Between Two Islands / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 93%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (20) from $1.99   
  • New (4) from $9.44   
  • Used (16) from $1.99   


Popular notions about migration to the United States from Latin America and the Caribbean are too often distorted by memories of earlier European migrations and by a tendency to generalize from the more familiar cases of Mexico and Puerto Rico. Between Two Islands is an interdisciplinary study of Dominican migration, challenging many widespread, yet erroneous, views concerning the socio-economic background of new immigrants and the causes and consequences of their move to the United States.

Eschewing monocausal treatments of migration, the authors insist that migration is a multifaceted process involving economic, political, and socio-cultural factors. To this end, they introduce an innovative analytical framework which includes such determinants as the international division of labor; state policy in the sending and receiving societies; class relations; transnational migrant households; social networks; and gender and generational hierarchies.

By adopting this multidimensional approach, Grasmuck and Pessar are able to account for many intriguing paradoxes of Dominican migration and development of the Dominican population in the U.S. For example, why is it that the peak in migration coincided with a boom in Dominican economic growth? Why did most of the immigrants settle in New York City at the precise moment the metropolitan economy was experiencing stagnation and severe unemployment? And why do most immigrants claim to have achieved social mobility and middle-class standing despite employment in menial blue-collar jobs?

Until quite recently, studies of international migration have emphasized the male migrant, while neglecting the role of women and their experiences. Grasmuck and Pessar's attempt to remedy this uneven perspective results in a better overall understanding of Dominican migration. For instance, they find that with regard to wages and working conditions, it is a greater liability to be female than to be without legal status. They also show that gender influences attitudes toward settlement, return, and workplace struggle.

Finally, the authors explore some of the paradoxes created by Dominican migration. The material success achieved by individual migrant households contrasts starkly with increased socio-economic inequality in the Dominican Republic and polarized class relations in the United States.

This is an exciting and important work that will appeal to scholars and policymakers interested in immigration, ethnic studies, and the continual reshaping of urban America.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520071506
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 8/29/1991
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 1,039,175
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Sherri Grasmuck is Director of Women's Studies and Associate Professor of Sociology at Temple University. Patricia R. Pessar is Research Director of the Center for Immigration Policy and Refugee Assistance at Georgetown University.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Between Two Islands

By Sherri Grasmuck

University of California Press

Copyright © 2001 Sherri Grasmuck
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780520071506


The history of the Molinas, a three-generation Dominican family resident in New York City, illustrates a number of important features of the contemporary wave of Dominican immigration into the United States. Motivations behind Molina family members' decisions to leave Santo Domingo for New York between 1965 and 1981 included fear of political persecution, desire for marital reunification, greater economic opportunity, provision of child care for relatives, and opportunities for higher education. The history of the transplanting of three generations of Molinas demonstrates the difficulty of coming up with a definitive answer to the deceptively simple question of why Dominicans leave their island to live and work in the United States.

The Molinas' migration history begins with Rafael Molina. As a university student in Santo Domingo, Rafael studied education, because he felt deeply committed to improving the lives of the many impoverished Dominican children he saw all around him. However, events unfolded in such a way that he left his country and his political commitments in 1965. He was never to live there again. When Dominican president Juan Bosch was overthrown in a military coup in 1963, Rafael, as student leaderat the Autonomous University in Santo Domingo, joined others in the street fighting which followed. During the evolving political crisis, which resulted in the defeat of Bosch supporters and U.S. occupation of the island, Rafael blamed the United States for thwarting his dream of transforming the political and economic landscape of his homeland. Yet, he also feared for his life and believed his political sympathieswould interfere with his aspirations to become a school administrator. Despite his political hostility toward the United States, in the summer of 1965 Rafael nonetheless applied for and easily obtained a temporary resident visa for the United States.

In 1966 Rafael returned home briefly to marry Mercedes, his high school sweetheart, who was working as an elementary school teacher in a small rural town. The couple was reunited in New York the following year. By 1970 they had two young children, and Mercedes was anxious to begin work as a sewing machine operator so that they might save for the children's education.

