Gender, Work and Property
Gender, Work and Property
While doing fieldwork in a small village in Spain near León (I will use 'San Julián' as a pseudonym), I came across something that perplexed me. The family farm businesses were relatively prosperous-people could and did build new houses and had good cars and all the main household consumer items-and many young men were staying in the village to work on their families' farms. But the young women were leaving, and some of the young men were finding it difficult to marry and form families. When I asked about this, the young men and the older generations told me that the young men 'liked' living in the village, but the young women did not. The young women, however, said they would like to live in the village but could not because there was no work for them there.
In the previous generation, both men and women seemed to 'like' living in the village just fine. How could this suddenly have changed? How could living and working in the village continue to have value for the men, while ceasing to have value for the women? Or were women for some reason unable to fulfill their ideal of living in the village? Had the values changed in the space of one generation? These were the questions that motivated the research that I will present in this volume. While this research did, in fact, become a doctoral dissertation, this book is definitely not that dissertation. I have substantially reworked my material and my analyses, taking into consideration suggestions that many colleagues have generously made. My intention is to answer the questions in the previous paragraph and shed light on what happened in one particular place over a specific period of time, hoping by this to illuminate processes in a broader range of places and times.
In order to do this, I will use the concept of value as defined by Pierre Bourdieu. I will analyze the concept of casa as people use it in the village, show how gender is the axis along which life and work in the village are organized, and show how small changes in the life course, such as the age when one has to decide whether to continue in school or leave to work, can greatly affect later outcomes. So this book will be of interest to a wide variety of people: anthropologists and ethnographers, of course, but also anyone interested in the study of work and property, in recent changes in rural life, in value theory, in how culturally constructed gender differences affect people's lives, or in how schooling works on already-existing situations, among other things. Although the discussion will center on San Julián and what has happened there, the situation that I will describe is, with local variations, common to many villages not only in Spain, but in Italy, France, Germany, and other areas in Europe. So what I will present here is a study of value in a local context.
Using the concept of value, which I will discuss shortly, and the organizing axes of work, gender, and property, I will interpret the events and processes of the second half of the 20th century, and the very beginning of the 21st, in the village. We shall see how the values that people enact and express in their life-course decisions and discourse locate them in specific places in the social field, and how in different time periods changing conditions on the national and international scale have altered the shape of this social field and the options available, altering the results of people's decisions. Up to the middle of the 20th century, the positions people occupied on the social field led to the reproduction of the casa and the family farm; in the sixties and seventies, this was so only for some people, while others emigrated. By the end of the century, the organizational logic of work and gender, against the changing conditions of economic crisis, a decrease in job opportunities, and schooling, led to important changes in the way family farms were set up and worked and to the situation that originally inspired this