‘True love’ as a bureaucratic utopia

The case of bi‐national couples in Belgium

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Maïté Maskens Université Libre de Bruxelles mmaskens@ulb.ac.be

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In this contribution I examine the moral roots of the contemporary (in)hospitality of the city of Brussels by exploring one area of observation in particular: the handling of the fight against marriages of convenience for migratory purposes. Based on 2012–2013 ethnographic fieldwork, I reflect on the utopian thinking underlying the work of state agents in charge of implementing this fight. Through the detailed examination of two case studies, we will see how state agents select ‘good’ couples and, in doing so, reproduce social and racial hierarchies by excluding undesirable forms of intimate relationships. The non‐conformity with local moral standards (and particularly the romantic logic), modest ways of self‐presentation or the current ideology of migrants as parasites are at the core of these practices of exclusion.

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