgel enjoy their experience. Yet, after a few months, when homesickness sets in, they think back of home with nostalgia and tend to romanticize the life and work conditions they knew at home. Forgetting how hard women work in rural areas, 8 the girls sometimes have a tendency to see the village as a safe haven away from the difficulties of town life, something that Jolly and Macintyre 1 have commented upon with regard to other parts of the Pacific.

The following vignette illustrates how busy house girls can be in some households. Three factors act to strengthen the social isolation they seem to resent.


First, the social make up of Honiara middle class and elite households is often that of a double income family: except for the young children, the house girl finds herself alone all day. Family members or wantoks who are visiting do provide companionship, though they also cause additional work, their presence brings solace, and a chance to empty one's heart, to get direct news from the village, and to renew one's kin ties with those left behind. By contrast, in households where the wife is not working, the house girl is supervised all day. Second, and as we saw in the vignette above, a house girl is always busy: her responsibilities within the household are so numerous that it would be difficult for her to find the time to engage in sustained social exchange outside of the immediate household during the day.

Finally, parents are concerned that their young house girl daughter may fall victim to the break down of kastom and morality that they associate with urban living. Indeed the practice of fosterage, albeit temporary fosterage, requires that the family who takes the girl in will be responsible for her well being and will look after her well. Keesing explains that people who mistreat foster children will see them removed from their care.

Some girls have been warned about the potential dangers that await a young girl in town and have been painted a picture of the town that is likely to deter them from wandering far from the house. Hem stopem mi for go alobaot. Mi les fo go olobaot. They are preventing me from going around. I do not want to. I am afraid…]. Otta save hoholem otta man long road. Kilim man long rod. Bis ples long Mbokona, otta save drink bia insaet bus long dea. So mifala save fraet fo go daon seleva.

Mi save ste long hoa. Wantaem, mi go wetem anti blong mi. Nogud eniwan lukim iumi long rot, otta kilim iumi nomoa. So mi no save wowokaboat. They mug people in the street. They beat up people in the street. In places like Mbokona [an inner suburb of Honiara] they drink in the wooded areas. So I am afraid of going down alone.

I am staying at the house. I am afraid of the cars, afraid of people. As a result, I am not wandering around. I am staying in the house. Photo 2. She starts off as if to say that someone is preventing her from going out, a statement consistent with my observations and other testimonies received from other house girls. But it is true that she is also genuinely afraid of being alone in a town where, except for some wantoks she knows, everyone is a stranger, and which has been depicted to her as a place where kastom is gone and morality is loose.

Parents insist that their daughter be sheltered from potential dangers, and the urban kin take their responsibility seriously: the last thing they need is a house girl who gets agitated or moody because she has run into trouble or would cause trouble by being seduced or raped and get pregnant, or run away. When she moved to town, a girl practically renounces whatever freedom of movement she had back home, and surrenders her autonomy to the control of her urban kin.

The young girls are keen on going, and they see being prevented to go on account of household chores as a cruel punishment. In some religious congregations such as the Seventh Day Adventist or Kingdom Harvest congregations, going to church on Saturday or Sunday go sevis is often an all-day affair that translates into a social event.

There, house girls have an opportunity to meet people and to regain their status as a member of the kin group, simply by virtue of being seen with the family. The shift from one social sphere to another makes it possible for the social erasure that came with their role as house girl to be temporary lifted. Their main support system comes from the house girls of the neighborhood, and sometimes from another house girl of the household. Some silent understanding exists between them that allows them to recognize the sameness of their situation and their common starvation for social encounters.

Tina says that she will deliberately forget an item on the shopping list so as to have an excuse to return to the neighborhood store located meters away. Taking Samo, her five-year-old charge, by the hand as a chaperone, she returns to the shop. On the way, she calls out to neighbors sitting in their yards, jokes with them at a distance hoping that they will tell her to come in, stops in the second hand shop located close to the food store, or goes and chat with the women who are preparing the church for the Sunday mass.

