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Fear and survival in Thailand: Emotional Suffering among ‘Burma’ Migrant Women
In order to distinguish essays and pre-prints from academic theses, we have a separate category. These are often much longer text based documents than a paper.
The experiences described and analysed in this thesis are based on 10 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Chiang Mai City and along the Thai-Burma border between October 2011 and July 2012. Twenty-six migrant women from Burma, mostly of Shan ethnicity, and 16 migrant support service workers, took part in in-depth interviews, although over 200 migrant women contributed to this research in less formal capacities through participant observation contexts such as workshops and social events. The women’s narratives articulate the ways in which their everyday experiences of emotional suffering are bridged to the broader social and political structures that weigh heavily upon their ‘migrant’ lives in Thailand. Oppressive structural forces not only cause emotional suffering, but restrict one’s coping resources when emotionally distressed, so survival migrants devise unique coping strategies in order to live with this pain. The experiences documented in this thesis call into question the utility of western conceptualisations of emotional suffering and associated diagnostic labelling, in contexts where structural violence and ‘cumulative trauma’ occurs.