Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Cynthia Fuchs Epstein

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Studies | Sociology


gender, Jamaica, marriage, masculinity, migration, socialization


For over a hundred years Jamaicans have been migrating to make the proverbial `better life' for themselves and their families. In the early 20th century husbands migrated, leaving wives behind. As economies of the United States and Canada have become more service-oriented, wives migrate leaving husbands behind. The experiences of Jamaican immigrant women are documented in Caribbean migration studies, but the marriages of Jamaican legally-married immigrant wives and their husbands left behind in Jamaica are so far unstudied. The main research question of this study is what maintains these transnational marriages over time, sometimes for decades, when spouses see each other sometimes only once or twice a year. Data for the study come from: in-depth interviews conducted between 2005 and 2007; conversations held over the past fifteen years with participants in these marriages in the United States and in Jamaica; and participant observation of U.S. and Jamaican societies. The findings reveal that daily companionship in marriage is not as essential a Jamaican cultural value as migration, but that the institution of marriage, although not the dominant form of coupling in Jamaica, is important enough to last. Moreover, divorce still bears a stigma in Jamaican culture. Outcomes of these marriages vary but may not be unpredictable, depending on their pre-migration state and the nature of the living-apart experience. By focusing on these Jamaican transnational marriages, this study hopes to cast another light on Jamaican migration, as well as to encourage further discussion and research of legal marriage in Jamaica and in the Afro-Caribbean.