Skip to main content

Regulating mixed intimacies in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EUROMIX (Regulating mixed intimacies in Europe)

Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2020-10-31

The Euromix project is a study of the regulation of ‘mixture’ or interracialized intimacies (‘interracial’ sex, relationships and marriage) in Europe’s past and present. Informed by critical race and critical mixed race studies, it challenges the common assumption that Europe never had ‘anti-miscegenation’ laws comparable to those in the United States. In exploring if, when, how and why forms of regulation aiming to prevent or restrict ‘interracial mixture’ developed in Europe in certain times and places, the project delivers a vital contribution to our knowledge of the development of racial thinking in Europe. The concept of ‘mixture’ provides an eminently suitable approach to the construction of ‘race’, since ‘mixture’ confuses and destabilizes racialized categories that seem fixed and essentialized in specific times and places, such as ‘black/white’.
Through archival research, legal analysis and interviews with modern-day ‘mixed’ couples and families, we aim to understand what lawmakers, judges and bureaucrats believed ‘race’ was, what they believed ‘mixture’ was, how this was translated into legal practices, and how targeted couples responded.
The Euromix project’s aim is to contribute to the genealogy of racial thinking in Europe, especially in addressing the understudied role of law and legal scholarship in the social construction of ‘race’ and ‘mixture’ in an increasingly diverse Europe. Herewith, the project adds vital knowledge to contemporary debates about Europe’s past of colonialism and racism. Especially in times of increasing populism, and race-thinking returning to the public and political arena, it is vital that we take a close, and sometimes painful, look at race thinking in our own legal past and how it has influenced the laws, regulations and legal scholarship with which we work today. Especially as law is expected to play a major role in combatting discrimination and racism, it is highly relevant that we understand what law has done in the past and what it can do in the present. This has not only profound, real-life, material effects for in the lives of individuals, couples and families affected by these laws, as well as society as a whole.
The project consists of a historical and a contemporary part. The historical part looks at the regulation of ‘mixture’ in four European countries: France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, through archival research. The French project by PhD researcher Rebecca Franco looks at the regulation of “interracialized intimacies” between (post)colonial migrants from the former French territories on the African continent and the European French population in France in the period between 1956 and 1979. This research explores whether and how “interracialized intimacies” were problematized through intersections of race, class, and gender logics. Through an exploration of various policy fields, such as immigration, housing, social action, sex work, it argues that hierarchies of intimacies played a role in the regulation of (post)colonial migration. Accordingly, the existence of “mixed couples” became invisible. This created a context in which the implementation of seemingly colour-blind regulation and legislation targeting mixed couples and/or (post)colonial migrants had racialized and gendered outcomes. The Italian project by PhD researcher Andrea Tarchi aims to assess the role that the regulation of mixed intimacies in the context of the Italian colonization and decolonization of Libya (1911-1954) played in the development of a racially codified Italian national identity. By looking at archival material related to public and ecclesiastical institutions, the project intends to map the Italian colonial government regulatory and discursive response to intimate colonial encounters that defied assumed notions of racial purity and otherness. Libya has remained mostly untouched by the scholarship on mixed intimacies. By filling this gap, this project aims to broaden the understanding of the evolution of racial, class, and gender categories in the Italian colonial context, and the role they still play in the imperial formations that still characterize modern-day Italy. The UK project by PhD researcher Nawal Mustafa centralizes the experiences of Black women in interracialized relationships due to the lack of substantial academic literature focusing on the lives of these women in interaction with regulatory frameworks. The project looks at the lacunes and invisibilities in the archival material collected from various institutions such as different governmental ministries, the Church, the police, and newspaper archives, using critical and decolonial theories in order to make sense of the (in)visibilities present in the archives. The project on the Netherlands by PI Betty de Hart explores the regulation of mixture in the interbellum period and 1950-1970 by civil registrars, immigration services, police and embassies.

The contemporary part explores whether and how, in spite of norms of formal equality and colour-blindness, ‘race’ and ‘monoracial family norms’ still play a part in European law and the lived experiences of ‘interracial’ couples with law in their everyday lives. The Postdoc project by Elena Zambelli consists of a multi-sited ethnography with interviews with ‘mixed couples in the Netherlands, Italy and the UK, exploring the implication of law in race-making in contemporary Europe through the lens of the regulation of ‘mixed (race) couples’. While looking at whether and how mixed couples experience forms of racial discrimination in different domains (housing, education, mobility, and safety), it is also explored how partners’ differently racialised subjectivities reflect or challenge the enduring legacy of Western colonialism and imperialism.
Project 6 by postdoc Guno Jones explores the understudied meanings and regulations of mixed intimacies in contemporary Europe and traces their genealogies. Using colonial constructions and regulations of 'mixed intimacies' as a point of departure, it will explore what external boundaries and internal frontiers are drawn in contemporary European regulations of intimacies. The project will explore how actors in post-World War II Europe have constructed meanings of mixed intimacies, how they have regulated these intimacies and how these constructions and regulations compare with those in earlier historical and colonial contexts. More specifically, it will analyse the role of European politicians, bureaucrats and judges in the context of post-WII European integration in these processes and how they compare with constructions and regulations during World War II, in overseas colonial territories and in times of substantial relocation of the formerly colonized to the European metropoles. Attention will also be given to how these constructions and regulations of mixed intimacies are connected with European citizenship and the construction of European identity.

The synthesizing project by the PI Betty de Hart aims to understand historically how legal scholarship has contributed to the meanings of ‘race’ and ‘mixture’ by writing biographies of legislators, judges, and legal scholars. Second, it addresses the issue of what modern approaches of critical race and critical mixed-race studies can contribute to our understanding of ‘race’ and ‘mixture’ in the law and legal scholarship.
This is the first project in Europe that explores in such a comprehensive ways the regulation of mixture in four European countries. We have been able to determine that, contrary to common and academic understandings, in fact, the regulation of mixture was of central concern not only to state authorities in the colonies, but also in mainland Europe. Furthermore, we have been able to demonstrate that in spite of the official rejections of race-thinking after the Second World War in Europe, regulations of mixture have not disappeared and were maintained or introduced by state authorities, civil registrars, immigration services, police, churches and embassies. At the end of the project, we will be able to demonstrate that the regulation of mixture was not alien to the European context, and continues to inform laws and regulations today. It exemplifies that the existence of mixed couple is not a sign of post-racial or color-blind area, but rather, a sign of the persistence of couples and families in spite of social forces and institutional structures trying to prevent their existence. At the end of the project we expect to have changed the thinking of the role of law and legal scholars in race-thinking, both in academia (especially legal scholars) and in larger society.