In France and Belgium, residence permits issued to migrants from the global south married to French or Belgian citizens have consistently risen since the mid-1990s. These unions – depicted as a legal loophole that give migrants cover to secure residency, sometimes by taking advantage of unsuspecting citizens, and as fuel for ‘ethnic separatism’ when migrants marry citizens of migration background – have been targeted by law reforms in the 2000s designed to discourage them and hurdle consequent applications for temporary and permanent residence, and citizenship acquisitions.
My Identities article, ‘Family rights-claiming as act of citizenship: an intersectional perspective on the performance of intimate citizenship’, examines the enforcement of such provisions and its climate from the standpoint of French and Belgian citizens who want to marry or are already married to non-European migrants. Precisely, it draws on the experiences of national partners who, seeking legal help from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), participate in their advocacy actions. Some partners wish to overcome minute, intrusive and discretionary migration controls and administrative blockages for marrying or applying for residence, while others seek the annulment of their marriage claiming to have been cheated by their migrant partners. Although diametrically opposed, the intimate and administrative experiences of these partners erode the boundaries between their intimacy and citizenship.
I encountered such experiences while observing four NGOs with contrasting approaches to marriage migration. Two NGOs concerned with the administrative mistreatment of partners during marriage and migration formalities demand full respect of private and family rights. Another NGO, concerned with migratory abuse towards national partners, demand more state intervention to protect citizens. Interestingly, an NGO for each type exists both in Belgium and France. In fact, in both countries, bureaucratic practices and public discourses regarding mixed-immigration status unions have overlapping similarities, even though Belgian policies are more restrictive than French policies (e.g. Belgium requires its citizens to comply with the same conditions for migrants for family reunification – namely strict income, housing and social protection over five years – for their migrant spouse to obtain and maintain a residence permit).
In choosing to work with a particular NGO, national partners become aware of their own and/or their couple’s rights. NGOs give voice to their divergent grievances: in one case, to its own state’s unattended scrutiny and, in the other, about state lack of protection. The reformulation of personal and administrative injustice into rights claims led these partners to assert that they fully deserve the rights of citizenship on the basis of or despite their affective choice.
Thanks to these partners’ narratives, I show that citizenship is not just a matter of status and membership, but a practice rooted in individuals’ intimate and private experiences. To put this simply, citizenship is more what individuals do than what individuals have. I demonstrate how the national partners’ experiences of citizenship vary according to their gender and race. White women and partners with migration backgrounds, whether men or women, experience a deterioration of their supposed universal citizenship by the state apparatus. Nationals from migration backgrounds felt like second-class citizens suspected to an open migratory chain; their origin and their affective choice discredit their status and voice. When autochthonous white women are sometimes regarded as either naïve victims or criminals for choosing a black or Arab partner over, for instance, a white American or British partner, they are buried into the racial and social stigma that already affect their partners. Suspected of sham marriages or victims of migratory scam, their state asks them to repent for their inappropriate choice that puts in danger the whiteness of the nation.
Blog post by Laura Odasso, Collège de France, France
Read the full article: Odasso, Laura. Family rights-claiming as act of citizenship: an intersectional perspective on the performance of intimate citizenship. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1723309
The Domari Gypsy community of Jerusalem is relatively small; estimates suggest it comprises around 111 families. The numbers are larger in Gaza and the West bank, where it is estimated there are 15,000. Many Palestinians and Israelis are not aware that this community lives at the heart of city.
In the Arab world, and East Jerusalem included, Domari people are referred to as 'Nawar', a term which is said to be derived from fire. The Tribal Leader of the Domari in Jerusalem says that the word 'Nawar' (related to Noor or ‘light’ in Arabic) was given to them because they came to Jerusalem with the Muslim fighter Noor Al Din Zenki who fought alongside Salah Al-Din in 1187. Another suggested reason for the name is that many of the Domari worked as blacksmiths who used fire. However, stigma and discrimination against the community has led the name 'Nawar' to be filled with negative connotations; the word has evolved to describe unruly behaviour, as an insult, and is very much in use in conversation today.
I started researching the Domari community in Jerusalem in 2017. Getting members of the community to engage in this research was not easy. Palestinians residing in occupied East Jerusalem, including the Domari community, are in constant fear and suspicion of people asking questions about their lives, due to the fact that they do not have settled citizenship status in Israel and they only have residency permits. Following the occupation of East Jerusalem, Israel granted the Palestinian community and the Domari community living there residency status. With no citizenship status in any other country, their fragile legal status makes them reluctant to share information about their lives, as they fear they risk losing their residency rights.
I managed to reach fifteen Domari women residing in Jerusalem and conducted in-depth interviews with them. Their narratives were analysed through an intersectional lens to expose the multiple oppressions to which they are subject. Their stories reveal high levels of stigma and isolation, which have disempowered members of the community and perpetuated the cycle of their exclusion. Exploring the social prospects and standing of Domari women in East Jerusalem, one needs to understand the power relations and the political and socio-economic hierarchies in the city. In the context of Jerusalem, the hegemonic forces of colonialism, capitalism and patriarchy shape the experiences of people residing in the city.
In my Identities article, 'The social exclusion of the Domari society of Gypsies in Jerusalem: a story narrated by the women of the tribe', I draw on these interviews and offer a description of the institutional discrimination Domari women face in Jerusalem from several aspects: their interaction with governmental institutions, their experiences in the labour market, the social services they receive, and their interaction with their surrounding community and neighbours. My article looks into the women's distinctive unequal and stigmatised social experiences in the city and the intersecting systems of power that create and reproduce their loss of status, and hence their exclusion.
These women's narrated stories reflect a feeling of isolation from both the Palestinian and Israeli communities. The women interviewed resided in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the city. Living under Israeli rule, the socially constructed value of their language, ethnicity and religion is less than that of Jewish Israeli citizens. Their residency status and lack of citizenship disempowers them further, curtailing their life opportunities. Their stigmatised identities as women from an ethnic minority result in several systems of oppression, operating against them simultaneously, denying them access to resources, equal social rights, work opportunities, wealth and power.
Blog post by Rawan Asali Nuseibeh, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Read the full article: Nuseibeh, Rawan Asali. The social exclusion of the Domari society of Gypsies in Jerusalem: a story narrated by the women of the tribe. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1738130