Delivering Home, Gendered Labor and The Consumption of Intimacy in The Vietnamese Diaspora
Focusing on intimacy, this study is situated at the intersection of Food Studies, Critical Refugee Studies and Gender Studies. Centering on cơm tháng (monthly rice), a meal delivery service that mimics the format of traditional Vietnamese family meals, this project interrogates Vietnamese American women’s agency and negotiation of gendered labor within the private realm (the home and the family unit) and the quest for home through food consumption. The analysis of this study is drawn from materials collected through oral interviews, English and non-English materials, including printed, online newspaper articles, blog posts and online forums. The gendered and patriarchal relations of a home are manifested in the mundane acts of cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping and even driving, all of which are integral to food preparation. Cơm tháng provides an entry point to the domain of intimacy; it sheds light on shifting family structures, gendered labor roles, Vietnamese women’s agency, and fissures within the Vietnamese diaspora. Cơm tháng illuminates the affective labor and the double shifts performed by women that are often invisibilized, shows that cơm tháng's providers participate in the patriarchal construction of the home while exerting their agency and helping other women fulfilling their second shifts. The consumption of cơm tháng also presents a form of forced queering of the heteronormative home.