One of the effects of the global intensification of mobility is the formation of multicultural and transnational families involving spouses with different citizenships, as well as linguistic, religious and cultural backgrounds.
Focusing on bi-national families involving a Senegalese and a European partner, I explored processes of family making in a diasporic context, from a gendered and cross-generational perspective. The diasporas concerned, here, are mainly Senegalese and French.
Families are a privileged lens through which processes of creolization and social convergence, as well as processes of exclusion, can be explored. The Senegalese-European case is particularly appropriate to explore the impact of diasporas on family-making thanks to the historical presence of a Senegalese diaspora in Europe and of European diasporas in Senegambia.
This project contributed to our understanding of the relationship between the resilience of diasporas over time and their integration into ‘host societies’.
Key research questions
- How relevant are differences of gender (i.e. whether the Senegalese partner is the husband or the wife), generation, formal education, place of residence, religious affiliation, social class, social status (‘caste’ in the Senegalese case), ethnicity and race to family-making in diaspora?
- How do people come to marry/form families across boundaries of citizenship, cultural background and often religious affiliation? To what extent do imaginations of ‘mixed’ marriage affect the choice of a partner and a place of residence?
- What is the impact of bi-national families on family-making in the societies in which they reside, in this case mainly France, the UK and Senegal?
- What is their impact on the diasporas to which they belong?
- Under what circumstances do these families delineate new ‘communities’?
- Do these families foster new practices and new modes of affiliation by virtue of their ‘creolized’ character?
- How do their trajectories and practices affect the identities of their children?
I gathered all available data on marriages between Senegalese and EU citizens. Quantitative data gathering began with the INED (Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques) for France, the Home Office for Britain and the ANSD (Agence Nationale de la Statistique et de la Démographie) in Senegal.
Ethnographic fieldwork and semi-structured interviews are the most appropriate methods used to approach family practices and the experiences of the people concerned, including children. A dedicated effort was made to include several generations of informants since the generational dimension of multinational family-making is an essential (and under-researched) dimension of this project.
Visual elicitation was carried out by collecting photographs from migrant spouses and using them as a tool in conversations with relatives in the country of origin, on both sides.
A limited amount of archive research was conducted on the history of ‘mixed’ marriage in the colony of Senegal.