Accepted Paper:

The paradox of intimate relationships of Northern Chinese migrant women in France  

Author:

Florence Lévy (CECMC EHESS / MAPS Neuchatel University)

Paper short abstract:

Northern Chinese migrant women try to marry a French citizen in order to get legal document. These marriage turns out to have a symbolic impact that exceed their first intention and force them to completely reshape their migration project and temporality.

Paper long abstract:

The new migration flux from Northern China to France is very atypical since 2/3 of migrants are middle-class women in their 40s. They left china alone soon after divorcing, entrusting their teenage children to the care of grandparents. They went abroad for few years in order to provide for their only child economical needs. They emphasize the fact that they have no family in China.

Once in France, these women became undocumented migrants. They work for other Chinese but complain about their working conditions, often considered as exploitation. To obtain legal document is perceived as a way to break the deadlock. It will enable them to find a legal job, earn a decent wage, and also to visit their child in China. But the law is very restrictive and marriage with a French citizen is considered as the only way to get a resident permit. This choice is presented as "forced". They engage in economic-legal and sexual exchange with French fiancés who are described as disappointing: too old, uneducated and poor. Once married their daily life is also marked by power relations advantaging men. But almost none of the women ask for divorce. Their emotion when facing couple crises (marital violence, infidelity, illness or death) shows that the relationship is not only based on "pragmatic" considerations. A new logic has replaced partially the first motivation and they consider that now their family is located in France. This new symbolic anchorage forces them to reshape their migration project and temporality.

Panel P064
Mobility, precarity, and the activation of kinship and intimacy [ANTHROMOB]