In Malaysia, state surveillance of “illicit” (i.e. pre/extra-marital) intimacy and societal expectations create pressures to marry, but various legal, bureaucratic, and logistical reasons have led many couples to pursue alternative avenues to marriage. This includes contracting a cross-border marriage in Thailand — in circumvention and contravention, but with full knowledge of the Malaysian state – which has become a popular but scandalous route to polygamy.
At IIAS, I will be working on publications based on my doctoral research to address how cross-border marriage and polygamy may be a response to changing marriage patterns in Malaysia, as well as the contentious nature of, and intolerance for, pre/extra-marital intimacy through various levels of state-led moral surveillance. I am also interested in looking at the ambivalence on the part of the state in the regulation of cross-border marriages, which have resulted in the reconfiguration of state legislations on marriage and stronger collaborations between the Malaysian Islamic bureaucracy and their Thai counterparts. A book manuscript based on this research is also underway.