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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 6. Conclusion: Critical Reflections on Cross-Border Marriage


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Critical Reflections on Cross-Border Marriage

This book began with an observation. Brought to Taiwan through marriage brokers or following in the path of (and sometimes pushed by) married sisters, aunts, or cousins, women crossed political borders hoping to find a better life, and entered into marriages with Taiwanese men in communities across the island. I first noticed such women in 2002 during a stay with my sister-in-law who lived in northern Taipei County. Two years later my wife’s cousin, who lived in the rural south told us, “I bought a bride!” when we saw him after he married a woman from Cambodia. Advertisements for “foreign brides” were posted on signs and posters seemingly everywhere. The practice spread by word of mouth, from family to family, within and across communities. One teacher described how news spread thusly: “Jia ho, dao siu bo” 吃好, 逗相報 or “If something tastes good to eat, you then share the news with others.” Once one family learned that it was good to marry in a foreign spouse, they told another family, who would do likewise.

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