Stratified Bodies and Geopolitics of Desire: Gender, Class and Race in the Transnational Marriage Market in Taiwan

Tseng, Hsun-Hui. Stratified Foreign Bodies and Geopolitics of Desire Gender, Class and Race in the Transnational Marriage Market in Taiwan. Diss. U of Washington, 2012.

This dissertation investigates the market formation of transnational brokered marriages between Taiwanese men and foreign women mainly from China, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. It looks at what kind of desire and needs in the rapidly global circulation of capital and labor is created to trigger the formation of the transnational marriage market. Adopting a multi-sited ethnographic approach and a feminist perspective, I followed marriage groups to bride-sending countries including Vietnam, China and Ukraine to conduct participatory observation. Main issues of this dissertation include: First, how "foreign brides" became a social phenomenon and how their bodies are racialized, sexualized and commodified according to their geographic origins. Second, how the politics of gender and representation work together in creating a market demand and how economic relations become intertwined with ideas of romantic love embodied in the business of transnational brokering marriage in the context of consumer capitalism. Third, how men's and women's motivations and desires for transnational marriages are triggered economically and non-economically and how they perceive themselves in the market process. Fourth, how governments and women's groups respond to the bride trade and the flow of migration through the circulation of desire, needs, hope, labor and capital in the transnational bride trade. By illustrating the interconnections among poverty, structural violence and neoliberal aspirations of migrant women, I challenge the binaries of victim or perpetrator and real or fake marriage, and I demonstrate the dual dimensions of subjugation and agency of these women, and blur the distinction between liberation and exploitation in the making of "foreign brides" in the affective economy. Last, I argue that foreign brides are not a homogeneous subaltern group that can be essentialized and represented. We need transnational and trans-class perspectives to understand the differences among them. In addition to listening to their various voices, we should also seek to decipher the meaning of their silence. Without this careful consideration, the governmental policy of banning the profit-oriented marriage brokerage will end up serving the liberal middle-class feminist imagination of global moral order at the expense of those they wish to help.

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