Gender and Agency in Migration Decision-Making: Evidence from Vietnam


Hoang L.A. 2011. “Gender and Agency in Migration Decision-Making: Evidence from Vietnam.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37 (9): 1441-57.

Author: L. A. Hoang


This paper examines the influences of gender as an identity on an individual's ability to exercise agency in decision-making about internal migration in Vietnam. Women and men exert agency with reference to prevailing social norms in order to negotiate for or against their own migration and that of others. It has been well recognised that, beyond sex, their specific gender identity as mothers or fathers, daughters or sons, husbands or wives, etc. impacts on who can migrate for what kind of work. However, this study explores the more neglected ways in which gender structures migration. While my findings show that decision-making about migration was overwhelmingly consensual in nature, this did not necessarily mean that migration was equally in everyone's best interests. Women's agency around their own migration was in part constrained because they were forced to negotiate for their interests whilst trying to preserve family harmony. While social norms supported men's power to make unilateral decisions and while they resorted to powerful threats of divorce to get their own way, this did not prevent wives from resisting unwelcome decisions by ‘passive' means. The paper deepens feminist insights into the ways in which migration is gendered.

Keywords: identity, internal migration, agency, feminist, gender identity, social norms, Vietnam, migration decision-making

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Feminisms, Gender, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Vietnam

Year: 2011

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