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Visualizing Birth Tourism on Social Media: Taiwanese Expectant Mothers in the United States

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Mobile Media and Social Intimacies in Asia

Abstract

This chapter examines how birth tourists visualize their daily spatial experiences through producing and sharing digital photography on social media. It is primarily based on semi-structured interviews and informal conversations with Taiwanese women who have participated in birth tourism in Los Angeles, California. The findings illuminate how photo-sharing activities are shaped by norms both intrinsic and extrinsic to social media platforms as well as how birth tourists make sense of the complex power dynamics underlying the politics of Asian transnational intimacy. First, they illustrate the racialized, gendered, and classed subjectivities of the informants manifested in the informants’ visualization of the spatiality of birth tourism. The informants primarily took and uploaded photos of leisure settings around the metropolitan area of LA outside of the Chinese-speaking ‘ethnic enclave’ of the neighborhoods where they stayed. Whereas the co-ethnic spaces are understood as sites for ordinary everyday life, which is not photo worthy, urban localities marked by white, middle-class consumerism are perceived as extraordinary spectacles to be viewed, recorded, and shared. Second, the informants carefully selected the audiences for these consumerism-themed photos on social media. This is because birth tourists are largely constructed by their Taiwanese audiences as upper-class women abusing their reproductive bodies for the transnational exploitation of capital, labor, and loyalty. The careful selection of audiences is also closely linked to a gendered spatial norm regarding reproductive women, which associates pregnant women’s hypermobility and excessive pleasure with irresponsible motherhood.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Jus Soli refers to birthright citizenship, the right of anyone born in a country to become a citizen of that country.

  2. 2.

    While all three software products are largely referred to as messaging services, they differ in several ways. While all three products allow for textual, audio and video-based interactions, both LINE and Skype are popular among mobile phone users as mobile applications as MSN was discontinued in 2013 and remained primarily a computer-based product.

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Correspondence to Tingyu Kang .

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Kang, T. (2020). Visualizing Birth Tourism on Social Media: Taiwanese Expectant Mothers in the United States. In: Cabañes, J.V.A., Uy-Tioco, C.S. (eds) Mobile Media and Social Intimacies in Asia. Mobile Communication in Asia: Local Insights, Global Implications. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1790-6_8

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