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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Global wife, local daughter : gender, family, and nation in transnational marriages in Northeast Thailand Sunanta, Sirijit


This dissertation explains the emergence and continuous growth of transnational marriages in Northeast Thailand through a gendered and localized analysis of globalization. The Foreign Husband (Phua Farang) phenomenon, or inter-racial/cross national marriages between Thai women and foreign men, has grown substantially in the last ten years, particularly in Isan or the Northeast Region of Thailand. In 2003-2004 as many as 15,000 women from Isan provinces are married to or engaged in romantic relationships with foreign men mainly from Western European countries and the U.S. Transnationally married Isan women send remittances to their families, schools, and temples, thus contributing to the economic and social transformation of agrarian villages in Thailand’s poorest region. The Phua Farang phenomenon among rural Isan women, and the volume of revenue the phenomenon generates, perplex Thai society and stirs nation-wide debates. I demonstrate through combined gender, class and political economic analyses how the Phua Farang phenomenon in Isan is implicated in the interconnected “worlds” between the global and the local, the macro and micro scales, as well as the production and reproduction realms. Exploring localized global processes that take place at various scales—from the individual, the family and community, to the nation-state and the global political economy—this dissertation reveals on-going struggles between structural forces from “above” and everyday resistance on the ground by classed, ethnicized and gendered subjects exercising their agency. Internal struggles within the Thai nation, shown in ethnicized, classed, and gendered moral and nationalist discourses around the Phua Farang phenomenon, further problematize the dichotomy between the “colonizing global capitalism” and the much celebrated local alternatives to modernity.

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