Future-making and femininity: education, marriage and migration in (im)possible upward social mobilities
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on Vietnamese women’s experiences of being and becoming middle-class, I explore how their hopes, dreams and fantasies can be realized with investments of considerable resources in education, marriage and migration to create future opportunities for new social, economic and gendered status.
Paper long abstract:
Marriage is a recognized strategy for women to gain social status, economic security and new experiences beyond the natal family. Yet, marriage strategies can be risky for young Vietnamese middle-class women in realizing their desires for a better future. In the Vietnamese context, postsocialist reform offers both 'persevering' and 'active' hope (Zigon 2009). Future-making is complicated by footprints and legacies not only of socialism, but also postcolonialism and war which have shaped affects, desires, visions, fears and dreams of the middle classes. Kin have experienced upward then downward social mobility with transformations of political and economic structures in 1945, 1954, 1975 and 1986. Nevertheless, in contesting, shaping and imagining their futures, family, school and mass media have remained central in competing processes of socialization that form encultured dispositions and reproduce class cultures. Differential access to privileges enables individuals to transform themselves and exert an influence on others across 'multidimensional' families, where different members occupy qualitatively different social status positions, so long as the forms of capital (Bourdieu 1984) they embody can be deciphered as signals of cultural sophistication. Drawing on Vietnamese women's experiences of being and becoming middle-class, I explore how their hopes, dreams and fantasies can be realized with investments of considerable resources in creating future opportunities for new social, economic and gendered status. For some, this can be achieved through education and career. For others, transnational marriage is a possibility that enables them to evade cultural expectations that oblige their subordination to oppressive feminine norms of the past.
Im)possible lives: on futures as process