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Migration and Intergenerational Relations in Southeast Asia (1)

1330–1530, Thursday 14 April 2016, C1

Pia Jolliffe
University of Oxford

Pia Jolliffe
University of Oxford

Samia Dinkelaker
Freie Universität Berlin


Southeast Asia is very diverse. The eleven Southeast Asian countries vary in historical, socio-cultural and political economic experiences. Yet, in spite of this diversity the region faces shared demographic challenges related to migration and intergenerational relations, in particular changing patterns of traditional family life, marriage and childbearing, ageing populations and migration for education and work.

Already in pre-modern Southeast Asia migration shaped demographic landscapes within and between the realms of kings, landlords, sultans and other local political authorities. Movements of persons were structured according to household and market demands. Children and youth, especially boys, migrated for education between their family homes and locations of learning such as Buddhist temples and Muslim mosques. Also marriage was a frequent reason for men and women to migrate out of their parternal home into the household of their in-laws. Of course, marriage always has socio-cultural and political-economic meanings as it establishes relations between households, village communities or even larger political entities. Trade and commerce, too, asked individuals to migrate between different areas in mainland and insular Southeast Asia. Pre-modern Southeast Asia was a also a destination for migrants from Europe, such as mercants, mercenaries and Christian missionaries from Portugal or Italy. These movements, too, impacted on the intergenerational relations between those who travelled and those who remained behind. Colonialism and the formation of modern centralized states strongly impacted on the political economy of Southeast Asia and the region´s interdependence with global markets and other modern institutions such as the World Bank, the United Nations etc. In this context, modern notions of citizenship, national security and border control create new inequalities between and among peoples in different areas of Southeast Asia. These developments have implications for intergenerational relations.
This panel aims at bringing together scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds 1. to explore the historical and contemporary dynamics that shape migration in Southeast Asia and 2. to relate these socio-cultural and political-economic processes to intergenerational relations. In this way, panel participants will illuminate how different patterns of migration shape intergenerational relations at different times and places in history on local, regional and international levels.


Paper 1: Indonesian Gays in Paris: Imagination, Migration of the Joyful and Family Support

Wisnu Adihartono
Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

For some Indonesian gays, migration is like a must instead of a choice. This is the case of my respondents who argue that living in Indonesia is not save for them because of socio-cultural exclusion and discrimination. This is surprising because the Indonesian government does not have any law that condemns homosexuals and gay people are informally welcomed and accepted. However, my research shows that discrimination against gays is still very common. This paper first examines gay to Paris based on the imagination of “the beauty of Paris” as a city of destination. In my PhD research I found that gay migrants who stayed and settled in Paris had no intention to seek asylum, and therefore were not classified as “refugees”. Built upon the framework of forced migration, I propose a new conceptual type of migration: “the migration of the joyful”. As a second observation, I examine how gay migrants interact with their family in Indonesia, in particular the nuclear family, framed by family support. I observed that even if they are far from each other, they are able to create and build a space which I call a “private space in distance”. This “space” is created through the internet and the massif use of social media. With the social media, an intimate space between two parties can be created even though the families know the sexual orientation of their sons. Because conventionally families rejected their children with a different sexual orientation, this is a new development of intergenerational relations between gay sons and their parents.


Paper 2: Intergenerational Relations between Thai Marriage Migrants in Austria and their Left-behind Families

Kosita Butratana
University of Vienna

The Marriage of Thai women with Western men is a popular phenomenon. Statistics and existing studies show that many of them live abroad as so called marriage migrants who aim to marry into richer countries while further studies indicate the relationship between Thai female migration and prostitution. This presentation looks at the case of Thai marriage migrants in Austria and explores their transnational and intergenerational relations with left-behind families by focusing on their parents and children.
In Asia, marriage is traditionally connected to family interests and it is expected that ‘good daughters’ take care of their parents or siblings (Lu and Yang 2010). In migration contexts, it is argued that instead of individuals, households or families play the central role in migration decision making (Stark and Bloom 1985). Thai society places greater expectations on females in terms of care and economic support for their parents or siblings, which in turn views income-related migration out of the village as their duty. Sunanta and Angeles (2009) observed that many formerly poor women from Northeastern Thailand have adopted new roles as Farang brides, family providers, landowners or entrepreneurs through transnational marriage. There are thus high expectations of family members and the migrants themselves if they move abroad as marriage migrants. Based on ethnographic research in Austria and Thailand I explore intergenerational relations, obligations and contestation on economic, social, and emotional levels.


Paper 3: What They Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Them: Thai students’ education in Western universities and what it reveals about Thai parental authority

Kunnaya Wimooktanon
University of Manchester

The paper focuses on one aspect of an ongoing study in to the motivation behind and the experiences of Thai students studying in post-secondary education establishments in Australia, the USA and the UK. Affluent Bangkok-based elites were targeted as participants as sociological research in to this particular group is scarce. The paper is based on interviews in Bangkok and past research to demonstrate how a field’s dominant discourse about the West can shape a student’s experience.
The first tranche of interviews has found that by talking about their experiences overseas, the participants reveal an insight in to the way they perceive their relation with their parents and the need to find an ‘acceptable’ means of attaining independence. This need to find ‘acceptability’ reveals a pattern of parent-‘child’ power relations that is not based a parent’s unquestioned authority to define truths, but is rather born out of a power relationship which is spatially and temporally limited – requiring a synchronicity of the habitus and the field of both the parental and ‘child’ actors. The requirement of actors’ habitus and field synchronicity is shown through the way the participants explain their change in behaviour whilst overseas and the evolution of their experience of parental authority before, during, and after their overseas degree.

The findings of this paper give insight into how Thai individuals deal with an alienating experience. Moreover, it shows how these alienating experiences can reveal insights in the working of power relations within their home fields. The paper thus highlights the utility of adapting a Bourdieuian framework for the study of changing intergenerational power relations though the alienating experiences of Thai students.


Paper 4: Preah Vihear Conflict and intergenerational views from local people in Thailand and Cambodia

Socheat Nhean
School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS London

Although, Thailand and Cambodia took turn over the ownership of Preah Vihear temple from the past century until 1962, local people of both sides had been enjoyed economic benefit and cultural landscapes of the temple for years prior to recent conflict. The temple has been the common religious center and sacred site for the two countries as they share similar cultures, traditions, and religious beliefs. According tod the Cambodian vendors and guards who have settled at the temple since 2000, Thais and Cambodians alike visit the temple, pray, burn incense, and conduct religious ceremonies at the temple. However, the enlisting of the temple as World Heritage site in July 2008 sparked nationalistic protest across the two countries. In spite of this conflict, local people of both sides continue to view the temple as the site of sacredness and potential economic benefit and urge the governments of both sides to maintain peace and security in the area. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with local Thai and Cambodian residents this paper describes the importance of the Preah Vihear temple for older and younger generations in the light of the peace and harmony they once enjoyed. I argue that although the conflict has caused people on both sides to provoke nationalism, local residents have views on the conflict that differ from those who live at distance from the World Heritage Site. My paper also addresses the question of cultural heritage transmission within this context of social inequality among and between different generations along the Thai-Cambodian border.