The euphemism used in Pijin is that of fren , best translated as boy-friend. It speaks of an amorous relationship, not necessarily a sexual one, but one that has the potential of becoming sexual. Courtship, exchanges of gifts, and time stolen away from regular activities and the public gaze, are all part of frenim. Mi frenim wanfala boe , girls will say. For a house girl, this is tantamount to danger, and their family will make sure that it does not develop any further, for fear that rules of propriety be broken.

Promiscuity between young unmarried people is still very much looked down upon in Solomon Islands, and rules of sexual propriety are strictly enforced. I have seen house girls being packed and sent home the very day her indiscretions were found out. She was promptly packed away and brought to live with the family of her boyfriend in another part of town.

It is clear that many issues came to the fore to stir up his anger. He was furious with Celina, he explained, not so much because of the pregnancy itself, though he resented the fact that she had broken kastom , but because she had some how created problems for him linked to Christian morality and propriety see Stritecky, ; Maggio, , and to his own reputation as a responsible and reasonable urban person who is in control of his household. Why did the girl not keep her side of the bargain? Here, it crystallized a new way of being social that combined Christian morality with social responsibility and fairness, kinship obligation with work relations.

Now, he had no option but to find someone else to come and help with the domestic chores of his household. But a girl who wants to go back home before the end of the agreed-upon period may facilitate her return by resisting the system: she can sleep in the morning, she can slow down in her tasks, she can be slack in her obligation, she can become inattentive to the children, she can spend a lot of time chatting with neighbors, and more importantly, she can misbehave according to kastom.

The latter includes talking back to her kin, disobeying, disrespecting the rules of address to and behavior towards kin, and, most of all, she can start socializing with young men from the neighborhood as in the case of Celina. Finally, she can run away. Some do, and the social cost to them is horrendous, especially if they elope. Laziness, mixing with boys, and elopement are the clear affirmation of gendered and sexual agency, reminiscent of the wayward women described by Holly Wardlow These behaviors are deliberate actions that challenge the authoritative control of her kin, and of her male kin particularly.

Even if the social cost is high. Because they are kin, they participate in family activities and are recognized as such by visiting relatives. Because they are employees, they are often given tasks that no one in the household wants to carry out; they are often left behind to look after the house when the owners go on errands or for an outing, under the pretext that someone has to stay behind and look after the house. I contend that this is even worse when the haosgel is a close family member.

Value of Children and the social production of welfare (Volume 30 - Article 66 | Pages –)

For one, people do not want it to be said that they treat their young kin as employees; yet the bond established by an exchange of money for work clearly locates the relationship within that of labor relations. Money brings a negative connotation into the exchange, he explains. And though money is sought, it creates a moral distance from the social relationships that are typically established through the exchange of food, services or shell valuables.

Yet, Solomon Islanders are keen to obtain cash through employment or business when they can.

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Coming to town, seen from the rural areas as the place where employment opportunities exist aplenty, is one way to access cash. Analysis: 1 and 2 cohort comparisons; Inter- and intracultural comparisons; Multi-level-models. The aim of the project is to contribute to an interdisciplinary analysis of the interrelations between VOC, individual development and parent-child relations in socio-cultural change from a psychological perspective.

For detailed information on the project and a list of team members from the collaborating countries click here. Trommsdorff, G. Timmerman, N. Clycq, M. McAndrew, A. Balde, L. Mels Hrsg. Albert, I. The role of culture in development over the life span: An interpersonal relations approach. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 6, Friedlmeier, M. A comparative study of American and Romanian families with adolescents. The European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 8, Holte, A. Psychology of child well-being. Ben-Arieh, F. Casas, I. Korbin Eds. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

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Klug, T. Lubiewska, K. Value of children and intergenerational relations. Mayer, B. Familienbezogene Werte und Zukunftsvorstellungen in der Adoleszenz: Ein deutsch-russischer Vergleich. Soares Chairs , Generations and willingsness for intergenerational support. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly.

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