Security, protection, and family norms: Gendered and selective regulations of marriage and migration in Italy and Portugal


  • Marianna Bacci Tamburlini University of Lisbon


This paper engages in a critical reflection on specific normative policies concerning migration and family in two contemporary European contexts. The analysis is based on fieldwork carried out in Portugal and Italy1, exploring the discourses and practices concerning the marriage of undocumented migrants in the context of the construction of “marriage of convenience” control policies. The underlying hypothesis is that the policing of mobility and intimate lives reproduces inequalities by intervening on the opportunities and constraints faced by some categories of migrants. Grounded in the literature exploring these mechanisms as part of broader processes of migrant inclusion and exclusion in the context of global human mobilities, the analysis problematizes both the criminalizing and victimizing perspectives on “undocumented migration”. On one side, the paper will discuss the problematic -and gendered- assumptions underpinning restrictive migratory policies. These include the invocation of “security” purposes, the protection of “vulnerable” groups, and the safeguard of national “family norms” in order to corroborate the restriction of migrant‟s rights. On the other side, the paper will give a brief overview of current laws, policies and institutional practices in the case studies, stemming from the preliminary qualitative analysis of empirical materials collected for the broader PhD project. These data indicate that rather than reaching their alleged goals, such restrictive migration control apparatuses potentially produce and reproduce the stratification of subjects along gender, socioeconomic and national origin lines.