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Accepted Paper:

Love as a 'social possibility' in the life courses of Sierra Leonean immigrant women in Europe  
Anais Ménard (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the transformation of the perception of love in the life courses of Sierra Leonean women who live in Europe. While love is presented as an individual choice, it remains a 'social possibility' that depends on the importance of collective norms within the migratory context.

Paper long abstract:

Transnational migration often results in the reconfiguration of established gender relations. This paper addresses the way ideas of love and intimacy are reproduced and challenged in the life courses of Sierra Leonean women who live in Europe, in processes that involve the couple, the family, and a 'community' of immigrants. It explores the transformation of women's perception of love over the years, from situations of forced marriage and domestic violence to relationships established later in life and based, to their understanding, on individual autonomy and gender equality. Those narratives, I argue, do not point to ideals of 'romantic love' but reveal the importance of the life trajectory in reframing individual subjectivities with regard to gendered relations in an adverse social context. The context of migration, at first, tended to assign those women to gendered roles that were more rigid than in Sierra Leone, due to their situation of social isolation and economic dependency to immigrant men. In articulating the process by which they 'broke free' and tried to establish new relationships, successfully or not, Sierra Leonean women express individual emancipation from collective norms concerning marriage and present love as an individual choice. Nevertheless, individual choices are 'possible' - or tolerated within the 'community' of co-nationals - because those women are not of reproductive age and have adult children. This reveals the importance of considering 'love' as a 'social possibility' that may be realized depending the weight of collective norms upon individuals at different stages of their lives.

Panel P164
Intimacy in the Time of Globalization: Anthropology Exploring the Intersection of Love, Sexuality and Mobility
  Session 1 Wednesday 22 July, 2020, -