Multiform Transmission and Belonging: Buddhist Social Spaces of Thai Migrant Women in Belgium
Keywords:Belgium, Buddhist Social Space, Multiform Transmission, Thai Buddhist Temples, Thai Migrant Women
The Thai migration to Belgium is numerically a woman-led phenomenon, which has captured social attention for the last decades. This attention entails stereotypes about Thai migrant women as ‘workers’ in the intimate industry and/or ‘exotic wives’ of Belgian men. To challenge these stereotypes, the present paper explores the often-ignored dimension of Thai women’s sociality. Specifically, it examines the transmission dynamics occurring in their Buddhist social spaces, which shape and reinforce their sense of belonging. To do so, it draws from ethnographic fieldwork with Thai migrant women and key social actors within the Thai population in the country. Data analysis unveils that these women engage in multiform modes of transmission in their Buddhist social spaces. First, they transmit good deeds from the material world to the spiritual realm through merit-making practices and by seeking spiritual guidance in the temple. Second, they pass their socio-cultural ways of belonging to their children by engaging in different socializing activities. And third, they involve themselves in sharing religious faith, material symbols, and tastes described as part of Thai culture. Through this multiform transmission, Thai migrant women confront in subtle ways the common-held views about them at the intersection of their various identities as spouses, mothers, citizens, and Buddhist devotees.
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