The Market for Vietnamese Brides: Global Marriages As Strategy Deployments

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 17:15
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Phung SU, UC Berkeley, USA
In 1986, Vietnam implemented the policy of Đổi Mới (“Renovation”) intended to usher the country toward economic development through the influx of foreign capital and investment. This transition coincides with the emergence of the “Four Asian Tigers” (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore), economies characterized by pronounced free-market ideology and industrialization. Out of this climate of national and regional economic change emerged a bride market specializing in the “sale” of young Vietnamese peasant women to rural men from these neighboring “Asian tiger” countries. My study examines this market for Vietnamese brides to understand the economic dimensions of increasing transnational connections and commercialized intimacy. I do this by utilizing mixed qualitative methods, including in-depth interviews, ethnography, and document analysis. To investigate how individuals navigate macroeconomic changes such as market liberalization, I seek to answer: How do Vietnamese peasant women learn about and decide to participate in a bride market in which they are sold to foreign, Asian bachelors? Why are men from economically advanced nations looking to developing countries for marriage opportunities? Finally, how do actors in the Vietnamese bride market reproduce or complicate socioeconomic hierarchies among countries in Asia? To address these questions, I use the case of Vietnamese-Korean unions to analyze global relations. Since the 1990s, South Korea has been one of the top importing countries of Vietnamese brides. The economic viability of South Korea has created the possibility of new mobility strategies for the Vietnamese, who are increasingly turning to Asian countries in the pursuit of economic security. By looking specifically at Vietnamese-Korean marriages, I highlight new avenues for the exercise of agency within a context of changing global economies. Anticipated findings will offer insight into the type of strategies individuals, who are located within local and national peripheries, deploy to gain marriage and economic opportunities.