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Fictitious Kinship

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

Minh T. N. Nguyen

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.

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Playing the edge ball

The politics of transgression in land development in southern China

Lan Wei and Minh T.N. Nguyen

This article analyzes a particular form of everyday politics through the case of land development in a Chinese village. Commonly referred to as edge ball politics (cabianqiu), it implies the act of transgressing certain rules or laws and testing the limits of what is socially and legally possible. We found that the state, the village leadership, private developers, and villagers all vie to influence the outcomes of land development in the village by engaging in this practice. We suggest that edge ball politics plays into the Chinese state’s governing strategies, which allow for a manageable space of negotiation to ward off a collective sense of injustice in the face of rampant dispossession of the weak and accumulation by the powerful.