Choy Fong Theodora Lam
National University of Singapore
Theodora Lam is a Research Fellow at Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (NUS). She obtained her PhD in Geography from NUS and her dissertation focused on understanding changing gender subjectivities, the web of care as well as relationships within the family in the wake of transnational labour migration. Her research highlights the voices of return migrants as well as carers and children who have remained in the home countries. Theodora is currently involved in several research projects including the longitudinal multi-country study, Child Health and Migrant Parents in Southeast Asia (CHAMPSEA II), Cross-Cultural Families in Singapore, and Transnationalism and Diaspora. Her research interests cover transnational migration of both skilled and low-waged migrants, children’s geographies and gender studies. She is the co-editor of several special journal issues which include, “Situated agency in the context of research on children, migration, and family in Asia” in Population, Space and Place (2018, with Susanne Choi and Brenda Yeoh); “Asian Transnational Families in Transition: The Liminality of Simultaneity” in International Migration (2008, with Shirlena Huang and Brenda Yeoh) and “Asian Transnational Families” in Global Networks (2005, with Brenda Yeoh and Shirlena Huang). She has also published on themes relating to migration, citizenship and education in various journals and edited books including American Behavioral Scientist, Asia Pacific Viewpoint, and Environment and Planning A.
「 Negotiating the Marital Lifecourse: Marriage Migration, Critical Junctures and the Linked Lives of Cross-National Couples in Singapore 」
Marriages between a foreigner and a Singaporean average around 39% of all marriages in Singapore annually over the past decade. The large majority comprises Singaporean men who, according to existing literature, tend to be older, blue-collar workers who turn to marrying women from developing countries given their difficulties in finding a local spouse. Foreign women entering into these cross-border unions often originate from neighbouring Asian countries and tend to be much younger than their husbands at the point of marriage. Not only are these marriages characterized by comparatively wider age differences and socio-cultural gaps, such cross-national couples are also likely to be entering into the union at rather different transitional moments of their respective life courses. Drawing on lifecourse approaches that emphasize change over time as well as notions of situated agency and the interdependency of ‘linked lives’, this paper examines the intertwined lives of cross-national couples across three critical junctures of the lifecourse. First, we examine divergences in motivations leading to the marriage in relation to how these men and women as gendered subjects negotiate their needs and aspirations at different points of the lifecourse. Second, we give attention to the broader politics of having children in a context where producing citizen-children is conjoined to raising the women’s bid for permanent residency, while entrenching her into the domestic sphere. Third, we highlight the struggles foreign wives faced over taking up paid work and how joining the labour force enhances their autonomy and networks as well as recalibrates marital and family relationships. By drawing on life-story interviews with both paired and unpaired cross-national marriage partners, we foreground the women’s perspectives vis-à-vis their spouses’ over their interwoven lifecourse in navigating the strictures of migration whilst building a new life together.