Back in the Dominican Republic, Rafael's father had died. With only a third-grade education, his mother, Gertrudes, was obliged to accept work as a janitor at a clinic to support her two younger sons. All the children found this work demeaning for their mother, who had previously been well supported by her husband, a policeman. It was decided that Rafael would sponsor Gertrudes's emigration so that she might care for his two children and free Mercedes to work outside the home. Rafael and Mercedes agreed to send remittances to Gertrudes's sister, who was caring for Gertrudes's two youngest sons.

When Rafael's two children entered elementary school, Gertrudes insisted on staying in the United States, so that she could earn the money to send her two remaining sons to a university in the Dominican Republic. By 1980, the middle son, Tomás, had graduated from the university, only to find that jobs in communications were few and starting salaries low. Rafael convinced a Colombian clothing manufacturer to hire his brother as an accountant, and Rafael, who was now a U.S. citizen, was able to sponsor Tomás's emigration. Gertrudes's youngest son, Carlito, was sponsored by his mother the following year. Gertrudes had concluded that if her youngest son was going to become a professional, he should enroll in a U.S. high school and university.

The Molinas' story, drawn from our research on Dominican migration to the United States, illustrates the many facets of international labor migration, and, specifically, the range of influences behind the massive displacement of Dominicans from their island. First, the timing of the first migrant's departure, 1965, coincides with a period of political turmoil after a thirty-year dictatorship inthe Dominican Republic and the appointment of a United States consulate eager to facilitate out-migration in the face of rising political tensions. Second, from the time the first family member left until the remaining brothers also entered the United States, the Dominican Republic was governed by two radically different political parties. Despite the two governments' differences in ideology and programs for economic development, out-migration steadily grew in scale throughout this period. Third, none of the migrants were poor, unskilled agricultural laborers. Indeed, Rafael and Carlito were university trained, with ambitions that could not be fulfilled in their home society. Fourth, it is possible to make sense of the movement of these five individuals only by reference to the meaning of family ties and the significance of the social networks available to the family. These points illustrate one of the central arguments of this book: international migration is a multifaceted process involving economic, political, and sociocultural factors. The migration process is dynamic and ever evolving.

This book presents the results of a two-stage interdisciplinary study of rural and urban communities in the Dominican Republic and related communities of Dominicans living and working in greater New York. It focuses on the consequences of this population movement for the sending and receiving communities, the immigrants and their families. In much recent theorizing, based on specific instances of international labor migration, researchers have tended to emphasize macroeconomic factors and to underestimate the importance of political and sociocultural influences. This study attempts to provide an integrated account of all these factors.

The central analytic concepts guiding our treatment of Dominican migration are: the international division of labor; state policy in the receiving and sending societies; social class relations in the sending and receiving societies; and immigrant households, social networks, and gender and generational hierarchies.

The International Division of Labor: Macro-Economic Influences

Dominican migration expresses a trend in U.S. immigration in the post-World War II era away from traditional European nationstoward Third World countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa. The growing numbers of Third World immigrants and their concentration in a relatively limited number of urban locales in the United States have generated a wave of theorizing about the causes and consequences of these "new labor imports." Our understanding of the macroeconomic factors conditioning international labor migration is informed by analytical concepts associated with the historical-structuralist perspective. This perspective, associated with the dependency theorists of Latin America, has stressed the significance of a large pool of marginalized workers in developing societies as a prerequisite, and indeed stimulant, to large-scale out-migration from Third World countries. Historical structuralist accounts of population movements are offered as alternatives to traditional theories of migration (Bach 1978; Burawoy 1976; Castells 1975; Castles and Kosack 1973; History Task Force 1979; Maldonado-Dennis 1980; E. Petras 1981, 1988; Portes and Bach 1985; Sassen-Koob 1978; Zolberg 1978).

