Date of Degree

6-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor(s)

Hester Eisenstein

Committee Members

Nancy Foner

Philip Kasinitz

Subject Categories

Sociology

Keywords

cross-border marriage, gender, foodways, inter-generational relation, Taiwan

Abstract

While cases of cross-border marriage involving “foreign brides” from Southeast Asian countries have been well-documented in Taiwan, little has been known about Chinese women married to Taiwanese men because of cultural and ethnic proximity. Given the complicated historical and political conditions between Taiwan and China, however, Chinese female marriage migrants constitute a very distinct social group. This dissertation is a qualitative investigation of the emergence and expansion of cross-border marriage between Chinese women and Taiwanese men. Unlike previous scholars who focus on the exploitative nature of the so-called “mail-order bride” (MOB) phenomenon, or solely emphasize aspects of commodification in cross-border marriages, I present cross-border marriages between Chinese women and Taiwanese men as multifaceted.

Both parties—Chinese wives and Taiwanese husbands—compose heterogeneous groups. Members of these groups come from different age groups, occupy diverse socioeconomic positions, and, most importantly, have varied motivations and anticipations for cross-border marriage. I examine the gender dynamics in cross-border marriage households and further analyze the ways in which these marriages become a contested site where gender, class, and ethnicity intersect with each other. Inspired by feminist discourses, I acknowledge the agency of Chinese female marriage migrants and elaborate the ways in which these Chinese women produce their own narratives about gender equity to resist social stigmas and discrimination, both from their own families and from society at large.

I conclude with a discussion of foodways, which is not a common subject in the sociological migration literature. I show how food is not only a necessity of life but also a unique carrier of socially-constructed meanings; I also explore the ways in which differences in food preparation and dietary preference often become a source of subtle discrimination and conflicts in cross-border marriage households. Despite the structural limitation that Chinese female marriage migrants face at home, they find opportunities to prepare and share food together, and such occasions often evoke cultural memories. Through various food-related activities, Chinese female marriage migrants create a social food space and community among each other.

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