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Brides on Sale

Taiwanese Cross-Border Marriages in a Globalizing Asia


Todd Sandel

Beginning in the 1990s large numbers of women from Mainland China and Southeast Asia married men in Taiwan. They now number over 400,000, warranting some to call them «Taiwan’s Fifth Ethnic Group». This book argues that the rise of these marriages is a gendered and relational phenomenon, linked to the forces of globalization. Traditional ideas of marriage, such as the belief that a woman «marries out» of her natal family to be dependent upon her husband and his family, and the idea that a man should «marry down» to a woman of a lesser social and economic status, have not kept pace with changes in women’s educational and career opportunities. How these relationships are formed, how they impact gendered understandings of women and men, how families are constituted and relationships developed, and how they affect the children of these families and their education, are the issues explored in this book. It breaks new ground in our understanding of transnational and cross-border marriages by looking at the long-term effects of such marriages on communities, families, and individuals.
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Chapter 4. Educating the “Foreign Spouse” and Her Children


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Because in our neighborhood there are many families that have married in a foreign [female] spouse … they maybe do not have [a relationship built on] the foundation of affection [ganqing]. When they are married over to here, um, [the husband thinks]: “I spent money, three hundred thousand, five hundred thousand, I can marry one to this place.” And if you find that the family’s economic situation is not good, or the husband, maybe it is that the two of them have communication problems; then slowly problems develop. And then it is that it will impact the next generation’s children. (Teacher at an Elementary School: Ilan County, Taiwan.)

In previous research conducted in Taiwan from 2002–2004, I investigated language attitudes and language education in Taiwan. My research assistant, Hao-Wen Chang, who lived in the central city of Taichung (台中市), made arrangements for me to jointly interview one “mother tongue” teacher and four parents of elementary school children. After we finished the interview, and the recorder was turned off (often a key moment when conducting research), one of the mothers spoke up. She said that while our research topic (mother tongue instruction) was interesting, the issue that most concerned her was the growing number of waiji xinniang (foreign brides) from Southeast Asia coming to Taiwan. She was afraid that their children would have problems and be a major burden to schools and teachers across Taiwan....

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