This study investigates the experience of the families of Egyptian professional labor migrants. It specifically targets the role of the wives of these migrants and the responsibilities· they take on while their husbands are away working in the Arab Gulf. Previous research has focused on the economic and political effects of labor migration on labor exporting and labor importing countries. More recent studies, with a sociological and anthropological perspective, have investigated labor migration within rural and urban low-income communities. However, work on professional, middle class and upper-middle class families has remained so far minimal. For this research project, in depth interviews were carried out with fifteen wives whose husbands worked in the Arab Gulf. After data was collected, I employed Dorothy Smith's analytical method, taking the standpoint of women in their everyday world and connecting it to the wider context of social relations that surround them. This connection is meant to show how these social relations shape and control the lives of individuals. However, justification for women's living conditions is not only sought out in the surrounding social relations, the analysis

is stretched to include the personal choices of women and their families that in turn affect the wider social context in which they live. Apart from Smith's analysis, this study seeks to present a descriptive account of the experiences of women (and men) living W1der the conditions of distance created by the labor migration of the husbands. In addition to a discussion of the responsibilities wives take on as the cornerstones of the household in Egypt, I also overview the problems they face, the assistance they receive from others and their means of obtaining moral support in times of crisis. Furthermore, the study includes a detailed discussion of the factors that lie behind the husband's migration, the movement of family to join him, and the conditions leading to the separation between the husband and the rest of the his family.


School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Cynthia Nelson

Committee Member 1

Cynthia Nelson

Committee Member 2

Soraya Altorki

Committee Member 3

James Toth

Document Type



226 leaves

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1



The American University in Cairo grants authors of theses and dissertations a maximum embargo period of two years from the date of submission, upon request. After the embargo elapses, these documents are made available publicly. If you are the author of this thesis or dissertation, and would like to request an exceptional extension of the embargo period, please write to thesisadmin@aucegypt.edu

Call Number

Thesis 1999/24



Included in

Sociology Commons