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Cross-Border Marriages

Cross-Border Marriages: Gender and Mobility in Transnational Asia

Edited by Nicole Constable
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Cross-Border Marriages
    Book Description:

    Illuminating how international marriages are negotiated, arranged, and experienced, Cross-Border Marriages is the first book to chart marital migrations involving women and men of diverse national, ethnic, and class backgrounds. The migrations studied here cross geographical borders of provinces, rural-urban borders within nation-states, and international boundaries, including those of China, Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, the United States, and Canada. Looking at assumptions about the connection between international marriages and poverty, opportunism, and women's mobility, the book draws attention to ideas about global patterns of inequality that are thought to pressure poor women to emigrate to richer countries, while simultaneously suggesting the limitations of such views. Breaking from studies that regard the international bride as a victim of circumstance and the mechanisms of international marriage as traffic in commodified women, these essays challenge any simple idea of global hypergamy and present a nuanced understanding where a variety of factors, not the least of which is desire, come into play. Indeed, most contemporary marriage-scapes involve women who relocate in order to marry; rarely is it the men. But Nicole Constable and the volume contributors demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, these brides are not necessarily poor, nor do they categorically marry men who are above them on the socioeconomic ladder. Although often women may appear to be moving "up" from a less developed country to a more developed one, they do not necessarily move higher on the chain of economic resources. Complicating these and other assumptions about international marriages, the essays in this volume draw from interviews and rich ethnographic materials to examine women's and men's agency, their motivations for marriage, and the importance of familial pressures and obligations, cultural imaginings, fantasies, and desires, in addition to personal and economic factors. Border-crossing marriages are significant for what they reveal about the intersection of local and global processes in the everyday lives of women and men whose marital opportunities variably yield both rich possibilities and bitter disappointments.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0064-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Chapter 1 Introduction: Cross-Border Marriages, Gendered Mobility, and Global Hypergamy
    (pp. 1-16)
    Nicole Constable

    The narrator and protagonist in a surrealistic short story by Yoko Tawada (1998) entitled “Missing Heels” is identified as a Japanese “mail-order bride.” The story opens with her arrival in an unspecified European country to live with the husband she has yet to meet face-to-face. In an attempt to learn more about the local culture, she recruits the help of a woman teacher. The interaction between the two women encapsulates some of the stark contrasts between perspectives of and about foreign brides. The story, told from the bride’s first-person perspective, also hints at some of the paradoxes of the idea...

  4. Chapter 2 Cross-Border Hypergamy? Marriage Exchanges in a Transnational Hakka Community
    (pp. 17-33)
    Ellen Oxfeld

    In the summer of 1993, while visiting Mei Xian, a county in Guangdong Province, China, I witnessed an attempt at international matchmaking. My travel companions were two sisters who had grown up in a Hakka Chinese community in Calcutta, India, where I had engaged in field research during the 1980s. The Hakka are a distinct ethnic and linguistic group who are dispersed throughout a number of provinces in south-eastern China as well as throughout, the diaspora.¹ They are nonetheless considered to be members of the majority Han Chinese rather than members of an ethnic minority.

    I wanted to travel to...

  5. Chapter 3 Cautionary Tales: Marriage Strategies, State Discourse, and Women’s Agency in a Naxi Village in Southwestern China
    (pp. 34-52)
    Emily Chao

    Although the Chinese state represents rural marriage practice as regionally determined arid the legacy of local culture and history, I argue that elopement strategies in rural Lijiarig (the Naxi Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province, China) and related constraints on women’s agency are recent phenomena shaped by the state’s economic policies and population discourse. Specifically, I address how state discourse about the nationwide problem of kidnapping in the 1980s and 1990s influenced local marriage practice and women’s agency in Lijiang. Although kidnapping and elopement initially appear to be significantly different practices, a closer examination of kidnapping discourse and local elopement practice...