The critiques of traditional equilibrium or modernization theories of migration are by now well established. Such accounts depicted migrants as responding primarily to wage differentials between sending regions and receiving regions, conceptualized as relatively autonomous areas. Thus, conditions producing labor exports remained dissociated from conditions producing labor demand (Portes 1978a). Push-pull accounts of migration are associated with functionalist and ahistorical treatments that emphasize values and motivations based on rational calculations by individuals . According to such accounts, large population movements occur because large numbers of individuals make similar calculations regarding the advantages of moving. Moreover, as critics have pointed out, the consequences of migration are implicitly treated as benign, since labor flows act as correctives to imbalances in labor and capital distribution (Böhning 1984; Portes and Bach 1985; Wood 1982; Zolberg 1978).

In contrast, a historical structuralist understanding of population movements between receiving and sending countries depends fundamentally on the nature of the ties between such societies. From this perspective, the structural determinants of international labor migration relate both to domestic class relations of sending and receiving societies and to the international division among nation-states that specialize in the production of unequally rewarded commodities (Bonacich and Cheng 1984; Castells 1975; Castles and Kosack 1973; Sassen-Koob 1978; Portes and Bach 1985).

The historical structuralist approach links the contemporary movement of labor from low-wage to high-wage regions of the world to the hierarchically organized system of production which constitutes the modern world market. Most writers adopting this perspective now share a definition of the essential contours of the modern world system that derives from the flow of capital commodities and labor across international borders (Amin 1976; Bach 1978; Burawoy 1976; Castles and Kosack 1973; E. Petras 1981; Portes and Walton 1981; Sassen-Koob 1978; Wallerstein 1974). This world market is based essentially on a division of world labor into three geographically distinct zones: core, semi-periphery, and periphery. The nature of economic and political interdependence between these zones and the direction and nature of capital and commodity flows structure the pattern of labor movement that evolves between the zones. Emphasis has been placed in historical structuralist accounts on two phenomena: (1) labor scarcity—the demand for labor in core societies; and (2) labor "surplus"—the abundance of labor in peripheral societies.

The term labor scarcity , as applied to advanced capitalist societies, can mean either an absolute scarcity resulting from a depletion of the domestic labor supply or a relative scarcity of those prepared to work for low wages. That is, the nature of demand for migrant labor in advanced societies is non-uniform in three ways. First, this demand may merely reflect the need of sectors of the economy which, for example, if they are unable to rely on productivity increases, may seek to maintain profit levels by reliance on a continuous, cheap source of labor. This type of relative labor scarcity especially characterizes those agricultural and non-monopoly sectors of the economy in developed societies that are unable to rely on the costly methods for augmenting labor productivity that are available to the oligopolistic sectors (Bonacich and Cheng 1984; Castells 1975; Leahy and Castillo 1977; O'Connor 1973).

Second, as we shall see in the case of New York City, the overall shift to a service economy from one based predominantly on manufacturing generally results in a greater proportion of low-wage jobs (Singelman 1978). Coupled with this result, a downgrading of the manufacturing sector, especially the high-technology subsectors,has also expanded the proportion of low-wage jobs in production, as well as fostered growth in non-union firms, subcontracting, and industrial homework (Martella 1989; Sassen-Koob 1984). An alternative view of the economic role of immigrants in large cities such as New York holds that as the percentage of native whites declines, non-whites move up the hierarchy as replacements for "white flight" (Waldinger 1987).

Third, recent research has revealed that beyond supplementing the secondary labor market, immigrant labor can also facilitate a temporary downward transition in primary or core sectors of the economies of developed nations. Undocumented labor in automobile parts firms in Los Angeles has been important in keeping costs down under difficult economic conditions, while employers prepare for automation or the relocation of production overseas (Morales 1983). Nonetheless, an important debate exists over the question of whether the immigrant population, especially the undocumented immigrants, constitutes a super-exploited labor force relative to the native labor force in regard to wages and working conditions. We take this question up in Chapter 7, where we focus on Dominicans in the United States.

