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Romance on a Global Stage

Romance on a Global Stage: Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and “Mail Order” Marriages

Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 293
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  • Book Info
    Romance on a Global Stage
    Book Description:

    By the year 2000 more than 350 Internet agencies were plying the email-order marriage trade, and the business of matching up mostly Western men with women from Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America had become an example of globalization writ large. This provocative work opens a window onto the complex motivations and experiences of the people behind the stereotypes and misconceptions that have exploded along with the practice of transnational courtship and marriage. Combining extensive Internet ethnography and face-to-face fieldwork,Romance on a Global Stagelooks at the intimate realities of Filipinas, Chinese women, and U.S. men corresponding in hopes of finding a suitable marriage partner. Through the experiences of those engaged in pen pal relationships-their stories of love, romance, migration, and long-distance dating-this book conveys the richness and dignity of women's and men's choices without reducing these correspondents to calculating opportunists or naive romantics. Attentive to the structural, cultural, and personal factors that prompt women and men to seek marriage partners abroad,Romance on a Global Stagequestions the dichotomies so frequently drawn between structure and agency, and between global and local levels of analysis.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93722-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This project was conceived during a period of post-tenure freedom and mid-life academic and personal questioning. I had recently finished a book about Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong and was looking for a new project, one that would allow me to follow up on intellectual issues that were not fully explored in my earlier work and that fit with my practical concerns. I was interested in globalization and transnationalism—as opposed to unidirectional approaches to migration—and in ideas about the intersections of political economy with everyday lives. My interest in gender, sexuality, love, and romance in cross-cultural perspective...

  5. 1 Making Introductions
    (pp. 13-30)

    In newspapers, magazines, talk shows, and among the general public in the United States, images of so-called “mail-order brides” tend to echo two different but interconnected stereotypes of Asian women. One is the sweet and innocent, sexual-romantic “oriental doll” or “lotus blossom”; the other is the conniving, devious, and shrewd “dragon lady.” These two images did not originate with contemporary Asian brides, but rather are deeply rooted in much older popular stereotypes of Asian women. Such images have long been reproduced and popularized in what Renee Tajima describes as simplistic, inaccurate, persistent, and unchanging images of Asian women over time...

  6. 2 Ethnography in Imagined Virtual Communities
    (pp. 31-62)

    In his watershed study of the rise of nationalism, Benedict Anderson described how the development of printed media in the eighteenth century allowed for growth of the “imagined community” of the nation.¹ Print media promoted the articulation of nationalism among individuals who would never meet face-to-face and whose identities and interests otherwise varied greatly. Arjun Appadurai extends Anderson’s ideas to twentieth- and twenty-first-century electronic mass media that serve as resources to create new “imagined selves and imagined worlds.” These imaginaries are neither “purely emancipatory nor entirely disciplined,” yet they have the potential to create “communities of sentiment” or sodalities that...

  7. 3 Feminism and Myths of “Mail-Order” Marriages
    (pp. 63-90)

    In this chapter I critically examine popular and feminist ideas about mail order brides as “trafficked women” who are “sold” to western men. In lieu of the sorts of homogenizing images that construct women as victims and men as agents, I propose a reconceptualization of correspondence relationships that is attentive to women and men’s motivations and experiences, and to subtle and complex renderings of power. I consider how certain “antitrafficking” discourses are linked to views of women’s oppression that were popular in the 1970s, and are thus subject to more recent anthropological and feminist critiques. Although I oppose a simplistic...

  8. 4 Fairy Tales, Family Values, and the Global Politics of Romance
    (pp. 91-115)

    In her chapter “Alien Romance,” Anna Tsing briefly refers to “mail-order bride catalogs,” drawing on the work of Ara Wilson and Venny Villapando. The women are presented in the catalogs, Tsing writes, as “sexy and selfless—a pleasant alternative to selfish American women. The words excerpted from thewomen’s letters confirm this image: their hobbies are childish; their English is broken. The catalogs, like so much scholarship, create a gaze in which we victimize and homogenize even as we learn ‘a woman’s story.’” Yetwe must ask whether thewomenare in fact “presented” as “sexy and selfless” or whether they are read or...

  9. 5 Political Economy and Cultural Logics of Desire
    (pp. 116-144)

    Filipinas and Chinese women rarely objected to the idea that their relationships with U.S. men were related in part to political relations and the global flow of capital. U.S. men, by contrast, often objected strongly. Most men considered it distasteful to connect politics and market forces with personal lives and intimate relationships, or to propose that love might not be the single or most essential ingredient of a marriage. Women from China and the Philippines often articulated the importance of love, but were not so resistant to the idea that marriage involves personal and political considerations.

    U.S. men’s aversion to...

  10. 6 Women’s Agency and the Gendered Geography of Marriage
    (pp. 145-174)

    As described in the previous chapter, the opening up of China has led to new social as well as economic relationships with the West. Alongside foreign investment and joint ventures, marriages between U.S. men and Chinese women who meet and correspond via the Internet have become increasingly common. Based mainly on interviews I conducted in 1999 and 2000, this chapter introduces five urban Chinese women and their views and experiences regarding correspondence and the suitability of western men as potential spouses. These sketches reinforce the point that personal circumstances, class backgrounds, and marital prospects in China are key features that...

  11. 7 Tales of Waiting: History, Immigration, and the State
    (pp. 175-209)

    “Tales of waiting” are the most common type of stories told by couples whose courtships span two nation-states and whose relationships often involve long periods of separation. There are several distinct periods of waiting, each marked by increased personal commitment and emotional investment. First is the wait to receive a letter or e-mail message from a prospective partner, then the wait before a couple initially meets in person, and again before they are reunited, when in many cases the man goes to visit for a second or third time. Once the couple has decided to marry, there is the final...

  12. 8 Conclusion: Marriage, Migration, and Transnational Families
    (pp. 210-226)

    In her analysis of the discourse surrounding Chinese adoptees and white middle-class adoptive parents, Ann Anagnost points to the relative ease with which Chinese adoptees pass through the U.S. immigration process. “China adoption,” Anagnost argues, “represents a particularly privileged form of immigration that is facilitated because the right to form families is a consecrated [U.S.] middle-class imperative.” Adoption immigration, moreover, “evokes an implicit comparison” with other groups of prospective immigrants who experience relatively greater degrees of difficulty entering the United States.¹ In contrast to foreign children adopted by U.S. parents, who as of early 2001 are automatically granted citizenship,² foreign...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 227-260)
  14. References Cited
    (pp. 261-274)
  15. Index
    (pp. 275-283)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 284-284)