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Unformatted text preview: The Feeling of Migration Narratives of Queer Intimacies and Partner Migration Sara Ahlstedt Linköping Studies in Arts and Science No. 686 Faculty of Arts and Sciences Linköping 2016 Linköping Studies in Arts and Science • No. 686 At the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Linköping University, research and doctoral studies are carried out within broad problem areas. Research is organized in interdisciplinary research environments and doctoral studies mainly in graduate schools. Jointly, they publish the series Linköping Studies in arts and Science. This thesis comes from Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO) at the Department of Social and Welfare Studies. Distributed by: Department of Social and Welfare Studies Linköping University 581 83 Linköping Sara Ahlstedt The Feeling of Migration Narratives of Queer Intimacies and Partner Migration Edition 1:1 ISBN 978-91-7685-739-7 ISSN 0282-9800 © Sara Ahlstedt Department of Social and Welfare Studies 2016 Typesetting and cover design by Merima Mesic Printed by: LiU-Tryck, Linköping 2016 Nobody can feel too much, though many of us work very hard at feeling too little. Feeling is frightening. Well, I find it so. Jeanette Winterson Contents 13  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 17  INTRODUCTION 17   Mona and Karin’s Story 20   The Aim of the Study 22   Relevance of the Study 22    Emotions and feelings as a Way to Access   the Complexity of Migration 23    The Specificities of Queer Partner Migration 24    The Intersection of ‘Privileged’ and ‘Not-Privileged’ Migration 24   Migrating Partners and Non-Migrating Partners 25   Unpacking the ‘Migration Process’ 26    Global Travel Privileges, Nationality, and Race 28    To Feel ‘Like a Migrant’ 29    An Ongoing Migration Process 30   Migration as an Emotional Process 31    Transnational Intimacy and Feelings in a Global Context 32    Feeling Queerly Different 32   Three Feelings: Love, Loss, and Belonging   in Stories of Migration 33   Feelings as Narratives 34   Telling Stories of Migration and Queer Intimacy 35    Affective and Affecting Narratives 36   The Retroactive Character of Stories 37   A Dissertation as a Written Narrative 37    Writing Narratives Meant to Be Read 38   The Structure of the Dissertation 43   ACADEMIC BACKGROUNDS:    QUEER MIGRATION, INTIMATE MIGRATION,    AND PRIVILEGED MIGRATION SCHOLARSHIPS 43   Timo and Ida’s Story 47   Three Intersecting Fields of Research: Queer Migration,   Intimate Migration, and Privileged Migration 48   Migration, Love, and Sexuality 51   Queer Migration 52    ‘Partner Migration’ Instead of ‘Same-Sex Migration’    and ‘Marriage Migration’ 53    Making Sexual Identity and Heteronormativity Visible   in Migration Practices and Theory 55    Queer Migration and the Nation-State 56    ‘Same-Sex Migration’; or Queer Partner Migration 60   Intimate Migration 60    ‘Marriage Migration’; or Straight Partner Migration 62    The Assumption of the Heterosexual Marriage 65    Straight Partner Migration, Relationships, and Romantic Love 67   Privileged Migration 67    Migration from Northern Non-Traditional   Migrant-Sending Countries 68    Unpacking (Queer) Privileges 70    The Creation of (Non-)Migrant Identities Based on Race,   Nationality, and Cultural Belonging 72  Conclusion 75   THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS 75   Felipe and Krister’s Story 78   Understanding Queer Partner Migration Theoretically 79   Understanding Affect, Emotion, and Feeling 80    Separating Affect, Emotion, and Feeling 80    What Emotions Do 82    Feeling Migration Processes 83   Queer Phenomenology: Orientations and Alignments 84    To Find Your Way 85    Starting Points and (Dis)Orientation 85    Following the Lines: The Alignment of Bodies 87    Being (Un)Comfortable: The Inhabitation of Spaces 88    Being Stopped: The Blocking of Bodies 89   The Orientation of Narratives 91  Entanglement 95   Intimate Citizenship 98  Homonationalism 101   Conclusion 103   CREATING KNOWLEDGE ABOUT   QUEER PARTNER MIGRATION 103   Lisa and Bea’s Story 109   Feelings and Knowledge Production 111   The Interview Participants 112   Locating Participants 113    Migrating for a Relationship 115    Length of Time in Sweden 115    A Diverse Participant Group 117   An Ethnographic Interview Study 117   Ethnographic Encounters 119    Ethnography and Emotions 120    Approaching the Interviews 122    The Power of Language in Interviewing 123   A Situated Research Process 124   Participation, Power, and Transparency:   Ethics and the Research Process 125    Ethnography as Emotional Manipulation? 