Pacific flows: The fluidity of remittances in the Cook Islands
This paper contributes political and cultural-economy perspectives to the critique of the MIRAB model 20 years on. In it, we celebrate the politically grounded reading by MIRAB analysts of development in the small island nations of the Pacific and their attention to both the empirical and the structural in their treatment of the economies of these countries. We address aspects, however, of one of the common critiques of MIRAB analyses: their failure to capture accurately the nature of small island socio-cultural economies. We focus on the workings of remittance systems on two of the Cook Islands, Mauke and Manihiki, as the basis for a more thorough critique. We argue that rather than living economically and nationally determined lives, Cook Islanders live in rich networks of flows of goods, people, labour and meaning that the MIRAB model does not fully capture. The microeconomics of the transnational kin or household unit and the remittance decision are deeply embedded in such networks. These networks generate their own, temporary constellations of responsibility, economy and decision-making, which may or may not materialise at any point as household economy. We consider some of the consequences of a network view for MIRAB analyses and for development in small island nations.