The notion of labor surplus is central to most accounts of population outflows. The historical structuralist perspective posits an association between labor exports and models of development that has characterized many peripheral countries. Despite variations in the development strategies of peripheral societies, a number of common structural features can be noted that have implications for labor migration. First, following the commercialization of rural areas, formerly isolated peasant and rural proletarians migrate to urban areas, creating a high need for mass employment that is typically unmet. The results are high rates of disguised unemployment and underemployment expressed in growing informal and service-sector occupations. Second, the marginalization of large numbers of people means increasingly unequal income distribution even in periods of sustained economic growth. Third, international advertising and communications bring modern consumer culture to both urban and rural areas, increasing awareness of and appetites for modern consumer goods; obtaining even a small fraction of these goods, however, remains beyond the reach of all but a small percentage of the population. The increased desire for "modernliving" only aggravates the dissatisfaction already felt by those who have benefited little from growth in their country's economy.

The low wage conditions of Third World economies relate to what Alain de Janvry has called "disarticulated economies." Firms in many developing economies are not linked to each other in the same way as are firms in the economies of developed societies (de Janvry 1982). The lack of articulation between firms is typically linked to specialization in the export of a few primary products, making such economies extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in the international market. Due to this external orientation, employers tend to be interested primarily in keeping the costs of wages down in order to remain competitive on the international market. In contrast to developed societies, in these countries the internal market is extremely limited; thus, raising wages will not generate appreciable gains to capital in the form of increased demand for domestic commodities (de Janvry 1982). Moreover, trade dependency is often accompanied by a predominance or at least a large proportion of foreign ownership of the productive sectors of the dependent economy. The large-scale presence of foreign capital means that the multiplier effects of new investments are lost locally but instead are transferred back to the "center" economies (Evans 1979: 28).

Given the critical problem of underemployment and unemployment in the developing world, it is not surprising that in most discussions of the causes of out-migration the excess rural labor force is treated implicitly or explicitly as the most immediate and direct stimulant. However, in a number of empirical studies this assumption has actually proven to be unjustified. It is true that much of the available evidence on Mexican immigration, the largest component of the flow of labor into the United States, does point to a displaced rural peasant population (Portes and Bach 1985: 82). However, several studies challenge the idea that Mexican rural emigrants come from the most impoverished sectors or possess the lowest educational levels of the Mexican populace (Reichert 1981; Bustamante and Martínez 1979; Massey et al. 1987). Similarly, Puerto Rican emigrants to the United States in the 1950s were primarily urban dwellers with stable histories of employment. It was not until the 1960s that unskilled laborers came to constitute the bulk of Puerto Rican emigrants (Levine 1987: 97).

Increasingly, countries with more recent migration circuits to the United States, such as Colombia and Jamaica, have been shown to send migrants not predominantly from the rural, marginalized areas but from relatively skilled sectors of the urban economy (Gurak and Falcón-Rodríguez 1987; Urrea 1982; Anderson 1988).

We will document in Chapters 4 and 5 of this book that Dominican out-migration does not draw predominantly upon a labor surplus in the sense of unemployed, marginalized workers in either urban or rural areas. In contrast to much of the emphasis of the historical structuralist accounts of international migration, it seems clear that labor surplus must be considered as a necessary but not sufficient cause of population outflows. A large pool of unemployed people desperate for economic opportunities may serve as a stimulus to emigration only indirectly, by depressing the wages of the employed or putting pressure on the state for subsidies and resources that are denied to middle sectors of the society. These middle sectors, crowded, so to speak, by the misery of those around them, and blessed with the resources to leave, become the more likely candidates for emigration when transportation costs and knowledge of bureaucracies play a part in the logistics of border crossings, as is the case for Dominican international migration.

The movement of labor is not as straightforward or mechanical a process as is sometimes implied in discussions that stress the surplus of labor of sending countries and the relative labor scarcity of receiving countries. Beyond the macroeconomic features introduced above, a variety of political factors also operate as constraints and inducements to labor flows.

