The Culture of Migration in Kerala: An Inquiry

Sulaiman K. M.


This paper attempts to understand the culture of migration in Kerala qualitatively, primarily in the light of Kerala-Gulf migration. It addresses three major arguments associated with the culture of migration in the context of Kerala. The first argument is that migration is widespread and has a historical presence in Kerala. The second argument is that the decision to migrate is influenced by the day-to-day experiences of an individual. The final argument is that families and communities consider migration a pathway to socio-economic well-being. Most people from Kerala are aware of the migration history, processes, costs, and benefits attached. Individuals and households make choices to migrate or not to migrate based on these cost-benefit analyses. The Kerala community defines its social space by factoring in migration and remittances, which are pivotal in achieving social status and prestige. The study concludes that migration became culturally accepted when individuals could not meet familial and social expectations, such as a middle-class lifestyle, a meaningful job, children’s education, and social mobility. Decisions related to migration are socially implanted and culturally informed. The culture of migration is dynamic and continuously evolving over time.

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