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Gender, Migration and Intercultural Interactions in the Mediterranean and South East Europe: an interdisciplinary perspective

Final Report Summary - GE.M.IC. (Gender, Migration and Intercultural Interactions in the Mediterranean and South East Europe: an interdisciplinary perspective)

GE.M.IC studied cultural interactions in a European perspective through a tripartite conceptual and methodological approach, whose aim was to identify links between migration, gender and intercultural interaction. GE.M.IC approached these questions from a critical perspective emphasising the impact of migrant mobility and cultural diversity on gender relations in host, transit and sending societies. GE.M.IC critically assessed the theoretical and policy frameworks of intercultural interaction in the region of the Mediterranean and Southeast Europe in order to identify common patterns, divergences and possible challenges within and across national borders. GE.M.IC identified and analysed the intersections of migration and gender in intercultural relations in focus areas. Six thematic areas of study were developed through national case studies. This research strategy allowed partners to take advantage of their area of expertise and explore processes of intercultural interaction and hybridisation beyond current conceptualisations in order to contribute to the development of state-of-the-art research and policy recommendations.

Project context and objectives
- To produce a state-of-the-art contribution to the literature on gender, migration and intercultural relations, which will shed light on diverse cultural, historical, political, social, psychological, educational and economic factors, which facilitate or prohibit peaceful coexistence of different cultures.
- To contribute to the ongoing European debate and policymaking efforts to construct effective policies and institutions to manage cultural diversity and mobility and promote intercultural dialogue and cooperation.
- To examine and evaluate differences and similarities in practices of intercultural interaction between new, old and prospective European Member State.
- To enhance European debate on mobility and diversity and on prospects of intercultural dialogue and cooperation.

The objectives were realised through a tripartite conceptual and methodological approach.

A positive approach to migration

GE.M.IC looked at intercultural relations from the perspective of migration and the impacts of migration on cultural diversity and interactions in the region of the Mediterranean and Southeast Europe. The project took into consideration that current migrations significantly change the socio-cultural map of Europe and pose important questions. The demand for integration of foreign populations presents new and critical challenges. While acknowledging global inequalities, GE.M.IC focused on the positive impact of migration as a process and migrant groups and individuals as agents that challenge established power relations through the construction of intercultural products. GE.M.IC provided insights into contemporary forms of racism, intolerance and xenophobia, through the tripartite approach of gender, migration and intercultural interactions by examining forms and practices of discrimination and exclusion of migrants and also practices of resistance against this.

An intersectional approach to gender

GE.M.IC. adopted an intersectional approach to gender. Research and analysis drew on the multiple processes where the separation between typically 'male' and 'female' practices and the public and private boundaries are challenged. Researchers considered how gender, race, class, ethnicity and other social divisions interact to construct personal and collective identities in flux. The complexity called for multiple research methodologies.

A critical approach to intercultural interaction

Ge.MI.C undertook the task of researching and analysing how cultural groups interact in order to produce common cultural products in different areas. The tripartite conceptual and methodological approach called for a departure from the mainstream integration and multiculturalist approaches. GE.M.IC promoted a critical concept of intercultural interaction as a social space of mutual and unequal exchanges amongst actors defined in accordance with the intersectional approach according to several aspects. This approach was grounded on traditional definitions of culture as a close system formed within a specific territorial space and circumscribed within clearly identified borders. Cultures were defined in terms of cultural complexity developed through mutual influences, exchanges of ideas and conflicts.

Thematic areas

GE.M.IC focused on six thematic areas of study, which were coordinated by partners according to their expertise. GE.M.IC. explored the constructions of national 'self' and the 'migrant', sometimes represented as 'other' and focused on the intersections between gender and migration in the context of intercultural education. GE.M.IC. focused on the intersections between gender, migration and religion. The tensions between religious as well as the prospects of inter-religious dialogue is one of the most important areas of cultural activity that needs to be studied. This project researched the ways in which tensions between feminist, religious and secular narratives and practices unfold and contextualise. GE.M.IC. also explored the relationship between gender, migration and intercultural interaction in the context of urban spaces. This project shed light on practices of urban everyday life, where culturally specific forms of identity and belonging commonly associated with traditional gender roles are being challenged as a result of migrant mobility and diversity.

GE.M.IC. explored the gendered dynamics of intercultural violence, in relation to migration and population movements or displacements through notions of belonging and trauma. Violence was discussed at personal and collective levels and the level in-between. Political economy of victimhood was explored against realities of forced and chosen relocation. The role of precarity was explored in relation to intercultural violence. GE.M.IC. focused on mixed and transnational families as spaces of intercultural interaction. Migrant mobility is transforming institutions commonly associated with national and local identities and representations into transnational spaces where cultural and gender relations intersect to produce new and unprecedented forms of belonging. The project investigated ways in which new forms of identity and belonging transform gender relations within the family and across societies of origin and destination.

Project results

1. National identity and the media (WP4)

Research has been focused on three case studies in Southeast Europe which all combine elements of host, sending and transit migration. Analysis included usage of imagology, contextual and discourse analysis in order to emphasise the diversity in media production within and between Southeast European societies. Research included analysis of 36 films and of selected articles on migration from 10 national newspapers and four Italian newspapers for a specific incident.

Differences in written press

In the written press, national identity plays a crucial role in determining how migrant lives are perceived, imagined and represented. The same events may be reported in antithetical ways depending on the national context. These representations are highly gendered.