Political Dimensions of International Migration

Fundamental to the structuring of labor flows is the interstate system. The international division of labor involves more than a geographical division between low-wage and high-wage regions: it reflects as well inequalities of power between nation-states. Since the nineteenth century, world economic forces have increasingly come to be managed by the interstate system. In contrast to the classical liberal policies of free trade, states have evolved progressively morerestrictive policies for regulating population movements across state borders (Zolberg 1978). International migration is essentially a transfer of jurisdiction from one state to another. Yet, states differ widely in the degree of power they wield on a global scale. With infrequent exceptions, labor-exporting societies have not taken steps to limit the outflows of persons seeking jobs abroad. The policy of most Latin American and Caribbean countries has been either to ignore large-scale emigration or, more aggressively, to pressure receiving countries not to restrict inflow—sometimes in exchange for generous concessions to foreign capital in the sending countries. In some instances, however, developing societies have acted to restrict outflows that appear to be disadvantageous either politically or economically. As we shall see in the Dominican case, emigration was highly restricted locally during the period of the Trujillo dictatorship, owing to Trujillo's fear of emigrants causing political problems for him abroad. It was not until after his assassination that the contemporary outflow began. More recently, representatives of Third World emigration countries, speaking before the International Labour Organization, have questioned the equity of international labor and capital exchanges and called for international financial compensation to labor-exporting countries (Böhning 1984: 10). However, the doubts about the economic value of large-scale emigration expressed by spokespersons from the Sudan, Tunisia, and Egypt have not translated into policies aimed at controlling the exodus. And Caribbean governments, with the exception of Cuba, have, rather, sought discreetly to encourage out-migration or to keep silent about doubts, if they exist, of its economic utility (Levine 1987: 58).

The state policies of sending societies play a fundamental role in producing and reproducing the conditions that give rise to large population outflows. State policy establishes a structure of incentives which guide economic actors. For example, to the extent that state development policies sustain wage-repressive policies or subsidize investments that are inefficient or do not generate employment in a labor-abundant setting, the conditions are made ripe for emigration. Thus, the internal institutional factors of sending societies are as important for understanding international migration as are the external conditions of dependence or the unequal exchange implied by the world market. We shall see in Chapter 2 that Dominican state policy has been highly influenced by the mutual interests of policymakers, a narrow range of politically powerful industrialists, and foreign investors. An understanding of the social class relations giving rise to particular political alliances that guide state managers is fundamental to understanding movements of labor across international borders.

While a prerequisite for large-scale labor migration may be the existence of a pool of unsatisfied workers seeking opportunities abroad, actual population movements are predominantly "demand-determined" (Piore 1979; Böhning 1981; E. Petras 1981; D. Marshall 1987). That is, the main controls on the inducement of labor flows reside not merely in economic pressures or opportunities but in the immigration policies imposed by the receiving societies. These policies influence the magnitude of population flows as well as the sources and characteristics of migrants. Since we are concerned ultimately with Dominican immigration to the United States in the post-World War II period, we concentrate our argument on the legislation that affected Caribbean migration during this time.

In the early 1960s, a collection of political interests in the United States converged in opposition to the quota system, based on national origin, which had operated for forty years in a racist and discriminatory manner. Agitation for immigration reform, supported by ethnic and religious groups and organized labor, complemented the concerns of the civil rights movement with racial discrimination at home (Bach 1978). As a result the 1965 Immigration Act was passed and, together with modifications in 1976, provided the overall political and legislative framework for the flow of immigrants into the United States for the next twenty years. The new law emphasized family reunification over labor needs and, by means of a series of occupational preferences, sought to protect American labor. An annual numerical limit of 20,000 on all countries in the Western hemisphere was established in 1976. As a result Western hemispheric emigration to the United States shifted markedly away from Canada and toward Caribbean countries (Keeley 1979: 58).

The 20,000 numerical limit on all countries placed formerly high sending countries such as Mexico in a particularly difficult situation. The new law, coupled with the abolition of the old bracero system (a labor-contract program between Mexico and the UnitedStates), sharply reduced the number of aspiring Mexican immigrants who could expect to enter the United States legally (Stoddard 1976). Despite the tensions between the interests of receiving and sending societies, the disproportionate influence of advanced societies permits them to impose unilaterally such highly significant legislation.

