Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Fictitious Kinship

Intimacy, Relatedness and Boundaries in the Life of Hanoi's Migrant Domestic Workers

Minh T. N. Nguyen

Keywords: boundary; domestic service; intimacy; relatedness; Vietnam

This article argues that migrant domestic workers in Hanoi practise a form of fictitious kinship to carve out personal spaces away from their rural home. Biographical narratives of domestic workers who are unusually devoted to forging emotional ties with their employers indicate that they tend to have problematic private lives. Beyond emotional labour, the performance of fictitious kinship entails significant personal investment on the part of women, at times generating mutual feelings and relationships between them and certain members of the employers' household. These relationships are crucial to their personal transformations, helping them construct new identities and opening up possibilities for challenging the power hierarchy in their home. Yet such constructed kinship is treacherous and uncertain, not just because of its foundation is their commodified labour, subject to the rules of the market, but also due to the dangers of intimate encounters in the private sphere.

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or log in to access all content.