Gendered representations and trafficking discourse

Representations of migrant men as dangerous are complemented by those of migrant women as victims. The rhetoric of trafficking dominates what is being written in the press. Such representations of migrant men mirror and rereinforce conceptions of Southeast Europe as a perpetually underdeveloped, violent and conflictual place. These gendered representations are reversed in the written press produced from an emigration perspective, which attribute the vulnerability of migrant bodies to historical circumstances of post-communist transition rather than cultural characteristics.

Challenging through film

Contrary to the written press, the films analysed are characterised by narratives that often challenge the predominant nationalist identities of host, sending or transit societies. There are also many examples of transgression of national identities and binary representations. The paradigmatic figure of the migrant in film is that of someone who escapes the precarious conditions of the society of origin only to become exploited, disappointed and disillusioned in the West. It is in such filmic moments that the distinction between the East and the West collapses, producing a sense of continuity of precariousness and insecurity experienced by migrants.

Codifications of gender and sexuality

Despite their differences, both written and visual mediums share the same codifications of masculinity and femininity. Female migrants are mostly represented as victims while male migrants are either represented as effeminate figures or as violent ones. In general, there is a great need to disseminate in both migrant-receiving and migrant-sending societies journalistic texts and films that promote the positive representations of empowered and emancipated migrant women and positive role models that challenge stereotypical boundaries.

2. Intercultural education(WP5)

This study included analysis of intercultural education policies and fieldwork in schools chosen as case studies for their mixed student population. Fieldwork involved participant observation in classrooms, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with teachers and students, as well as activities and workshops with students. At the policy level, a top-down model of intercultural education, framed as orthodoxy of any educational initiative that wants to be regarded as progressive, modernising and European, reiterating catchall phrases, acceptance of difference, and developing cultural awareness, is advanced and adopted. Local, regional and historical context is overstepped, hindering the development of historically and socially targeted educational agendas.

One of the main findings is that in spite of the explicit promotion of intercultural educational agendas for multicultural integration, racism is a persistent, systemic feature in schools and national educational politics. The presence of racism does not represent an extraordinary condition, but is actually articulated to the notion of 'culture' found in integration and education policies and linked to the implicit ideological premises of the national politics of education. Intercultural education agendas serve to conserve national and western supremacy through attempts to manage and contain 'difference', rather than address racism as a constitutive social relation.

Logic of exception

Intercultural education policies invoke multicultural diversity as an exceptional condition potentially disruptive to national cohesion, which the school is called upon to manage and contain. Intercultural education, formulated under the logic of exception positions foreign students in the structural and essentialised position of 'other' to the ordinary. What seems to be at stake in all cases is the integration of what are considered 'non-ordinary' students into 'ordinary' school life.

Containment of destabilisation

Even in multicultural schools, the presence of national or ethnic 'others' is considered a problem that destabilises the proper functioning of the school and needs to be smoothed over. Normative ideological aspects are not questioned, as teachers are interpellated in the service of national ideals. In spite of efforts to contain the disruption, there is always an unassimilable remainder which places multicultural schools at continuous risk and in constant need to invent new measures for the management of difference.

Gap between policy and practice

The research draws attention to the gap between policy formulations and policy implementation. There is a discord between official and actual arrangements and practices developed in schools. This cannot be explained only as faulty enforcement of or non-compliance to policy directives but needs to be analysed in terms of gaps or contradictions of educational policies. Despite official recommendations towards schools, actual problems and conflicts leave schools to deal with it on their own and ad hoc. The common response to problems in school is to attribute them to the 'other' students' violent 'culture' or 'nature'. As long as the debate on intercultural education remains focused on notions of 'culture', rather than address issues of racism and exclusion, educational policies will remain disconnected from ongoing and emerging social antagonisms.

Projection and normalisation of violence

Conflicts in schools with mixed student populations are represented as an extraordinary condition and are commonly attributed to the presence of violence-bearing 'others' that do not belong to the standard school population. Violence is considered an innate characteristic linked either to 'culture' or to particular circumstances in the country of origin, which have influenced students negatively. What is of particular interest is the denial of violence as part of the dynamic of school.

Normative gender thinking and ethno-cultural boundaries

In teachers' and students' discourse, gender functions as a mark of cultural 'otherness' which racialised ethno-cultural boundaries are naturalised and redrawn in the school context. Stereotypes intersect and reinforce culturalist assumptions of the perceived difference of 'others'. It is regularly assumed that the construction and performance of gender identities by migrants and ethnic minorities is determined by and reflects national cultural codes and values. Cultural codes and values are hierarchically ordered in terms of their perceived closeness or to normative liberal western ideals.

Repoliticising intercultural education

The encounter of educational practice and policy with what is considered non-ordinary, brings up the political dilemma of repoliticising intercultural education. Research argues it is necessary to engage with the issue of racism by attending to the school's ideological and actual complicity in reproducing regimes of inequality based on national identity / ethno-cultural difference. At the level of teaching practices it would be important to initiate peer tutoring among students as a regular form of instruction and to encourage teachers to entertain an open relationship with the neighbourhood, using local residents and parents personal accounts as sources of knowledge.

3. Religion (WP6)

During the past decades, the relationship between migration and religion has become a central issue. However, debates have almost exclusively focused on the Islam. Gender issues conditioned this perception of Islam as exceptional. Facing this challenge, the reconceptualisation of religion from a gender perspective has opened up diverse fields of enquiry into the theme of religion and migration that have emphasised the pivotal role of religious practices in the formation of migrant subjectivities and gender relations in migrant communities and in host societies. Research has produced important insights into the role of religion in positioning of women in the private sphere and the participation of women into the public sphere. GE.M.I.C. addressed the gap in the literature from a gender perspective that openly challenges the exceptionally of Islam thesis. Research sought to address challenges within the context of Southeast Europe.

