This article examines the power of law to constitute which intimacies are deemed legitimate for a larger project of national reproduction. It focuses on two contested marriage cases in Taiwan that involved a transnational union and a transgender marriage. The article introduces the concept of “stranger anxiety” to underscore the legal and bureaucratic work necessary to constitute heterosexual marriage as the basis for citizenship inclusion. Working from these two cases, the article analyzes how the Taiwanese government produces an equivalence between heterosexual unions and citizenship eligibility and how it uses law to mold diverse intimacies to fit normative models of domesticity and binary sex/gender. By asking what social imaginaries and intimate relations are foreclosed as a consequence, the article interprets these proliferations of law and bureaucratic discretion as signs of intense anxiety concerning the status of the heterosexual family and the place of the stranger within the nation.
Stranger Anxiety: Failed Legal Equivalences and the Challenges of Intimate Recognition in Taiwan
Sara L. Friedman is a professor of anthropology and gender studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author of Exceptional States: Chinese Immigrants and Taiwanese Sovereignty (2015) and coeditor of Migrant Encounters: Intimate Labor, the State, and Mobility across Asia (2015) and Wives, Husbands, and Lovers: Marriage and Sexuality in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Urban China (2014). Her current research studies Chinese families that abandon an urban, middle-class existence in favor of alternative lifestyles and educational opportunities for their children.
Sara L. Friedman; Stranger Anxiety: Failed Legal Equivalences and the Challenges of Intimate Recognition in Taiwan. Public Culture 1 September 2017; 29 (3 (83)): 433–455. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-3869536
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