126    (Not-)Vulnerable Research Participants 128    Carrying Out Transparent Research 130    Making Research Decisions 131   Choosing Names, Anonymizing Places:   Making Choices about Representation 132    ‘Participation’ or Ethically Problematic ‘Choices?’ 133   Representative Naming 134   The Creation of Migration Narratives:   Interviewing Couples, Interviewing Individuals 135    Being a Considerate Partner in the Interview 135    Differences Interviewing Couples and Individuals 137   Narrative Analysis 137    Stories as a Way to Organize Experience 140    Narrative Analysis and Creative Analytic Practices (CAP) 141    CAP Writing, Narrative Writing 143   Writing as Analyzing 144   Messy Fieldwork 145    Missed Analytical Points 146   Listening, Writing, and Analyzing 147   ‘Coding’ 149    Writing Stories to Find Stories and Feelings 151   Conclusion 155   LOVE 156   Love and Partner Migration 157    Love and the Autonomous, Free Individual 159    Love and Migration Legislation 162    The Importance of ‘True’ Love and Equality 164   Nelly’s Story: An Unequal Love to Be Brought in Line 165    The Importance of Autonomy 167    Spontaneity and Impatience as a Sign of Love 169    To Do Anything for Love 171    The Struggle to Be in Line with Swedish Equality Discourses 174    The Emotional Labour Inherent in Aligning a Relationship 179    Creating the ‘Right’ Love When Out of Line 184   Alejandro and Fredrik’s Story:   To Recognize Love in Queer Partner Migration 186    Narrating the ‘Good’ Love Story 189    Defining the ‘Seriousness’ of Love 192    A Love in Line 195    When a Relationship Cannot Start until    the Residence Permit is Approved 199    Creating the Correct Migration Narrative 203    To Love is to Live Together 207    The Public Recognition of Queer Relationships 209    Class, Race, Nationality, and the Equal Relationship 216   Conclusion 219   LOSS 221   Migration as Mourning and Displacement 223   Jasmin and Emma’s Story: Losing Who You Are in the World 225    Falling in Love 227    The Importance of Work and Financial Privileges 229   Entangled Privileges 231    Confusion and Separation in Sweden 234    The Assumption of the Easy Migration 236    To Be Aligned along Migrant Lines 241    Losing Prestige as a Migrant 245    Coming ‘Home’ to Sweden 249   Swapping Feelings 250    Being Brought Back in Line 254   Losing the Independent Relationship 254    Out of Line with Straight Diasporic Communities? 256    To Depend Emotionally on the Non-Migrating Partner 258    Aligning the Migrating Partner 261   Emotional Responsibilities 262    Acknowledging Emotional Struggles and Dependence 264    The Loss of the Simple and Happy Life 266   Max’s Story: Finding Yourself Lost When You’re Away 267    A Less Straightforward Migration 271    Being Written Into an Already-Existing Migration Narrative 274    The Loss of Independence 277    Going Back Will Never Be the Same 281    The Loss of Close Relationships 283    Transitioning from a Clean Slate 287    Creating Relationships with Others While    Negotiating Transphobia and ‘Being Different’ 289    Standing Out in White Spaces 292    Being Angry and Fearing Whiteness 296   Conclusion 299   BELONGING 300   The Intensity of Belonging 302   Feeling a Sense of Belonging 303    Five Factors of Belonging 305   The Politics of Belonging: Inclusion and Exclusion 307   Luke’s Story: Falling in Love with the Idea of Sweden 308    Growing Up Out of Line 312    A Romantic Relationship as an Opening to a New World 313    To Experience a Sense of Belonging in Chaos 316    To Realize That Home Is Not Where You Belong 318    Belonging through Feelings of Safety 322    Belonging as a Young Migrant 323    Finding a Way to Return to Sweden 325    A Lacking Love in a Retroactively Created Narrative 328   Residency and Queer Belonging 328    Proving a Queer Relationship to Migration Authorities 330    The Residence Application Process as Barely Worth Mentioning 333    To Belong in Sweden through Queer Love 337    The Privileged Partner Migration Process 340    Belonging as a Queer Migrant Subject 343   Eliza and Viktoria’s Story:   Emotional Labour and Being ‘Almost Swedish’ 344    A Shared and Retroactively Created Narrative of Love 346    Emotional Labour to Create a Sense of Belonging 350    Shouldering the Responsibility of   Making the Migrating Partner Belong 353    To Be Orientated as Swedish