The general aim was to explore the repositioning of religion in the public and private sphere among immigrant women and to challenge the idea of the exceptionality of Islam as a religion that poses exceptional challenges to European secularism and the majority religion of the receiving country. The study intends to help re-examine and re-contextualise tensions between secular and religious spheres in terms of a clash of 'civilisations' between Islam and Europe. The thematic study was carried out in four locations and included a combination of 65 semi-standardised in depth interviews, four focus group discussions and participant observation.

Revival of religious identities

The revival of religious identities is a broad phenomenon that spreads across different sociopolitical -secular and religious- contexts and encompasses different faiths and atheism. Religious revivalism cannot be limited to the much-discussed conflict between Islam and secularism in Europe, but includes diverse practices of religiosity. Research has focused on Christian and Muslim religious practices of migrants. The idea of a 'global resurgence of religion' rests upon the belief that 'we' all share a common understanding of what religion is. Ethno-religious norms, secular regulations and political processes determine the extent to which migrant women's religiosity can be expressed in public. In contemporary European societies, the notion of religion as a private a-political form of socialisation opposed to the secularism of the public sphere is questioned by the activities of religious migrants and organisations.

Religion becomes a social dynamic that enables the participation of migrants in the public sphere and allows developing strategies of making public not only their religious identities but also social and political demands. Migration and gender becomes inextricably linked to religion as it becomes the locus of a distinct and powerful form of personal and collective affiliation that overcomes experiences of alienation. Through religious processes, a new sense of belonging emerges among migrant women, which often leads to a questioning not only of their position in host societies but also of the gendered hierarchies and preconceptions that dominate host societies and immigrant communities.

Religion and women's emancipation

Although religious men are portrayed as the agents of the processes of religious revivalism, religious women increasingly position themselves at the forefront of religious movements. An increasing number of people are repositioning religion by bringing it into the private sphere and to the forefront of the public's attention. Contrary to widely held mass media stereotypes of women, they are not passive victims, but leading actors in religious realignment. While most of these practices involve emancipatory and empowering processes through which migrant women gain access to the public spaces of Southeast Europe and to the global transnational spaces of migrant activism. Religion has become a determining force in migrant women's lives that challenges established religious institutions and divisions. Religion either constitutes a return to their roots or to the discovery of an entirely new source of belonging. Religion is one of the ways of defining a sense of belonging in addition to the formation of cultural identities. Religious sites become spaces within which migrant women re-establish communal bonds, (re)claim a position in public and renegotiate their transnational identities.

Hybrid religiosities

Some migrant women engage into hybrid religious practices. These were observed in particular amongst first generation migrant women and show that for many migrant women religion becomes a means of actively reinventing their social space and creating anew their identities in ways that in many cases create new intercultural relations within the established institutions of host societies. These religious practices shed light to the agency of migrants and contribute to the questioning of the argument that religious beliefs and practices are backwards and conservative par excellence. Bodily performativities carrying different cultural traditions add extra symbolism. They become expressions of migrant agency and markers of social inequalities and hierarchies.

A polyphony of voices

Study on gender, religion and migration calls for greater sensitivity to national contexts, cultural specificities and gendered realties against the homogenising discourse of Islamic exceptionality. This applies to both policies and studies. People should adopt a perspective that sees religion as a possibility rather than a sign of cultural backwardness, gender inequality and fundamentalism. The relationship between gender, religion and liberal secularism is diverse and depends on the local context. Contextualisation does not erase the multiple forms of belonging and identity that emerge in migrant religious practices and neither does it erase the possibilities of emancipation for migrant women that may arise through religion.

4. Urban spaces and social movements (WP7)

In all three case study countries, migrant livelihoods and migrant communities have been successfully established over the last two decades, in spite of adverse circumstances, and the city has become a vibrant space of interaction and coexistence, highlighting the new possibilities engendered through migration, for migrants and natives alike. There are signs of revitalisation in all three neighbourhoods researched through low-cost gentrification and development of trade trends by migrants. The branding of the neighbourhood as a multicultural enhances commercial activity and draws visitors and entrepreneurs. The neighbourhood studies indicate that integration takes place from below through small daily interactions, rather than from above.

New belongings

Migrants' settlement is motivated by the wish to enter and become immersed in urban life. Often, people from the same village settle in the same neighbourhood. Family networks play a key role in decisions to migrate. Elements from the origin country are brought to the destination country and vice versa. Migrants manifest a double consciousness, or double belonging, to both home and host country. Second generation migrants will not go back; 'home' is the country where they were born and grew up. Through transnational migration, multiple belongings and identities are forged as a possible and desirable way of life that enhances rather than depletes local and national contexts, and becomes a positive aspect of globalisation, even as nationalist and racist reactions seek to discredit and repress changes.

Visibility, coexistence, conflict

Visibility of migrants in public spaces is key for facilitating coexistence. Visibility and co-presence turns the unfamiliar into familiar, and leads to new trans-national languages as well as conflicts. However, conflicts around public space exceed and pre-exist the arrival of migrants, even though they were subsequently attributed to them. Often, migrants' precarious living and housing situations lead them to intensive use of public spaces. The question of who is considered a legal immigrant is important for understanding the dynamics of local conflicts, since it is usual for so-called illegal immigrants to be considered as trespassers of public space, whereas so-called legal immigrants are considered well-adjusted and conforming to the social order. Formal top-down social cohesion policies can interfere with the successful management of conflicts locally. Local spaces seem to be where belonging and citizenship are performed. Citizenship as the 'right to the city' references local (not national) belonging and participation. Migrants, especially those without documents, are people whose unauthorised presence generates rights, but getting residence papers equals the consolidation of their sense of belonging. The need to access citizenship rights is dissociated from 'national feeling'.