Beyond the content of immigration laws is the question of how eagerly and effectively they are enforced. After the passage of the 1965 Immigration Law a contradiction emerged between the intentions of this legislation and the actual enforcement of the law in the United States (Bennett 1986). While the 1965 legislation imposed strict numerical limitations on immigrants from particular countries, the relatively lax border patrolling by immigration officials assured the presence of a vast pool of undocumented workers (Piore 1979; Portes and Walton 1981). Such workers are especially vulnerable and docile, since their fear of deportation often over-rides their concern with and knowledge of labor laws.

In an attempt to stem this large flow of illegal immigration, the U.S. Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. This law makes it a crime knowingly to hire an undocumented worker. Although employers' sanctions are the backbone of the legislation, it also provided for two legalization programs under which certain undocumented immigrants could gain legal residency.1 The inadequacy of the funding allotted to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to enforce employer sanctions makes it doubtful that this initiative to curb illegal immigration can and will be effectively enforced.2

The main legalization program was geared to immigrants who could prove that they had arrived in the United States prior to January 1, 1982, and had resided unlawfully since that time. A more liberal program was established for undocumented agricultural workers. These individuals had to prove that they had worked in U.S. agriculture for ninety days or more in 1985.

The response of Dominican policymakers to the passage of this new United States immigration legislation epitomizes the predicament of a country whose economy relies on a narrow export base. In a meeting in 1988 with a U.S. congressional commission on immigration and international economic development, which Pessar attended, Dominican congressmen argued that the United States must privilege either Dominican sugar quotas or immigration quotas. Neither concession has been made. Such a unilateral rejection underscores the weakness and vulnerability of a national policy that relies heavily on the export of sugar, workers, or both to secure needed foreign exchange.

Once the legal parameters of immigration have been established, foreign policy concerns affect the terms of entry of legal aliens. First, the definitions of immigrant and of political refugee in the United States largely reflect the foreign-policy considerations of the State Department. This point has been made recently in the cases of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Haiti (Aguayo and Fagen 1988; Mitchell 1987; Stepick 1987). Second, whether or not an immigrant originates from a nation that is favored politically by the United States can streamline or impede the process of obtaining a visa. Prior to the passage of the 1965 law, the United States State Department had long opposed national quotas for the Western hemisphere, believing that such restrictions threatened pan-Americanism and the ability of the United States to establish special relationships with Latin American friends (Bach 1985b: 113). These concerns regarding the quotas for Latin American friendly nations were found to be justified in the case of the Dominican Republic, where, as we shall see in Chapter 2, the ability of the U.S. consulate to facilitate the awarding of Dominican visas helped cool a volatile political situation after 1965 (Mitchell 1987).

Thus we see that the macroeconomic forces operating to release labor from Third World societies and to create demand for that labor in advanced societies do not operate mechanistically to determine actual movements of labor. Political barriers to entry also shape the magnitude, the source, the characteristics, and even the legal definition of aliens seeking entry into the labor markets of developed societies.

Migrants' Social Networks, Households, and Gender Relations

The macroeconomic forces depicted by historical structuralists, as well as state policy in the receiving and sending societies, serve to explain the broad determinants of labor displacement from peripheral regions and the nature of economic demand for immigrant labor. A variety of questions, however, remain unanswered: Why do some "migrant-ripe" communities send large numbers of members abroad and others, nearby and with similar conditions, send few? Why do emigrants come disproportionately from specific social classes within given sending communities? Why do someclasses within sending communities benefit from out-migration while others suffer disadvantages? How are migrant flows maintained even after the initial conditions which gave rise to migrant labor have eroded?

To answer such questions we must consider aspects of the social structures of sending and receiving societies. Social networks and households simultaneously mediate macrostructural changes, facilitate the migration response to these changes, and perpetuate migration as a self-sustaining social process (Dinerman 1978; Weist 1973; Massey et al. 1987; Kearney 1986). By including these social structures in our conceptualization and analysis of Dominican labor migration, we avoid the reductionism of arguments that overemphasize economic factors in accounting for international labor migration.

