Spectral kinship: Understanding how Vietnamese women endure domestic distress

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Endurance is a key term used by women in contemporary Vietnam to characterize the moral persistence that their marital lives demand. Accounting for women's endurance requires, as fieldwork in Hanoi indicates, ethnographic attention to how kinship can be temporally and spatially capricious, exceeding the immediately manifest. The concept of spectral kinship aims to capture these latent aspects of kinship and their groundings in people's imaginative lives. Defining relatedness as an imaginal accomplishment, an analytic of spectral kinship draws attention to aspects of social existence that are neither “real” nor “delusional” yet socially powerful nevertheless. Approaching Vietnamese women's endurance through the lens of spectral kinship highlights the invisible, imaginal efforts that women make to cope with the vulnerabilities and contingencies of kinship, thereby bringing into analysis crucial yet often undervalued forms of gendered kin-work. [domestic distress, endurance, gender, imaginal, hauntology, kinship, spectrality, Vietnam].

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)22-36
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

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© 2021 by the American Anthropological Association

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