Gender and the dynamics of visibility

Migrant women use public spaces more intensively, performing a variety of activities or for leisure purposes, that brings them into close daily contact with natives. The home, the community, the neighbourhood and the school become spaces where women are key actors. Their precarious status linked to the absence of gender-specific migration policies renders them more vulnerable to institutional and labour discrimination. Ethnic clustering determines migrants' urban settlement into particular neighborhoods or streets. Women migrants' access to public spaces is not uniform, but rather conditioned by socio-cultural parameters.

Migrants' visibility is a key factor for mobilising relations of coexistence between themselves and the native population. Visibility of certain migrants is considered less threatening as they can 'fit in' to the neighbourhood more easily, whereas the presence of Muslim and male migrants is perceived as disruptive and threatening. Muslim migrants are rendered an object of concern, whereas assimilable migrants become almost 'invisible'. Often relations of solidarity between migrant women of different ethnic origin develop as a reaction to public discrimination and native racism. There are generational differences in the uses of public space, which can become sources of conflict.

Precarity and agency

Precarity in the life of migrants involves labour precarity and restriction of movement. Regarding labour precarity, post-fordist migration is determined by destabilisation of labour in late capitalism, which divides the labour market into a minority labour aristocracy and a majority of fragile subjects. Economic and legal reasons push migrants, especially women, to accept any kind of job, living a life dedicated to work with no security. In some cases the place of emigration may become more unsafe than the country of origin. City-planed gentrification and the economic crisis lead to the exodus of migrants from previously settled neighbourhoods.

Urban differences and social inclusion

Migrant trajectories are influenced by local conditions and compensatory mechanisms and strategies. Local government and the neighbourhood are important for the processes of inclusion. Local institutions and policies can foster migrants' social integration and advancement. The absence of institutional measures enhances the importance of daily contact and shared practices in combating exclusion. Apart from these differences, infrastructure, institutionalisation of commercial and social relations and socio-economic and ethnic profiles make a difference. The development of ethnic businesses and trade encouraged through urban planning and restructuring revitalised the neighbourhood and allowed migrants to become more visible and integrated. In all three neighbourhoods studied, settlement of migrants in old and downgraded areas has created new opportunities and social arrangements.

5. Intercultural violence (WP8)

Research included 28 interviews with migrant women and 14 interviews and one focus group with professionals. The main findings are drawn both from the synthesis report, the policy analysis report and the case study reports:

1. The implementation of anti-trafficking laws and projects in Southeast Europe implicated in the enhanced border security policy objectives of the EU undermines the efforts to protect victims of trafficking because it focuses on the usage of the victims' testimonies in the efforts to stop anti-trafficking networks.

2. Gender violence against migrants is a complex issue that includes both trafficking and other forms of violence in informal sectors of domestic and care work. In order to deal with this, it is necessary to add laws and policy initiatives that aim at the regulation of the domestic and care work sectors especially in regions like Southeast Europe, but also at the broader EU level to existing legislations and projects.

Trafficking and gendered violence

The narratives of NGO and government professionals working in the field of protection of victims of trafficking showed that in Southeast Europe, there were many obstacles that prevented effective protection of migrant victims. Professionals faced difficulties giving them the tools to become autonomous and empowered. Anti-trafficking policies in most cases failed to help women to deal with problems. National governments in Southeast Europe have implemented laws and policy measures that use victims' testimonies as evidence against traffickers thereby rendering them even more vulnerable.

The immediate connection in the national legislations of Greece, Cyprus, Romania and FYROM between protection and policing has effectively undermined the efforts to protect and assistance victims. The treatment of the trauma of violence cannot be addressed as part of broader objectives to stop trafficking networks and criminal activities. Migrant women victims of trafficking are in greater need of addressing issues of precarity and exploitation through projects of empowerment rather than efforts to arrest traffickers. There is an absence of policies at the EU level to deal with prevention of gender violence. Structural factors, patriarchal social structures and institutions in both host and sending societies determine migrant women's vulnerability to violence. Many migrant women are single women and mothers who migrated alone in order to improve working and living conditions. The institutions of family and the identities of single may constitute increased vulnerability and force many women to accept crossing borders illegally.

Gender, illegality and precarity

There are many forms of sexualized and ethnicised violence that impact on migrant women and trafficking is only one of its manifestations. Trafficking has become such a focal point of public debate and policy making that other forms of gender violence against migrants have been silenced. The case studies have concluded that it is impossible to protect victims and prevent forms of vulnerability to gender violence that may arise in the course of migration within the existing anti-trafficking framework. There is a need to address gender violence against migrants in specific sectors of employment at both the EU and state level.

Vulnerability to gender violence becomes inextricably connected to migrant illegality and precarity. Illegality of migrant movements and constant threat of deportability was experienced by many migrant women as a condition that forced them to willingly accept living and working under conditions of exploitation. Vulnerability to violence was experienced in the form of temporary residence permits and partial recognition of political and social rights. The problem of gender violence and migration lied in trafficking and the absence of EU and national policies regulating the informal feminised sectors of care, domestic and cleaning work. The lack of policies regulating these sectors at EU level should be understood as a broader policy issue that touches upon questions of gender mainstreaming.