By social networks we mean the social relations that organize and direct the circulation of labor, capital, goods, services, information, and ideologies between migrant sending and migrant receiving communities. Migration itself has been described as "a process of network building, which depends on and, in turn, reinforces social relations across space" (Portes and Bach 1985: 10). Research in diverse parts of the world has confirmed the significance of migrants' social ties for neighborhood settlement patterns, psychological support, securing jobs, and maintaining links to the home communities (Lomnitz 1977; Arizpe 1978; B. Roberts 1978; Tilly 1978; Reichert 1979; Mines 1981; Massey et al. 1987).

In describing the role social networks play in migration, several authors have pointed to the fact that as social networks expand and increase, the range and magnitude of the "social capital" circulating within them broaden (e.g., access to loans, housing, and employment opportunities) and the social class composition of the migration stream diversifies (Böhning 1984; Massey et al. 1987). For example, Piore (1979) has argued that urban middle-class migration is transitional to more massive emigration of poorer migrants from rural areas. In light of the economic reversals in the Dominican Republic over the course of the 1980s, we speculate that its migration stream may also have diversified with increased numbers of migrants originating from both the upper and the lower classes. Nonetheless, Dominican emigration between the 1960s and early 1980s has been overwhelmingly an urban, middle-stratum phenomenon. Moreover, in the Dominican Republic, social class standing conditions which households have access to the local resources and the privileged social networks required to dispatch labor migrants. In Chapter 5 we discuss the ways social class mediates access to and accumulation of the material and social resources needed for out-migration.

Migration scholars have also noted that as the social networks of immigrants expand in the receiving society to include a wider range of people and exchanges, the immigrants tend to diminish their exchanges with persons in the home society and to enter into a new stage of settlement abroad (Piore 1979; Mines 1981). The Dominican immigrant community in New York has entered this stage. Relatively little attention, however, has been given to the role of gender in this movement to more permanent immigrant settlements. One issue we examine in Chapter 6 is the way gender influences the decision of immigrants to settle permanently in the United States.

We will also consider in Chapter 6 several ways that the migrant community in New York has created its own demand for additional migrants—a demand which may be in competition with or in contradiction to the interests of core capital. For social, cultural, and economic reasons migrant communities develop their own dynamism and patterns of recruitment. Recognizing this, we are in a better position to account for the persistence of migrant flows in times of economic downturns in receiving societies or of reduced recruitment by native employers.

Beyond social networks, the issue of how ideology circulates within transnational migrant networks and becomes a factor influencing the magnitude, characteristics, and direction of labor, capital, and commodity flows has been insufficiently explored. We take up such themes in several chapters. For example, we observe in Chapter 4 how the ideology of return influences the transfer of immigrants' savings back to the Dominican Republic (where homes are often purchased in middle-class neighborhoods). We also describe how consumption patterns attached to the notion of successful return migration often cannot be achieved within the confines of the Dominican economy. This failure commonly leads to a pattern of circular migration between the Dominican Republic and the United States for selected members of settled return migrant households.

The migrant household is the other social structure that mediates the circulation of labor, capital, services, information, and ideology. Migrant households are in fact a primary constituent of social networks. For some time the household has been recognized as both empirically and analytically the appropriate unit to study when tracing migration from the bottom up (Weist 1973; Dinerman 1978; Garrison and Weiss 1979; Selby and Murphy 1982; K. Roberts 1985). First, emigration is one strategy families in peripheral societies may adopt to meet the challenges accompanying socioeconomic transformations (Wood 1982). As we show, the household is the social unit that makes decisions about whether migration will occur, who will migrate, and whether the migration will be temporary or permanent. These decisions, we argue, are guided by kinship and gender ideologies as well as by hierarchies of power within households. Second, in any assessment of the impact of out-migration for sending communities we must recognize that it is not individuals but households that mobilize resources and support, receive and allocate remittances, and make decisions about members' production, consumption, and distribution activities. As we document in Chapter 5, an understanding of who remains behind in migrant households and what these persons' relations are to other migrant and nonmigrant households is essential to an assessment of the costs and benefits of out-migration for distinct social classes within sending communities. Finally, our focus in Chapter 7 both on gender relations within the household and on family obligations and expectations helps us to appreciate differences among migrants with regard to job satisfaction, labor militancy, and docility in the workplace.

