AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 523

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Session 523: Cross Border Marriages in East Asia

Forever a Filial Daughter: Vietnamese Marriage Migrants in Taiwan
Heidi Fung, Academia Sinica, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Joining the trend of intra-Asian cross-border marriages, Taiwan has recently received an influx of female marriage migrants from Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam. These marriage couples are often from lower SES backgrounds and brought together by matchmaking agencies. In addition to quickly acquiring the new language and culture and adapting to the multiple roles in the new home, most of these young women never sever their affective ties to their parents and contribute to their welfare in a substantial way. This paper examines why they remain dutiful daughters from afar even after having their own families and how they manage to do so. I have built rapport with seven Vietnamese women and conducted fieldwork in both their conjugal homes in Taipei and their natal homes in the Mekong Delta over the past years. These women admitted that they married with a purpose—to better their natal families’ lives, even though they had little knowledge about their future husbands and affinal families prior to their marriage. After arriving in Taiwan, due to the immediate need to care for their newborns, they have patiently waited for employment opportunities and explored their niches. Despite tight financial constraints, they strategically save disposable cash and send sizable remittances back home on their own accord. Unbeknownst to their in-laws and husbands, they often tell their parents that the filial deeds are initiated from their husbands. These transmigrants’ experiences and practices reflect not only conflicts of interest, but also clashes of values and expectations in two Confucian-heritage cultures.

Transnational intimacy of Turkish - Japanese couples and the art of balancing moderate Islamic Turkish culture with Japanese culture
Muge Coksun Zeliha Dane, Waseda University, Japan

The increasing impact of globalization and the resulting high level of interaction between transnational communities have been blurring boundaries between cultures and facilitating people’s movement across borders to a larger extent. This in return has resulted in the increase of transnational couple formations and marriages as well as the transfer of social mobility opportunities through marriage to the international level. As the emergence of family is considered to be the outcome of historical and social circumstances to be evaluated through individual experiences in terms of time, place and social situations; in this complex global era, the decision making process for transnational family formation sums up to more than its emotional, social and economic components. Transnational marriages require a quite complex intimacy balance on behalf of the spouses as these entail; bargaining and blending of cultural differences as well as overcoming a possible language/communication barrier and challenges of bi-cultural child rearing. This paper focuses on transnational relationships and marriages that are negotiated across and beyond Turkish and Japanese national and cultural boundaries. The aim is to analyze the transnational intimacy of these couples in relation to problems they face and solutions they formulate with emphasis on the blend of Turkey’s relatively moderate Islamic based culture with Japanese culture. This paper analyzes the dynamics of these marriages with reference to forces that; draw them together, preserve their unity as a family and break them apart.

Happy Wives or Hungry Witches? Japanese Identity, Multiculturalism and Wifehood on "The Wife is a Foreigner"
Carl A. Gabrielson, Independent Scholar, Japan

From 2006-2007, TV Tokyo broadcasted a program entitled “The Wife is a Foreigner” (hereafter WF), a show that aimed to present the everyday lives of some of the thousands of non-Japanese wives of Japanese men living in Japan today. WF represented not only a unique means of looking at marriage migration to Japan, but also highlighted new developments in the popular media’s portrayal of Japan’s increasingly visible ethnic and cultural diversity. This paper seeks to uncover WF’s underlying messages regarding national identity and the viability of multicultural coexistence, and to explore how the show used non-Japanese women as tools for transmitting those messages to its Japanese audience. Analysis of the program is based on two hypotheses: first, that WF fits the general pattern of foreigners being used on Japanese television as a means of reaffirming an idealized “Japanese identity,” and second, that WF differed from older shows that included foreigners in that it stressed that the foreigners it featured had successfully made permanent spaces for themselves in Japanese society. In pursuing these hypotheses, three discourses receive special attention: the role of a generalized idea of “foreignness”—both portrayed (by the show) and performed (by the wives)—in defining what Japanese identity is not; the place of an essentialist portrayal of “Japaneseness” promoted by examining the sites where foreign wives found dissonance with their Japanese surroundings; and the tension created by a paradoxical portrayal of wifehood as a universal experience that is nevertheless subject to “foreign” and “Japanese” values.

Going against the tide? Japanese women marrying into Balinese families
Leng Leng Thang, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Authors: LL THANG* and M TOYOTA With the “feminization” of transnational mobility among Japanese women since the late 1990s, we are observing an increasing trend of transnational marriages among Japanese women in Southeast Asia. These women are characterized as going against the norm of hypergamous relationships. Moreover, while women in Japan are said to avoid living with their in-laws, prefer to have one or no child, and shun from becoming rural brides, the contrast is evidenced among those married in Southeast Asia. Typically, they travelled to Southeast Asia in their twenties to explore the new world and to search for a new sense of self, get married in their thirties or later and embrace the local rural life, including conforming to the traditional role of daughter-in-law. The paper seeks to explore this seemingly paradoxical phenomenon through our fieldwork conducted in Bali in 2010. The paper will unravel the reasons behind their “courage” to go against the tide, the challenges they face and the strategies they adopt as they negotiate their everyday lives through the dual identity as a Japanese woman and a Balinese bride/daughter-in-law. Their experiences and narratives show that modernity--of which the search of reflexive self is a key component--cannot be truly free footing and instead needs to be embedded in sometimes rather “conservative” social milieu. What the women may have “fled” away is not necessarily the traditional family life per se, but rather the lack of choice and the missing sense of agency.

Going against the tide?
Mika Toyota, National University of Singapore, Japan