Reviewsbook by Kaisa Nissi Intermarriage & Mixed Parenting book written by Rashmi Singla



njmrnjmrnjmrNordic Journal of Migration Research1799-649XDe Gruyternjmr-2016-001010.1515/njmr-2016-0010Book ReviewsBook ReviewsKaisa NissiMA (email)33Doctorate Student, Department of History and Ethnology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland162016237201662132138SinglaRashmi (2015) Intermarriage and Mixed Parenting, Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing. Crossover Love, Houndsmills, Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave MacMillan. 249 pp.© 2016 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston2016 Mixed marriages has been an issue that has defined the limits and borders of normality and accepted love in Danish society, as Rashmi Singla’s newly published book clearly shows. Dr. Rashmi Singla, an associate professor at the Department of Psychology and Educational Research at the Roskilde University in Denmark, and her research team, have conducted a research about eight couples with Danish-Asian backgrounds. Singla has then used the interview material for widening the cultural theory perspectives to mental health counselling and family therapy. In this book, Singla discusses the questions, challenges and possibilities that mark the journey of mixed marriages in a Nordic society from the mixed couples’ own point of view. Her analysis attempts to combine both the everyday life experiences and her own experiences of psychosocial practicing (p. 60), which makes the aim unique and challenging. Themes in the book discuss the meaning-making processes of everyday interactions among mixed families (p. 59), which Singla has done by analysing narratives of interviewed people, and their negotiations of identity. The book consists of nine chapters. Singla starts with the introduction to Danish history of mixedness, the research material and interviewees. Analytic chapters concentrate on couples’ narratives of falling in love, everyday life practices such as bringing up children, and finally public gaze, and implications on mental health counselling. Singla uses the concepts of transnationalism and intersectionalism to explain the experiences of cultural mixedness. Singla writes that one of the inspirations for the book is the science of intimate relationship (Flecther et. al. 2013). She explains that a common, universal goal for human life is to achieve a romantic, intimate partnership and love, often in a permanent or long-term relationship, and the conditions for searching for that love have changed due to globalization process (pp. 2-3). This assumption of basic need for intimate relation and love lead the book and analysis. Singla emphasises that love marriages are not only Western forms of marriages but they are psychologically common and found in some form in all cultures. This can be seen as opposite to a discussion of culturally defined categories of ‘love marriage’ and ‘arranged’ or ‘forced’ marriages (pp. 23–25), the latter typically connected to non-Western, Asian cultures. In relation to this topic, Singla shows examples from the interviews: she argues that love marriages are culturally approved in the Nordic society, and so Danish-Asian mixed couples emphasise their love marriage to defend their ‘true’ love and normality in relation to experienced ‘otherness’. As mixed couples may confront many prejudices, they constantly need to keep their marriages looking (like) happy in the eyes of the other people. As Singla writes, the couples in the study reflect their marriages in the light of other people’s expectations and reactions, and talk about love in relation to these aspects (p. 73). In Western history mixed marriages have been controlled, condemned and questioned, and foreign spouses have been largely ignored in Denmark. Danish nation is pictured as monogenic, ethnically and religiously simplified, white, Christian, and despite the presence of minorities, this image has been strong. Danish history of marriages is based on the idea of intra-cultural marriages, and mixedness is commonly ignored in publicity. As Singla reminds, one can still talk about racial illiteracy in Danish society. Thus, intermarriages challenge images of family and normality, Singla argues (p. 40), and she continues by referring to Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim (2002) who said that intermarried couples constitute a problem of social order in a Danish culture. The experiences that immigrants and mixed families go through are present in public discourses and experiences of all ‘coloured’, and this book aims to give a voice for those who are ethnically, visibly different (p. 1). The final, and possibly the freshest, part of the book was about the implications that were made for understanding the culture-specific questions in family therapy – even if it could have been a bit wider in scope. Singla starts by saying that dynamics within an intermarriage are related to mental well-being of families and its members, and relationships and family formation are culturally negotiated (p. 59). In mental health and family therapy, patients and clients are treated without taking their cultural background into account, and that is something that the author criticises: good intentions of cultural equality may end up in racial illiteracy, which ignores questions that are related to multicultural identities. The author reminds that cultural issues may raise challenges that so-called normal couples do not have, but inter-cultural questions are often neglected in family therapy sessions (pp. 220-225). Singla goes on to add that it often seems that both couples and therapists refuse to accept culture’s effect on the marriage. If so, a professional should be able to see a full picture and analyse the couple in wider context, to understand cultural and societal situation in which an immigrant spouse is living in, and how power hierarchy is constructed in the family and in the cultural context. This demands a lot from a therapist, and as Singla emphasises, academic research about cultural aspects and migration is seldom present in practical therapies (pp. 220-225). The author herself has an Indian background, which she openly admits, and at the same time uses as a tool to get closer to research participants. Singla has been able to use her immigrant background for understanding the issues related to topic and it is likely that this has helped her to discuss the sensitive cultural issues as well. On the other hand, the book reminds us that even if cultural traits, habits and tradition have their impact on individual’s life, the intersections of age, socio-economic status, education and personal history should be seen even more important than ethnicity and culture. Intersectionalism is used as a tool for understanding the experiences that people have in a contesting, multi-layered environment, and for mixed couples those intersections pose challenges when they try to create common lives. Personal, educational and social factors are often more important than ethnic or cultural issues in individual’s life course. Singla uses the concepts of‘Global North–Global South’ to describe Danish-Asian marriages and global movements from ‘poor South’ to ‘prosperous North’. The stereotypes of gendered marriage migrants may create hierarchical assumptions between spouses, and later on, spouses may unconsciously recreate those stereotypes in their everyday lives. The book finally leaves the question, how these stereotypes can be overcome but cultural background still taken seriously. Singla manages to enlighten the experiences of mixed couples and asks important questions about multi-cultural counselling and its challenges in her book. Singla shows from the material that the marriages may go through three different phases in their lifecycle, and couples’ narratives are related to the phase that their marriage is currently in (pp. 90–91). The honeymoon phase, family establishment phase and the settled phase are present in everyday discussions and practices, and most of all different phases create different challenges and solutions in therapy. Singla’s notions about cultural and individual intersections in couples’ lives are illustrative and intriguing, but author’s simple idea of marriage and love slightly troubles the reader. Even though the book has a strong, culturally sensitive background and it discusses the cultural aspects of marriage and tradition, the analysis concentrates mostly on modern, narrow understandings of human life and love. However, the book discusses topical and challenging issues in Nordic countries and narratives of interviewed couples make the study worth reading. Also the impact on mental health perspective could have been wider: the analysis of narratives and everyday life experiences is interesting, deeply needed knowledge, but stronger practical implications or applied aspects might have brought the book on to another level, as it now concentrates more on general cultural analysis and gets occasionally lost in multiple themes. The book is anyhow a fascinating and valuable opening for discussion about immigration, mixed marriages, family therapy and mental health.
Periode6 aug. 2014