Gendered Mobilities, Gendered Cosmopolitanisms: Male and Female Expatriate Managers and Their Accompanying Spouses
Drawing on 28 ethnographic case studies of German and American expatriate managers in China, Germany and the US conducted between 2011 and 2014, the paper examines two different expatriate arrangements: 1) male expatriate managers and their female accompanying spouses, and 2) female expatriate managers and their male accompanying spouses. We analyze three sets of activities that are crucial for enabling, shaping and stabilizing the entangled mobilities and cosmopolitan lifestyles of mobile managers: 1) activities related to preparing and managing the relocation (mobility work), 2) activities related to building up social networks at the new place of residence (local attachment work) and 3) activities related to maintaining the ties and networks to family and friends at the place of origin or other places of the family’s mobile trajectory (translocal attachment work).
Findings indicate that male managers delegate a significant part of these activities to their accompanying spouses, while female managers themselves are forced to assume a significant part of these activities, due to the reluctance of their male accompanying spouses to take over the role as ‘family mobility manager’. We thus argue that the cosmopolitanism of (male) expatriate managers is a gendered social position which is highly dependent on the intense informal work of their ‘non-working’ accompanying wives.