- From Duty to Desire: Remaking Families in a Spanish Village
Jane Fishburne Collier has written a sensitive and subtle description of the development of a “modern subjectivity” among people born in a small, rural town in southern Spain. This is not the standard “modernization story of progress from constraint to freedom” (p. 10) although the villagers’ perception and discourse often pose the story in those terms, employing a “tradition” versus “modernity” contrast. Collier teases out the various levels of meanings for these terms, especially the many uses of the word “tradition,” in her excellent Introduction. Using Foucault, the author then tries to explain why in the 1960s villagers would “want” to constrain themselves in order to fulfill their social obligations, and why in the 1980s freedom becomes a less visible but just as onerous requirement to “produce oneself.”
Jane Collier, her husband, and their new baby spent nine months in 1963—64 in the town of Los Olivos (population 600) collecting general ethnographic information. At the time she was disappointed in the results of her work because she had not been able to explore in depth any particular topic. In fact, she did not publish any of her data until more than twenty years later. However, for the book From Duty to Desire, Collier was able to draw not only on her own field notes, but also on those of Richard and Sally Price, who followed the Colliers to Los Olivos in the summer of 1964, as well as on those of Michelle Zimbalist and Sally Simmons, who lived in Los Olivos the summer of 1965. All these people had been Harvard-Radcliffe undergraduates and participants in the Harvard Chiapas Project together. In Los Olivos they studied courtship and mourning customs.
In the summer of 1980 the Colliers returned to Los Olivos (population now 300) for fieldwork and again in 1983 for seven more months. That year Jane Collier traveled to Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville to interview villagers who had emigrated. From Duty to Desire focuses on the changes that had occurred in family structures between 1963 and 1983 and why unequal systems of social relations persist despite the efforts of disadvantaged people.
Collier found that in the 1960s inherited property appeared to be the major [End Page 238] determinant of social inequality and a family’s status, while in the 1980s occupational achievement and wages seemingly determined a family’s status. This shift, which is due to the breakdown of the agricultural economy and the resulting participation in the national wage economy, is discussed in detail in the book’s first chapter. Of ethnographic interest here is the change in the role of wage work, from a sign of low status in the 1960s (not owning enough property to support one’s family) to a source of prestige and a path to wealth twenty years later. Collier traces the case histories of several informants, as narratives of occupational achievement replace stories of inherited properties.
The remaining chapters of the book explore the connection between these different explanations for inequality and the family. In the twenty years between visits, people remade “traditional” families based on obligation into “modern” families based on sentiment. As Collier says, “romantic love apparently replaced status and property concerns in choosing a spouse” (Chapter 2); patriarchal authority seemingly gave way to partnership marriages (Chapter 3); couples, who formerly had to “subjugate” their children to their social obligations now had to provide children with opportunities they needed to “prepare” them for earning a living; couples whose parents had demanded respect talked of hoping to earn their children’s affection (Chapter 4); and mourners whose black garment once signified respect for the dead, found themselves displaying personal grief for the departed (Chapter 5)” (p. 8) Each chapter is rich in ethnographic detail and example.
The final chapter deals with how the Los Olivos villagers became “Andalusians.” Here the author presents two paradoxes. One is how the villagers changed from being “traditional” to “having traditions...