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Extending One’s Spaces of Action in The Marital Sphere: Migration as a Resource

Nadia Mounchit

Research Framework: As part of a survey investigating the effects of the migratory experience on marital courses, this article discusses the modalities of rearrangements observed. An examination of the existing literature led us to notice the unequal consequences of migration on gender relations (between constraints and spaces of autonomy, especially for women), and yet the question of “how” such shifts are taking place remains to be explored (Catarino and Morokvasic, 2005).

Objectives: By considering the marital sphere as a locus crossed by power relations, what is at stake is to understand how the migratory situation affects the definition of the rules of marital life and in which ways it constitutes a resource available to individuals within the marital balance of powers.

Methodology: This work is based on the results from forty biographical interviews carried out during a doctoral research project with women who have emigrated from western and central Africa and settled in France.

Results: Three types of mobilization of the migratory situation, adopted by the migrant women themselves or by their partners, have been highlighted: migration as a locus of a normative framework providing new “rules” within the couple and its practices; as a locus of an administrative debt enforced on a joining partner; or as an alternative project to an unsatisfying marital situation. These uses of migration are crystallized in autonomy issues.

Conclusions: The migratory resource is used as leverage to concretely alter the forms of marital life.

Contribution: Herein, this article spotlights the effects of the migratory experience on the marital sphere, leading us to count it among the resources available to individuals.