Revaluing Marital Immigrants
Educated Professionalism and Precariousness among Chinese Spouses in Taiwan
Author: Sara L. Friedman
Dominant discourses of immigrant value in Taiwan and across Asia distinguish marital immigrants from desirable professional immigrants who are assumed to contribute their talents and economic productivity to their new home. This article examines national anxieties about the compromised value of marital immigrants and it illustrates the diverse strategies adopted by immigrant spouses as they carve out new means of producing value through productive and reproductive labors. Focusing on mainland Chinese spouses in Taiwan, the article argues that contested political relations between Taiwan and China foster immigration policies that construct Chinese marital immigrants as familial dependents whose material desires and suspect political commitments are held in check by their identification with reproductive and care labors. The article asks how this complex devaluation system affects the life strategies of comparatively elite marital immigrants, Chinese women and men with postsecondary degrees and former professional careers in China. The article analyzes how these immigrants maneuver around policies that restrict their access to skilled employment, yet without necessarily rejecting their reproductive contributions to Taiwanese society. Despite their challenges to existing models for conceptualizing immigrants’ productive and reproductive labors, elite spouses experience new forms of precariousness produced by the intersection of intimate life decisions with heteronormative gender roles, aspirations for self-fulfillment, and the insecurities of immigrant status.