  6. Chapter 4 Marrying out of Place: Hmong/Miao Women Across and Beyond China
    (pp. 53-79)
    Louisa Schein

    “I’m so sorry you couldn’t reach me earlier!” apologizes a high official upon our meeting in a small city in Yunnan Province, southwestern China. It was my last day of research in this city, a center of concentration of the Miao minority in China, and I had been trying for at least a couple hours to reach this Miao official at home to set up a meeting. The phone had been constantly busy. Finally, the line freed up and I was able to schedule an appointment. The official arrived, contrite about our communications problems, but ultimately abdicating responsibility for his...

  7. Chapter 5 Marrying Up and Marrying Down: The Paradoxes of Marital Mobility for Chosŏnjok Brides in South Korea
    (pp. 80-100)
    Caren Freeman

    The inability of rural bachelors to attract brides is an increasingly common problem in many rapidly industrializing countries, where educational, occupational, and marital opportunities are drawing large numbers of young women to the cities. In South Korea, the bride shortage in the countryside has reached the level of a national crisis, brought to the attention of the public by the media and, in some extreme cases, by the protest suicides of unmarried farmers (Kendall 1996:4, Park 1996:217). A 1997 Korean newspaper editorial emphasizes the gravity of the situation, warning that “the time is not far off when a ‘home for...

  8. Chapter 6 A Failed Attempt at Transnational Marriage: Maternal Citizenship in a Globalizing South Korea
    (pp. 101-123)
    Nancy Abelmann and Hyunhee Kim

    This chapter considers a rural and poor South Korean mother’s valiant, and ultimately failed, attempts at marrying her only son, who is disabled, to a Filipina woman through the Unification Church. Understanding that the prospect of this marriage—that of the son of a poor farming family to a Southeast Asian woman—is a very recent prospect in South Korea, one facilitated by both transnational geopolitical developments and local transformations in the late 1990s, we ask what this case can tell us about changing social and cultural formations into the new millennium in South Korea. We consider how it is...

  9. Chapter 7 Tripartite Desires: Filipina-Japanese Marriages and Fantasies of Transnational Traversal
    (pp. 124-144)
    Nobue Suzuki

    In July 1998, a television documentary entitled Regī no Futoude Hanjōki (Prosperous stories of dependable Reggie), which portrayed the ambivalence in the life of a Filipina living in Tokyo, was aired in Japan. Reggie, the widow of a Japanese karaoke pub owner, raises her Filipino-Japanese daughter and toddler son alone by running the pub at night. She opens the pub at eight in the evening and closes it at one in the morning. Then she drives two hostesses home, and only after that can she eat her dinner and sleep. In the morning, Reggie’s first-grade daughter eats and dresses by...

  10. Chapter 8 Clashing Dreams in the Vietnamese Diaspora: Highly Educated Overseas Brides and Low-Wage U.S. Husbands
    (pp. 145-165)
    Hung Cam Thai

    Hours before her husband’s plane was due, Thanh Nguyen¹ and about thirty of her family members and kin anxiously waited outside of Tan Son Nhut, Saigon’s international airport.² Thanh’s family was understandably excited. For many families expecting a relative or close friend from the Vietnamese diaspora, the waiting is an event in itself. More often than not, they come to the airport long before the plane is due, creating such a commotion outside that it is difficult to follow any one conversation. As I watched and listened like a waiter at a busy restaurant, intently but discreetly, I could make...

  11. Chapter 9 A Tale of Two Marriages: International Matchmaking and Gendered Mobility
    (pp. 166-186)
    Nicole Constable

    During the summer of 2002, while I was in India working on this chapter, an episode of the U.S. television drama Law and Order: Special Victims Unit was aired on the Asian television network Star TV. The program caught my eye because it was about “mail-order brides” and introduction agencies. The episode encapsulated many of the most common negative stereotypes about so-called mail-order brides and international introduction agencies. Central to the show’s story line was Euromatch, an agency that introduced U.S. men to Eastern European women, which turned out to be a front for a prostitution ring, trafficking in women,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 187-198)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 199-210)
  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 211-212)
  15. Index
    (pp. 213-220)