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Gender morality and emotion work in Taiwanese immigrant in-law relations

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This study examines major social, economic, and cultural factors that sustain in-law inequality in Taiwanese transnational families. Data are based on life-history interviews with 16 Taiwanese immigrant women and ethnographic observations in a Midwest urban area. Findings suggest that middle-class immigrants’ abilities to host in-laws for lengthy periods and parents-in-law’s financial support for immigrant couples lead to the living arrangement of three-generation households in many immigrant families. Daughters-in-law in these households experience enormous stress because their mothers-in-law demand obedience. Traditional gender norms become moralized when the women’s husbands, mothers, and fellow immigrants reinforce Confucian cultural values of filial piety and respect for the elderly. Considering the importance of securing a stable family and children’s well-being, the women hesitate to challenge the power imbalance in their in-law relations. In a single ethnic household and a private domestic space, no competing gender ideology is available to contest Confucian culture. As a result, the women are compelled to fulfil their gender role expectations as submissive daughters-in-law. To cope with this home environment, they conduct varying degrees of emotion work and silence their voices, which results in the persistence of in-law patriarchy in these transnational households.
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Keywords: Culture; Taiwanese immigrants; emotion work; gender; in-law relations; transnational family

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2018

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