As emblems of otherness in a space devoted to commercial and human exchanges and dedicated to mercantilism, Vietnamese women who cross the border and now live in areas bordering China have quickly come to represent their country—in the eyes of Chinese people—as a figure of marginal femininity. Observed, dated, used but rarely understood in a linguistic and cultural sense, it is their strong, sensual, and docile bodies that are primarily considered. Contradictory and accommodating images emerge and then expand in the discourses, portraying these women as submissive spouses, tireless workers, prostitutes, manipulators, heartless pragmatists, devoted companions, and ambiguous merchants. This articles explores how, between perception and experience, these women's availability, in every sense of the term, makes them both attractive and suspicious, and how their alliances with Chinese men crystallizes the social atmosphere of a border city like Hekou.
Between Bitterness and Sweetness, When Bodies Say it All: Chinese Perspectives on Vietnamese Women in a Border Space
Caroline Grillot is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University, Australia. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation as a visiting scholar in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. The author would like to thank her colleague Sverre Molland, her supervisors Lisa Wynn and Pál Nyíri, and Mandy Thomas for their useful comments during the writing of this article, as well as the Vietnamese women settled in the Sino-Vietnamese border areas for their inspiring personalities.
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Caroline Grillot; Between Bitterness and Sweetness, When Bodies Say it All: Chinese Perspectives on Vietnamese Women in a Border Space. Journal of Vietnamese Studies 1 January 2012; 7 (1): 106–148. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/vs.2012.7.1.106
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