6. Mixed and transnational families (WP9)

WP9 was carried out in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey and included semi-structured interviews and focus groups with ethnically mixed families in all three countries. A total of 55 interviews and seven focus groups were conducted. Respondents came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Important differences emerge in power relations and gender dynamics in mixed and transnational families and the social pressures exerted on either. Spouses in transnational families exhibit a higher degree of autonomy and self-direction. Spouses in mixed families appear to be significantly imposed upon by local family negative reactions and expectations to conform to normative cultural standards. Gender plays a significant role in structuring power relations in mixed families and in the degree of choice allowed, language and religious affiliation.

a. Transnational families

Study of transnational families became a focus for scholars in the 1990s, since it became obvious that family circumstances played an important role in decisions to migrate. Post-1989 migration to Europe is characterised by larger numbers of women from third countries undertaking migration projects on their own. Scholars studied migration as a multi-sited social space which is simultaneously experienced by communities across borders and analysed experiences through the prism of multiple attachments and their simultaneous positioning in several social locations. The family is a basic transnational unit. Remittances play an important role for the survival and progress of the family 'back home', but family networks abroad are equally valuable. Transnationalism has influenced the new reading of migration and migrant communities and changed a perspective on the traditional understanding of families. Parenting-at-a-distance constitutes in itself a significant change in normative conceptualisations of the family as a closed and co-habiting unit. Implications of transnational family livelihoods for structuring and performance of affective, cultural and economic ties need further study. It is relevant to consider how transnational lives and commitments disrupt and challenge ideologies of belonging.

Living with the dream of return

The experience of family separation and distance is not an uncomplicated one. Both women and men migrant describe their experience of separation as painful and distressing because they live a solitary and isolated life. Remittances are invested in sustaining the family, providing for children's education and building a family home. A future better life is quoted as the most important reason for enduring deprivations and hardships. The choice to migrate and is represented as a sacrifice. Transnational migrants consider their residence in the host country temporary and do not feel the need to integrate fully.

Challenging ideal motherhood

Migrant women's physical absence from the family is publicly criticised as 'bad mothering'. While transnational livelihoods allow women to take up more 'male' roles, this is met with ambivalence in their home societies. The exodus of migrant women is represented as 'care drain' and the consequent transfer of emotional resources. Migrant women mention feelings of guilt towards family members left behind. At the same time they seek to redefine their choice to migrate as 'good mothering' since they provide important economic support and opportunities for their children.


Findings highlight complexities and tensions involved in migrants' experience of transnational livelihoods. Transnational family life is at once enabling and distressing. The choice to take on these challenges indicates that the present and expected gains weigh more in migrants' decisions than the hardships endured. GE.M.IC. confirms that migration is a catalyst for gender-emancipating processes and a force of empowerment for women, both those who leave and those who stay behind.

b. Mixed families

GE.M.IC. highlights the continuous cultural pressures to which mixed families are subjected and the racism they encounter. Research on cross-ethnic or cross-cultural families has drawn attention to the ambiguous position of mixed families as indicators of high integration or engines of social change. However, this is not easy. The racial line appears to be the hardest to cross, whereas religious and linguistic heterogeneity can be accommodated, usually through the foreign spouse's adaptation. Gender and education play an important role in the negotiation of power relations within the family. Foreign women are in a weaker position to negotiate and usually adapt to dominant religious and linguistic practices. Native women gain a stronger position in the family because of their ethnic/cultural supremacy and their financial and professional security. Intermarriage does not necessarily lead to loss of ethnic or cultural identity, but such unions facilitate mutual acculturation through accommodation strategies leading to a process of acculturation. In spite of personal gains, couples tend to represent their experience of mixed marriage as a continuous challenge. Mixed couples and their children experience higher incidences of public racism, leading to the adoption of 'invisibility' strategies.


Racism is a common experience and complaint of foreign spouses. It involves public expressions of racism directed against family members and also more intimate expressions of discrimination or rejection that come from the family itself. Gender, age and social identity also play a role in family members' reactions. Immigrant families are more favourable to mixed marriages, whereas native families generally disapprove. Mixed families can successfully integrate only if supported by a favourable micro-social milieu. Local friends play a crucial role in creating a supportive social environment.

Gender hierarchies and practices of accommodation

Mixed marriages present occasions for disruption and reversal of traditional gender hierarchies. While native, male partners retain their traditional position of dominance. In the cases where native women marry foreign men, it is the women who have more power. Migrant men spouses tend to find work that is below their level and experience more discrimination in the labour market. Often they seek the associations of their compatriots to socialise. For migrant women life is more centred on the family and become 'invisible' in order to deal with public discrimination and family reactions. Migrant women shoulder most of the burden in mixed marriages. Mixed marriages appear to present a threat to traditional cultural order and norms. Most mixed families adopt strategies for minimising what might be considered social disruption.

Marriage and citizenship

It is useful to consider the practice of intermarriage as an integration strategy through which foreigners may secure legal status. Research suggests that actively pursuing citizenship rights is not a common priority of foreign spouses. Obtaining citizenship through marriage is a lengthy process with legal obstacles and strict monitoring for fraud. In general, applying or obtaining legal citizenship is mostly sought by immigrants who want to get permanent employment and have been long-term residents. This applies mostly to men. Some immigrants do not want to get citizenship because of strong national loyalty. Because of challenges to personal and familial relations that mixed marriages present, it becomes clear that it is at the intimate and affective level that resistance to socio-cultural change and socio-cultural mixing is organised and where it needs to be overcome in the first place.


