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Childbirth, Medicine, and Morality: Reproductive Politics of Southeastern Asian Women in Taiwan

Wed, June 24, 11:05am to 1:00pm, North Building, Floor: 8th Floor, N822


This essay addresses the reproductive politics confronted by Southeast Asian immigrant women in Taiwan, with regard to how women experience moral motherhood particularly in the setting of transnational marriages.
Their moral world of these women relating to childbirth is heavily shaped by Taiwanese society’s deep anxiety toward their reproduction. One the one hand, Taiwanese tend to devalue reproduction of the immigrant women while viewing them as inferior from backward country and suspecting that they may cause low quality of population. The social discrimination is reinforced when these women are mostly married to Taiwanese men in a low socio-economic class as a socio-historical consequence of unequal developments between Taiwan and Southeastern countries. One the other hand, as many other East-Asian countries, Taiwanese society faces decreasing fertility rate, and thus need births of these female immigrants. This tension appears in many dimensions of immigrant women’s birthing experiences, including prenatal practices and postnatal care.
Meanwhile, their husbands and in-laws also heavily involved in these moral negotiations. In my fieldwork, most husbands and in-laws of immigrant women are aware of social discrimination toward their family and reproduction. This very often leads them to search for variety of social and medical resources to ensure childbirth.
Within this context, this essay will look at how immigrant women and their in-laws negotiate with the tensions? What roles may medicine be endorsed in this specific context?