Living ‘private life in the public gaze’: Multiethnic/visibly ethnically mixed couples in Denmark

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Living ‘private life in the public gaze’: Multiethnic/visibly ethnically mixed couples in Denmark
This paper deals with the subjective experiences of the mixed couples’ lives, both in the country of native partner and in the diasporic spouse’s country of origin. Despite increasing numbers and academic attention towards marriages across the (ethnic) borders, couples’ own voices have hardly been focused at in the Scandinavian context, characterized by apparent homogeneity, historical silencing of mixedness and colorblind ideology. Closely intertwining of life ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ aspects is acknowledged, yet the paper centers on ‘outside’ aspects.
Ten in-depth interviews and two case studies (Singla, 2015*) of couples across ethnic/religious borders - one native Danish partner and the other originating from India/ Pakistan, form the presentation’s empirical basis. Cultural psychology forms the background of the theoretical framework, foregrounded by a combination of intersectionality, everyday life perspective and transnationalism. The narratives are thematically analysed through meaning condensation and coding.
The analyses of the narratives show how ethnicity, gender and socio-economic belonging interact, influencing the salience and silencing of some identities. Racial/ethnic identity may be perceived as “master identity” for some, not for others because ethnic identity can be fluid and may change over the course of one’s life.
The results indicate the responses to gaze (looked at intently - visible object), to which persons who are phenotypically different to the majority population are subjected, both in Denmark and in the diaspora partner’s country of origin. Awareness/racial literacy and indifference are the dominant strategies are perceived as recurring patterns among the participants in the present study. The former is illustrated through an awareness of the discrimination processes they face in different social domains such as the labour market, the stereotypical views of family members, negative attitudes of personnel in the children’s day care institutions, curious questions, while the example of latter are pushing the topic of family history into margins at personal level; partner history, and family traditions were not brought to the couples’ marriage at dyadic level implying selective amnesia; majority partner displays a tendency to “not notice” discourses about unequal power and privilege. It is concluded that overlooking/ underplaying the gaze and the other implications of racism in the short term may be an adaptive strategy in a racist society, but over time such strategies can precipitate conflicted/ fragmented racial /ethnic identities -detrimental to both the partners and the next generation. Profound implications of these findings for psychosocial services for mixed couples and their children are lastly discussed.

*Singla, R. (2015) “Intermarriage, Mixed Parenting, Promoting mental health and wellbeing: Crossover Love Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan

Original languageEnglish
Publication date1 Aug 2016
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
EventMigration and social inequality: Global perspectives – new boundaries - UiO- University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Duration: 11 Aug 201612 Aug 2016


ConferenceMigration and social inequality
LocationUiO- University of Oslo
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Bidrag til Workshop session 4 - '7. Multiracial and multiethnic experience from Nordic and Global Perspectives'

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