Migration constitutes Europe as an open, plural, hybrid, and dense transnational social space manifesting different tensions and trends. It is necessary to move from static ethnocentric representations of migration as a 'problem' to a situated and dynamic understanding of migration as socio-cultural change. Transnational relations shape the personal lives of migrants, as well as the local contexts in which they work and reside. The neighbourhood, and by extension the city, emerges as a space of politics, work and commercial enterprise and is rendered more 'open', dynamic and conflictual, and thereby empowering. Migrants' settlement revitalises ageing neighbourhoods. The housing market grows, public spaces are used more intensively and local trade is boosted through migrant entrepreneurship, producing a 'low-cost' gentrification. Migrants' transnational social and financial interactions render the neighbourhood a node of the global economy, albeit an informal and not institutionalised one. Migrants become a resource for urban development rather than a burden. Migrants' practices of use and sharing of public space and their mobilisations for the 'right to belong', render the neighbourhood as a site of ongoing negotiation of politics of democratic participation and inclusion. Migrants' visibility and everyday interactions with natives become catalysts for building relationships of reciprocity. The aspect of time becomes critical, since it is their settled presence over time that enables the development of familiarity and trust. Migrants associate the experience of migration with an immersion in urban life and value the opportunities offered. They feel they 'belong' to the neighbourhood and actively pursue their inclusion. Migrant belonging outlines a doubled presence that is characterised by ambiguities and tensions, since migrants find themselves poised between 'waiting for the day of return' and 'making a new home'.

While migrant mobility offers new opportunities for social and economic advancement, and in this sense produces a sense of agency and may also represent an act of independence and empowerment, it is also accompanied by feelings of loneliness, nostalgia for the homeland, oppression in the new family and rejection. Migration becomes a catalyst for new ways of articulating family relationships that span across two or more countries. Women migrants become key figures in supporting the family as 'breadwinners' and securing the reproduction of the family and its social advancement. Women who remain 'at home' gain more power as key decision-makers. Such re-arrangements of relations require and enable the renegotiation of gender roles. Women become head of the family, grandparents acquire active caretaking for the children left behind. Women migrants challenge and redefine normative constructions of motherhood. They performativity enact the possibility of sustaining relations of intimacy and care at a distance. Family can represent a social context of identity that remains resistant to difference and change by demanding compliance to dominant cultural and gender norms. The role of the institution of the family as an ideological apparatus of the nation state is then confirmed. It is precisely through workings of intimacy and emotional pressures that the biopolitical role of the family as a means of social control is performed and legitimised. Migration research sheds light on how the family as a social relation is implicated in national histories and histories of nationalism but also plays a part in changing them.

Local religious institutions functioned as nodes in transnational religious networks in all cases researched. Hybrid religious practices by individuals observed manifested strong transnational links and attachments between home and host societies. The mingling of local and transnational levels in religious practices has a strong impact on the ways in which migrant attachments and identities are formed beyond the confines of the nation state and demonstrate how interconnected receiving and sending locales are in the everyday life of migrants.

Migrant characters in film often transcend the pre-established cartographies of nation and state providing alternative, cross border moving selves, which are symbolic of migrant autonomy and agency. It seems that accepting imposed geographical and mental frontiers presupposes giving in to pre-established identity patterns, which deny the dynamism of self-building. One alternative is assuming the status of being constantly on the move. Filmic narrative represents transnational movements and practices as being an escape from the pre-determined hierarchies of nation, race class and gender, while transnational identities challenge the pre-established borders and limits that normally prevent movement.


The relation between gender and migration in Southeast Europe is embedded in social conditions of precarity. In particular migrant women facing the risk of deportability or unemployment without any protective mechanisms are forced to accept degrading conditions of work and are vulnerable to violence. The everyday lives of migrants working in informal or semi-formal feminised and undervalued sectors are fashioned by 'a micropolitics of fear'. The negative impact becomes more intense in the context of the combination of work and migration. The work conditions experienced by migrants are further exasperated by illegality and the threat of being deported that functions as a tool of blackmailing. The persistent gender neutrality of official EU and national policies on migration and the complicit inability of governments and NGOs to deal with gender violence outside the context of trafficking, cultivates the booming of precarious migrant work and violence in the domestic, sex, care and cleaning sectors. Migrants are targeted by violent acts because they escape the normalising frame and not because they are naturally weak. Many migrant women victims are neither subjugated of male patriarchy, nor weak objects of exploitation. They are transnational subjects who often have migrated independently of male partners, taking autonomous decisions against gender domination. Many of these migrations were realised in order to escape gender inequalities rather than as a result of them. Gender roles performed in ways that become unacceptable, impossible to comprehend and read within the context of existing gender hierarchies are the things that render these migrant lives subject to violence. Precarity becomes linked to gender performativity. Precarity is not only analysed as a negative term but also as an opportunity. Precarity involves practices of movement, change and transformation that are often translated into freedom from the existing national, ethnic and gendered borders. Precarity was represented as a generalised condition of escape for women migrants from gender inequalities in several films. There are many migrant women characters in film who manage to re-claim autonomous space and to renegotiate the normalising roles of mother, wife or lover. Precarity of migrant trajectories gives the space for questioning conceptualisations of women and men in nationalist narratives. The creation of alternative migrant subjectivities parallels the construction of mostly ironic visual icons by precarious movements which question the orthodox gendered victimisation of workers. Migrants' lives are dedicated to work. Often, their work is determined by conditions of exploitation and randomness. Precariousness is the standard rather than an exception. Migrants' political mobilisations for their rights transform this condition from a problem to a right. Demands as precarious labourers who institute a subject position for claiming rights which are not conditioned on formal citizenship status.

