Farm and Familialism in Southeast Asia: Gender and Generational Relations in Malaysian and Philippine Villages

Farm and Familialism in Southeast Asia: Gender and Generational Relations in Malaysian and Philippine Villages
Why are people staying in rural places?
Studies have predicted that globally, small family farms will slowly disappear but contrary to this, they remain to be present and operating in Southeast Asia albeit varying circumstances. I argue that the nexus of family history, practices, ideologies, and strategies produces a kind of Southeast Asian familialism which determine the persistence and transformation of the farms in the region.
I identify this familialism as knitted and kaleidoscopic. It is strongly knitted from different generational and wide kin relations, and it is kaleidoscopic because it brings in different family members, from different conjugal units to cohort of siblings altogether. The characterization is based on three specific conditions. First is being a multi-generation family (which can be found in the same household or same family compound or in form of near co-residence), second is the presence of not just the grandparents, but also of extended kin (aunts, uncles, and cousins) in the said unit, and third is the bilateral kinship relations between husbands and wives.
Some key findings of this work include:
1. People are staying because their family history begins with the farm. Grandparents identify the farm as the foundation and heart of their family. It is a legacy that older generations pass on to the younger generation. Anyone who attempts to cut ties with the farm, is also cutting ties with the family.
2. People are staying because inheritance and maintenance of the farm is a solid symbol of independence for couples. It indicates commitment to one’s partner and to his/her family – or to the family of both sides. The act of selling or pawning of the farm indicates lack of respect for the family.
3. People are staying because family farms indicate the kind of sibling relations of a particular generation. Sustaining the farm shows unity between siblings, while partitioning and selling of the farm suggests disruption not just for the current cohort of siblings but also to the succeeding ones.
4. People are staying because they see the ability to work and decide for the farm as milestones towards adulthood. Young people seek recognition of their skills and appreciation of their contribution to the family legacy.
5. People are staying because they are witnessing how migrant family members are coming back after working outside the village– and they come back with plans to continue the farm life that they left for decades.


Veronica L. Gregorio

Defended in

1 Nov 2020 – 31 Dec 2020

PhD defended at

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, National University of Singapore


Social Sciences


Southeast Asia


Urban / Rural
Gender and Identity