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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 5. The End of Brokered Marriage?


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The summer of 2013, after spending a week in Jakarta, and accompanied by my research assistant, Ulung Wijaya, we boarded a plane bound for Pontianak, the capital city of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. After collecting our luggage, Ulung called the driver of the car we reserved, and with one other passenger, began the three-hour journey north to the city of Singkawang. As we drove through Pontnianak, a city of half a million, and then onto the highway leading north, I was expecting that the two-lane highway would become a major expressway, or that I would see evidence of road building—the norm across Taiwan and China. Instead, while the road was well maintained, it never broadened beyond the two lanes that we entered. It was the only way to travel north, shared equally by children and the elderly, walking or riding bicycles, overloaded private buses, motor scooters, and speeding late model SUVs and sedans. I was glad to be sitting in the rear where I would not have to witness repeated near misses as we would abruptly swerve, speed up, or slow down, depending upon the traffic conditions. Yet while the journey was frightful, it was fruitful. Traveling to a “marriage sending” place, seeing the community and homes where these women came from, talking to them and their family members, and traveling the same path previously taken by hundreds of Taiwanese wife-seeking men gave me a much deeper...

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