Citizenship practices

Citizenship is understood as both a set of practices and a bundle of rights and duties. The legal and sociological aspects of citizenship are discussed as mutually constitutive, enabling different forms of membership and identity in different historical periods and social spaces. One of the main findings is that in contemporary Southeast Europe, at local level, new forms of unbounded citizenship based on transnational cultural, symbolic and economic practices are emerging. Citizenship in Southeast Europe encompasses a vast spectrum of social practices and legal statuses that includes the granting of temporary and ad hoc rights to certain migrants and the tolerance of some completely illegal ones. Refugees, migrants with residence permits, asylum seekers and migrants without papers all constitute subjects who may be selectively included in the national community and acquire specific rights on a temporary basis. These categories are neither fixed nor permanent. Migrant lives in Southeast Europe are characterised by shifts and changes from illegal to legal, from asylum seeker to economic migrant and so on. These shifts loom over the granting of legal status or formal rights, making legality a temporary condition that depends entirely on unforeseen and perpetual changes in policy measures, administrative procedures, social and economic circumstances and personal itineraries. The implementation of various policies on the regulation of the lives of migrants, produces precarity as a dominant condition in the everyday lives of migrants. Unresolved, temporary, conditional and uncertain legal status or its absence evokes insecurity and illegality. The most obviously recurrent image is that of migrants striving to make a better living, even if that means to break the law, to gain permanent legal status. The mirage of a developed, affluent and secure Europe dissolves once migrants face the different practices through which non-citizenship policies are implemented. Migration seizes to signify an escape from insecurity and the place of destination becomes equally insecure than the place of origin.

The condition of illegality and the permanent threat of deportability impacts directly on migrant bodies, making them vulnerable to gender violence. The identity of victims is attached to the bodies of migrant women and men without papers. Illegality is internalised as a source of insecurity that is used to force migrants to become docile and accept degrading living and working conditions. In research on gender, migration and intercultural violence, several narratives of migrant women are being physically or psychologically imprisoned in degrading work environments. Although most of these women have migrated autonomously, they are forced into positions of vulnerability because of their non-existent and insecure legal status. Gender violence is mostly enabled in the field of illegality and precariousness of migrant lives, rather than in the field of transnational male dominated trafficking networks. It is mostly the partial, insecure, conditional and temporary character of European and state policies of formal citizenship that nurture the conditions for the exercise of gender violence.

Formal citizenship policies enable a number of gender strategies that allow migrants to overcome the illegal status imposed on them. Mixed marriage may constitute such a strategy. Migrants use the fact that European migration law prioritises the heterosexual family as the locus for the granting of post-national rights. This is manifest in the granting of special rights and in the family reunification exception that allows dependable members of the family to join their relatives legally. While these provisions perform a function of normalisation of heterosexual gender norms, marriage and the family become the sites were legal rights are being claimed through a negotiation of gender relations. Acquiring formal rights through marriage often involves the reinforcement of gendered and ethicised inequalities and hierarchies. Citizenship constitutes a set of cultural, symbolic, social and political practices. Despite their diversity, practices can be grouped together as 'acts of citizenship'. In Southeast Europe, acts of citizenship become mostly enacted within the context of ad hoc legalisations and precarity.

Acts of citizenship that take place outside the field of legal rights but establish citizenship rights, obligations and entitlements that may be fluid and temporary but nonetheless constitute a field of social subjectivities become mostly manifest in public. Although these acts may be directly addressing the state claiming the establishment of formal rights, they constitute moments when political subjectivities become possible. It is the paradox of publicly acting citizenship while being a non-citizen. The private is also political and in many ways the acts of citizenship were moments when the private and the public became tangled into each other producing everyday acts that transformed both the public and the private. Migrant active citizenship practices transform spaces normalised as private and a-political into sites of political struggle. Being able to make piety visible in public, contrary to the dominant religious or secular norms, through dressing becomes the site of political struggle over public space which effectively produces rights and entitlements. Religion in the context of these micropolitics of dressing may be constituted as a source of feminist empowerment and solidarity across different generations and ethnicities of migrant women that go far beyond rights linked to formal religious rights and debates.

There are several examples of active citizenship that show that migrant women's and men's active citizenship practices are mostly situated at the borderlines between private and public. Migrant practices expose the private character of exploitation and the conflicts and inequalities inherent in affective labour. It is often illegal migrants who are most active in political mobilisations for securing rights based not on their legal status, but on the fact that they are part of the city and they feel they belong there. For them the city where they live and work is their new home. Therefore, the 'right to the city' represents an important starting point for migrants' equal inclusion and a practice for claiming citizenship as members and not as legal subjects.

Critique of multiculturalism

The European public sphere has been dominated by the discourse of multicultural integration as a model for managing migration as 'difference'. However, multiculturalism does not account for the persistence of racism and the intersecting socio-economic, educational and institutional inequalities that shape the lives of all of Europe's 'others'. A multiplication of borders inside and outside the EU through which the state seeks to regulate migration flows and operationalised closures for labour and demographic purposes is observed. New apparatuses of governmentality are developed through the projection of state rule beyond sovereign national territory through the establishment of EU migration processing centres outside EU territory. The institution of the border is characterised by intrinsic ambivalence. Borders inhibit and allow passage, thereby creating new communication networks that mobilise the possibility of translation rather than war as a relational paradigm.