Some of the best research employing the concepts of social networks and households has grappled explicitly or implicitly with how migration brings together and helps to reinforce differing modes of production (Meillassoux 1981; Kearney 1986). In most cases, we are presented with a form of migration that links non-capitalist modes of production in peripheral sending areas with capitalist modes of production in advanced industrial areas. This line of analysis has helped clarify why capitalist development in the Third World has not obliterated all pre-capitalist modes of production, as modernization and traditional Marxist theories would lead us to expect. Such analysis also helps to clarify an issue of some concern to us in this study—the issue of class formation and classconsciousness. An example is Julian Laite's (1981) work on Peruvian peasant migrant workers in the mining industry. He argues that although these migrant workers are more proletarian than peasant, their partial participation in the peasant mode of existence hampers the development of a working-class consciousness and associated institutions.

Our work on Dominican migration adds several new twists to this useful modes-of-production framework. These variations, which we describe below, are apparent not only in Dominican migration but in much new migration from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia, as well. In these instances we are not, for the most part, dealing with workers who engaged in non-capitalist modes of production back home. Rather, we are confronted with members of the petty bourgeoisie and other middle sectors in their own countries, whose first experience of proletarianization has occurred in the United States. To add a further twist, a goodly number have helped revitalize antiquated forms of production, such as industrial homework and subcontracting, which until recently were associated with an earlier phase of capitalist development long passed from the American scene. Nonetheless, in regard to class formation and class consciousness parallels can be drawn between the peasant-proletarian migrant from Peru and recent Third World migrants in the United States. In Chapters 6 and 7 we describe how individual Dominican workers and their households maintain multiple class ideologies, relationships, and experiences. Like their Peruvian counterparts, Dominican immigrants are thus far less likely than fully proletarianized workers (e.g., Puerto Rican migrants) to develop working-class consciousness and organizations.

Between Two Islands

The name Between Two Islands is intended to evoke a central feature of the experiences of Dominican emigrants and their families resident on either Manhattan Island or the island of Hispaniola. As we have discussed above, these two islands are bridged by a binational market for labor and commodities, by social networks, and by transnational households. On the Dominican side of this divide, citizens commonly associate modernity and middle-class status with costly commodities exported from the United States.

Emigrants who return on visits bearing gifts and those who attempt to resettle permanently in newly purchased homes serve as constant reminders that progreso (progress) is a goal more easily attained in New York than in the Dominican Republic.

The psychic dependency this other-island orientation creates is so strong and pervasive that at least one church group in the Dominican Republic, dedicated to consciousness-raising and moderate struggle among rural proletarians and smallholders, will not accept into their training program individuals who are contemplating migration to the United States. As mentioned above, an ideology of return often makes Dominican settlement in New York seem "permanently temporary." This ideology encourages the maintenance of social networks and the transfer of people, money, and goods back to the home island. Yet the fact that many returnees must shuttle between the Dominican Republic and low-wage jobs in New York if they are to maintain their middle-class lifestyle at home once again illustrates that even resettlement does not ensure that Dominicans can escape a life between two islands. Moreover, Dominican cultural referents and social relations continue to inform the perceptions and actions of Dominican immigrants residing on Manhattan Island. These referents and relations condition how Dominican immigrants view work, social class standing, family life, and settlement in New York.

The fact that Dominican immigrants and their family members back home are poised between two islands became very clear to us when we received a photograph as a farewell gift from one of our Dominican friends (see front cover). The photo of our friend Lidia and her four sons had originally been taken to send to Lidia's husband, an immigrant who has lived in New York for many years. To show him that she and the boys were prospering with the remittance dollars he sent home monthly, Lidia had borrowed suits for the boys to wear while posing for the photograph. She chose not to have the photo taken in their rural home community. Instead, they journeyed to the Dominican city of Santiago and entered a photographer's studio. There Lidia and the boys, seeking to capture both their heightened status as a migrant family and their desire to be reunited, if only symbolically, with the absent husband and father, posed before a backdrop of the Brooklyn Bridge.


Excerpted from Between Two Islands by Sherri Grasmuck Copyright © 2001 by Sherri Grasmuck. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)