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Marriage Migration, Gender Transformations, and Family Values in the 'Global Ecumene'

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The metaphor of the market is a poor explanatory tool for the growth in international web-brokered marriages, between (mainly) men from rich countries and women from poor countries. States play an important role in regulating particular forms of migration including creating the 'need' for spousal migrants, as well as permitting their entry. The characterisation of the men who seek spouses through international agencies as powerful agents in the world system has to be mediated through understandings of the ways in which gender identities are not simple binaries that the contemporary global order is reproducing on an expanded scale. The characterisation of the women obscures the manner in which they are acting out of their own aspirations; and when a marriage is contracted, the man and woman enter into a personal relationship that cannot be reduced to a commodity exchange. These marriages involve people in negotiations about new forms of personal attachment involving intimacy, spousal roles and family relations. They are constitutive of the social networks of the 'global ecumene', a new kind of known world whose borders are constantly expanding. Gender relations are not constituted simply in the realm of the economic. We cannot assume family relations are merely expressions of dominant economic forms. The space of international web-brokered marriages is one in which women can be seen as active subjects in a transnational space that allows them to act outside, to certain degrees, of kinship-based power.

Keywords: Marriage migration; family; gender identities; internet; marriage market

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Anthropology, Australian National University, Australia

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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