The multicultural model of integration does not address the issue of multiplication of internal and external borders, which leads to management of migration through external exclusion and tiered inclusion that segregates migrants through multiple levels of internal exclusion and instead assumes socio-cultural difference exists in a political vacuum. 'Culture' and 'diversity' have eclipsed 'race' and 'racism'. Racism is treated as a matter of individual prejudice that can be treated through proper education and knowledge of different cultures. Findings relaborate two aspects of the critique of multiculturalism. The first aspect regards the essentialist and racialised notions of culture and cultural interaction that underpin multicultural discourses and agendas. Critique of intercultural education highlights the construction and function of the notion of 'culture' not as a neutral foundation but rather inscribed within colonial histories of racism and ongoing racial and racialised hierarchies. The study of urban spaces stresses the multiple interactions between the local and the global, effected through the transnational activities, ties, networks and family relations of migrants, and highlights processes of cultural hybridity and mixing as relevant to the changing socio-cultural space of the city.

The study of mixed families shifts the focus back to multiculturalism elaborating the assimilation processes which familial and national belonging impose. The same study illustrates that from the point of view of the subject there is room to negotiate assimilation pressures. All studies of GE.M.IC. report racism against migrants. As far as the experience of racism is concerned, migrants' lives are saturated by it. However, migrants can choose how they respond to this experience. It is argued that instituting opportunities for the development of local contexts facilitates intercultural interaction and can be more productive than top-down integration policies.

Gender as a dynamic social relation

Regarding gender as a dynamic social relation structured by different power inequalities linked to socio-economic status and racial and ethnic differences, the GE.M.IC. project sought to understand how migration impacts traditional gender hierarchies, roles and stereotypical ideas about gender identities. Ethnic and cultural hierarchies can re-order gender hierarchies. Native women married to foreign men acquire more power in the family and are in a better position to renegotiate gender roles in the family context. Migration is a source of agency for women rather than a condition of victimhood. Women gain power and independence and are able to negotiate new roles for themselves. Women migrants as 'breadwinners' challenge gender stereotypes both as to the role and position of the woman in the family, as well as in relation to normative ideas about motherhood. In order to manage the difficulties of maintaining transnational livelihoods and of meeting the demands of their new environment, women develop strategies of survival and belonging that enhance their sense of agency and entitlement. Visibility and public presence enable inclusion and coexistence. Public visibility and access to public space are important sources of women's empowerment and facilitate their inclusion. Legal and socio-cultural restrictions generate conditions of unequal access and exclusion. Challenging these formal and informal borders through everyday interactions in the neighbourhood and the demand for rights, women migrants become agents of integration from below. Violence is multiple and systemic.

Women in the context of migration find themselves forced to engage in illegal sex-work, are confined to the irregular labour market as precarious domestic workers or cleaners and have to endure oppressive family situations as dependent members. It is legal vulnerability, labour precarity, lack of rights and restrictive migration policies that produce conditions for violence and exploitation and not women's gender identity. Gender represents not only a social relation but also a discursive regime, or ideology, in the sense that the category of gender and the characteristics associated with it, is an integral part of how discourses and representations are constructed and used. Ideas about gender play an important role in how migration, identity, culture and difference are represented and negotiated in public discourse. Narratives of migration construct the migrant as a racialised national 'other' through gendered discourses. Migrant men are represented though the image of aggressive masculinity, as dangerous criminals and women migrants through the image of passive femininity, as voiceless victims. Gender and becomes a signifier of cultural difference and of cultural inferiority or superiority. In some cases, the feminised, victimised and sexualized migrant stands for the feminine, passive, hedonistic East which is juxtaposed to masculine, purposeful, rational West. In other cases, the migrant, as a masculine trespasser, enters and threatens the feminised West.

Potential impact

GE.M.IC. addressed the intersections between some of the most salient debates in EU policymaking and in the social sciences. GE.M.IC. contributed to these debates by generating and disseminating expert knowledge through research in specific thematic areas. GE.M.IC. assisted in the development of benchmarks in areas not previously researched. GE.M.IC. researchers consulted representatives of migrant communities, stakeholders and practitioners. GE.M.IC. involved a highly interactive website, where all developments relevant to the progress of the research and analysis were published and an online deliberation sought. The website has been regularly updated in order to include new information about the project's progress. Brief presentations of the project and links to the project website have been added in the websites of all partner institutions. The project coordinator organised an international conference in which findings were publicised and debated. During the whole period of the project, material had been gathering for the production of a video-documentary that was completed at the end of the project. GE.M.IC. researchers have been presenting papers disseminating information on the theoretical perspectives and research findings at scientific conferences, journals and public events. GE.M.IC influenced the formulation, development and implementation of policies related to the media, education, religion, urban planning, violence and conflict prevention and family planning under the explicit commitment to promote intercultural dialogue and cooperation.

Overall GE.M.IC. had an impact on the academic and policy communities, as well as on migrant associations, stakeholders and practitioners because it challenged ethnocentric presupposition about culture and the state-centric biases in policy making that prevail in state-of-the-art research and analysis, and addressed thematic areas that cross national boundaries and require a European approach. The UPSPS coordinating team has agreed to the publication of an edited volume in Greek and English through which the main findings of the GeMIC project will be disseminated. There are several publications that are currently under preparation by researchers from all research teams in order to be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Next to that, information packages for the media were distributed.

The project public website address is