Essay on Contesting the Margins Mills
Author(s): Mary Beth Mills
Source: American Ethnologist, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Feb., 1997), pp. 37-61
Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/646565 .
Accessed: 18/04/2011 07:38
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In this brief passage a young Thai labor migrant gives an account of how she left home to begin urban employment at the age of 16.1 Central to this narrativeis the moral impetus of a daughter's obligation-"l would work really hard and save money to help my family"-that anchors Khem's story in the affective world of village kin and agricultural poverty. But this projection of virtue and self-sacrifice is paralleled by an alternate vision, that of the confident returningmigrantwith her "beautifulclothes" and teasing disdain for the sorryexistence of her ruralfriend. Khem'sthoughts, which propel her rapid departure, are animated as much by the idea of urban sophistication and accumulation as by her concern for the household economy.
Khem's narrative,which places kinship-based morality alongside desires for autonomy and commodified display, highlights widespread themes within rural-urbanmigration in contemporary Thailand. In these few sentences Khem constructs two potential selves: the "good daughter"who is motivated by emotional ties and a deep sense of responsibilityto ruralfamily, and the "modern woman" whose