Dr. Elena Barabantseva and Dr. Caroline Grillot (Manchester, UK) took part in the ‘Dynamic Borderlands: Livelihoods, Communities and Flows’ conference in Kathmandu on 12-15 December 2016. ‘Cross-border family dynamics: negotiating states, securing livelihoods, practicing citizenship’ panel, organized and chaired by Elena Barabantseva, brought together four papers on the changing cross-border intimacies, governing practices and familial relations across Chinese, Mongolian, Myanmar, and Vietnamese borders.
The papers explored the intersection of several dynamics at play, including changing demographies, globalization of reproduction, family revolutions in the post-socialist and neoliberalising contexts, and new migration patterns which these processes engender. In the context of China’s shifting position as a new immigrant destination, regulations of marriage and migration play crucial roles in defining membership and borders of the national community.
Caroline Grillot spoke about her recent research with Vietnamese marriage migrants in inland China. She described how, due to the Vietnamese women’s lack of recognized status, and alienation from the labor market, they find consolation in using online social networks to cope with isolation and idleness of their married lives in China. She argued that such behavior tended to reinforce their isolation and delay their integration within Chinese communities.
Prof Shen Haimei (Yunnan Minzu University, PRC) examined new marriage registration initiatives introduced by the Dehong county government in Yunnan to document the legitimate status of cross-border ethnic marriages in the county. She situated these developments within the state’s new dimensions of governance in the Yunnan-Myanmar Border, and drew attention to the challenges of pursuing standard forms of governing traditional forms of ethnic marriages within the framework of the modern state.
Yang Jinghua (Nanjing University, PRC) outlined differences and similarities in the registration practices of transnational marriages in border rural and urban areas of Guangxi, and argued that they produce new hierarchies of familial relations in China. Gaelle Lacaze (Sorbone University, France) situated emigration of women from Mongolia in the context of their devalued position in the post-socialist society which prompted women to resort to their sexuality and international marriage to escape the double bind that they have to face as icons of modernity and transmitters of traditional values and identities.
Collectively, the presentations made it clear that the borders and communities which they delineate are gendered constructs, and offered various perspectives on examining the politics of marriage and immigration in relation to each other to expose power relations underlying these processes.