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Between two families: the social meaning of remittances for Vietnamese marriage migrants in Singapore

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Global Networks

Published online on


Scholars who have applied transnational perspectives to studies of migration and remittances have called for a move beyond the developmentalist approach to accommodate an expanded understanding of the social meanings of remittances. Researchers working in Asia have begun to view the remittances of money, gifts and services that labour migrants send to their families as transnational ‘acts of recognition’, as an enactment of gendered roles and identities, and as a component of the social practices that create the ties that bind migrants to their ‘home’ countries. In this article, we depart from the more common focus on remittance behaviour among labour migrants and turn instead to examine how, as marriage migrants, Vietnamese women generate and confer meaning on the remittances they send. First, from the women's viewpoint, we discuss the extent to which expectations vested in being able to generate remittances for the natal family by marrying a Singaporean man not only translate into motivation for marriage migration but also shape the parameters of the marriage. Second, we show how sending remittances are significant to the women as ‘acts of recognition’ in the construction of gendered identities as filial daughters, and, through the ‘connecting’ and ‘disconnecting’ power of remittances, in the reimagining of the transnational family. Third, we discuss the strategies that women devise in negotiating between the conflicting demands and expectations of their natal and marital families and in securing their ‘place’ between two families. We base our findings on an analysis of interviews and ethnographic work with Vietnamese women and their Singaporean husbands through commercial matchmaking agencies.