When marriage migrants leave their familiar environment they face the double challenge of building partner and family relationships and integrating into a new society. Regardless if this new place is a better one, it still involves struggles and difficulties. Especially for female marriage migrants, family and kinship ground the social order and form a crucial network of support. Hence the role of the immediate new family, kinship ties and local community cannot be underestimated.
This ethnographic research project aims to uncover the agency of Muslim female marriage migrants and female partners in Belgium, attending in particular to how they use their cultural and religious capital to negotiate and navigate gender relations, and as such counter some of the challenges of marriage, migration and integration. I argue that these specific constraints and challenges ask for a different way of looking at and valorizing agency because a lot of what these women do, next to the physical moving, is foregrounded by imagining, strategizing and negotiating.
The project draws on postcolonial, feminist and gender theories that valorize individual experiences and struggles by approaching gender in relation to other identity markers such as ethnicity, class, religion, and sexual identity, as a principal structuring force in shaping the life experience.
Keywords: gender and postcolonial feminist theory, marriage migration, intersectionality, agency, Muslim minorities in Belgium, ethnography