Thousands of Taiwanese men have relocated to China for economic opportunities, leaving behind wives and children. Although many those Taiwanese marriages and families remain intact at least in the form despite long-term separations lasting years and even decades, their marital and father-children relations are characterized as disjunctures in their expectations for and associations with each other over the long period of being apart. This paper takes “intimacy jet lag” as a metaphor to explore how Taiwanese businessmen and their wives who act as “situational singles” in relations to their marital status and responsibilities, have different expectations and practices in their conjugal relations with each other and in their relationships with their children at different stage of their separation. This paper shows the fluidity of marital and family relations across temporal and spatial scales and argues that disjunctures in intimacy generate both chaos and agency for individuals and families.
Hsiu-hua Shen is an associate professor at the Institute of Sociology, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan where since she has been teaching since 2006. She is also a faculty member of the Center for Contemporary China at the University. Her areas of teaching and research are migration, gender studies, the sociology of intimacy, and everyday life of social class. Her research addresses how structural constraints and opportunities work to shape everyday social relations and identity formation particularly through the lens of gender, sexuality, class, and nationality. She is currently working on two research projects: Transnational families of Taiwanese business people in Taiwan and China, and the relationship between marriage and housing in contemporary urban China. She has published articles from her research projects and is currently working on her book on transnational families of Taiwanese business people across the Taiwan Strait.