Negotiating mixedness/ Danishness- visibly intermarried couples in Denmark

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Social- and health sector professionals, researchers and policy-makers recognise the increasing ethnic diversity in the Nordic countries, though not so much the potentials as well as risks involved in the increasing partnership formation across the ethnic borders. Such partnerships- marriages and co-habitation, challenge notions of ‘us’ and ‘others’ as they challenge the dominant norms social norms of endo-/ homogamy.

This paper is based on an empirical project to gain insights about the dynamics related to mental health among the intermarried couples, attempting to improve the accessibility and further development of psychosocial services for those facing problems.

The presentation primarily focuses on the Danish partner among the visible ethnically mixed couples (Phoenix, 2011) bringing in the concept of racial literacy, among others inspired by the study of Swedish attitudes to intermarriage(Torngren,2011).The couples are formed across the ‘colour’ divisions- one partner is native Danish, while the other originated from South Asia (India, Pakistan). In other words, one partner originates from the global North and the other from the global South.

The theoretical framework of the project is interdisciplinary, combining cultural psychology transnationalism, and life-course perspectives. The couples’ social relational strategies and how they act as subjects to create their own identity spaces are perceived as a part of their mental health.
The results indicate both the opportunities and the risks involved, highlight not only the internal aspects- family relationships, but also a variety of social influences on subjectively experienced feelings and expressive behaviour -- the external aspect , such as the structural aspects, gaze towards couples’ visible differences. This is in line with Kenny & Kenny, 2012’s conclusion that partner’s racial differences are a major concern in the negotiation of their interactions with others in society
However, at the same time, the division between internal and external is problematical, while the feelings of acceptance and belongings across contexts are emphasised. Narratives illustrate the strategies and dilemma involved in managing the everyday life as a couple. Moreover, the results include their experiences in transmitting racial literacy- identifying racism as a serious problem and actively preparing their children to cope with it. These people are challenged to deal with the society’s obsession with the ethic/ racial differences for themselves as well as their children.
These dynamics, grounded in couples’ life trajectories form basis for some suggestions for relevant mental health for policy and services, combining health promotion and psychosocial service for couples who experience problems. These suggestions include professionals’ examination of myths, perceptions about the ‘others’ within a framework an ethical framework, acknowledging own social location and ethnic/ racial and gender power in the therapeutic encounter.

The project is affiliated to CEBUFF and CSUF in Roskilde University and there is a collaboration with Niles Bohr Centre for Cultural Psychology Aalborg University and Department of Human development & Childhood Studies, University of Delhi.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2013
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventIMISCOE 10th Annual Conference: Crisis and Migration – Perceptions, Challenges and Consequences - Malmø University, Malmø, El Salvador
Duration: 26 Aug 201327 Aug 2013


ConferenceIMISCOE 10th Annual Conference
LocationMalmø University
Country/TerritoryEl Salvador

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