Supplementary Material

Uncertain Futures: The Unfinished Houses of Undocumented Migrants in Oaxaca, Mexico

ABSTRACT Migration often leads to new transnational patterns of consumption, since migrants create new ways in which they, and their families, relate to material objects. The literature on migration and materiality has documented migrants constructing and reconstructing their identities, and creating relationships based on the acquisition of material artifacts. However, little is known about the affective component involved in the construction of migrants’ houses, especially when they are unfinished. In this paper I provide an ethnographic analysis of the relationship between unfinished houses, migration trajectories, familial obligations, and future aspirations of migrants and their families in Oaxaca, Mexico. Unfinished migrant houses populate the landscape of Oaxacan migrant communities as a reminder of the difficulties of migration. They also give hope to the families of migrants that dream of seeing their children return to a finished house. The house, and the process of building it, is entangled in emotions of presence and absence, success and failure, cruel optimism and hopeful aspirations. I argue that by looking at unfinished houses, and what they represent to migrants and to their families, we can expand our understanding of the relationship between undocumented migration, materiality, and the creation of multiple futures in uncertain contexts.


1) Abandoned hacienda on the outskirts of Zegache.

2) Altar in a cemetery.

3) House wall made out of concrete and adobe without windows.

4) Teodoro’s dog resting.

5) View from a church.

Note: All photographs by author.

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