Between official and concealed: reconsidering the status of mainland spouses in contemporary Taiwan

Momesso, Lara orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4042-9384 (2015) Between official and concealed: reconsidering the status of mainland spouses in contemporary Taiwan. In: Immigration Societies - Taiwan and Beyond. Vienna Taiwan Studies Series, 1 . LIT Verlag, Vienna, Austria. ISBN 978-3-643-90618-2

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In recent years Taiwan has transformed from a country of emigration into a country of immigration due to the arrival of people from other Southeast Asian nations and mainland China prevalently as blue collar workers and spouses of Taiwanese citizens. The fact that the latter group has involved a great majority of women who have moved to Taiwan for reasons linked to family formation has shaped the gendered expectations on these immigrants, who are often understood and depicted in relation of their gender roles as wives, mothers, and daughters-in-law. Academic literature has also contributed to reinforce such assumptions by portraying these immigrants as located in the reproductive sphere of their homes and in relation to their family members.
In order to offer a more comprehensive picture of the phenomenon, though, we should extend our analysis of these migrants' lives to environments that are not solely limited to the domestic sphere of their families, but also include the other various spaces and realms where migrants may pass part of their time, for instance the work environment, community institutions, schools, and so on and so forth. Thus in this paper I am going to explore marriage migrants in the semi-public realm of a civil society organisation. The way they interact with other members of the organisation, including both other marriage immigrants and Taiwanese citizens, may disclose a reality which is often overlooked by external observers either because civil society organisations are usually overlooked when exploring the phenomenon of migration for marriage or because, when they are taken into consideration, the tendency is to focus on the group's general objectives and activities rather than on the dynamics between individuals within the organisation.
In this paper I am going to focus on a non-profit organisation, the Chinese Association for Relief and Ensuing Service (CARES), closely connected with governmental agencies and offering service, amongst other social groups, to mainland spouses married to Taiwanese citizens. In this space that reinforces the predominant ideology of the government, migrants' narratives and actions provide fertile ground to speculate on the endurance of unequal relations of power and biased assumptions between the people who live across the Strait. This paper draws from ethnographic data collected during fifteen months of fieldwork between April 2008 and October 2011.

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