through    a Partner’s Emotional Labour 354    The Importance of a Swedish Partner to Create Belonging 358    Being Brought in Line as a Queer Couple in Sweden 363   Conclusion 367   CONCLUSION 393   EPILOGUE 403   LIST OF INTERVIEW PARTICIPANTS 408   BIBLIOGRAPHY Acknowledgments First of all, I want to thank all the interview participants who made this dissertation possible. I want to thank you for the time you took to talk to me, to share your stories with me, and for trusting that I would actually turn them into something worth reading. May no one believe that what is written in a book can actually, truly mirror the complexity of the migration stories you told me! Thank you to Virgina Caputo at Carleton University in Ottawa who first opened my eyes to feminist theories, and to Kalissa Alexeyeff at University of Melbourne in Melbourne who then made me question them all. Thank you to my advisers, Peo Hansen, for never pushing me in any particular direction and always letting me go my own way, and Ulrika Dahl, for theoretical and methodological depth, and for pointing me in the right directions. Thank you to everyone at REMESO who has helped me over the years, with a special thank you to Anita Andersson. Also, I would not have got as far or enjoyed myself nearly as much if it weren’t for Jennie K. Larsson, Karin Krifors, and Nedžad Mešić. Jennie and Karin’s feminist minds have also had a great influence on this dissertation. Thank you to the readers of my half and final seminars who read and commented on the text in ways that significantly improved it: Anna Adenji, Catrine Andersson, Sabine Gruber, Pia Laskar, Catrin Lundström, and Jenny Payne Gunnarsson. Jenny and Anna, who are both amazing readers, have particularly influenced the direction the text took. 13 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Thank you to Josie Cain, my absolute favourite yoga instructor. I have had such enormous help from everything I learned from you in Melbourne throughout the years since. A heartfelt thank you to all those authors out there who write what is considered non-quality literature. You certainly added quality, sanity, dystopia, urban fantasy, and sci fi to my life during this period. Edward and Bella, Penryn and Raffe, Kira and Samm, Fire and Brigan, Katniss and Peeta, Katsa and Po, Lena and Alex, Tally and David, Clary and Jace, Meg and Simon, and all other straight heroines and their loves-of-their-lives co-wrote this dissertation. The biggest thank you goes to Dana. Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for being there for me. Now let’s go feed some pigs and do some weeding! 14 Chapter 1 - Introduction MONA AND KARIN’S STORY “I was feeling depressed, really. Yeah, I was about to move back. When I went back for a visit I called Karin and said I wanted to stay, that I’m not coming back and everything was total chaos.” Mona sits on the couch next to me with her legs pulled up under her. She does not look at me nor at her partner Karin as she describes what happened after her move from Denmark1 to Sweden. She had moved so that she could be with Karin, and it was a move they had longed for. However, they had not imagined it could difficult. Mona continues: “I didn’t think it would be as hard as it turned out to be, I didn’t expect that. I think I’m pretty good at getting to know people, but it was so difficult to start with. It was a totally new experience.” Mona’s migration and the feelings she experienced had consequences for Karin as well, who worried about Mona’s wellbeing and felt guilty and responsible because she had ‘made’ Mona move to Sweden. Because Karin was not in a position to leave Sweden and 1.  Interview participants chose how they wanted the countr(ies) they have roots in to be described in the dissertation, whether by country name, region, or continent. I discuss my reasoning behind this in the methodological chapter. 17 CHAPTER 1 move to Denmark, the only way they could be together in the same place was if Mona migrated, and Karin says: “I wanted Mona to make the decision, because she was the one who had to move. And when she did, it was like a proposal. I just, like, aaaah! [exhales happily] It made me so happy and I was like, really, for real?! Do you want to?!” Mona, who is twenty-seven, has lived in Sweden for two and a half years when I meet her and Karin. Karin is a year older, and is white, grew up in Sweden, and has a name that is understood as Swedish. The two met at a festival in Sweden and had been together for close to four years at the time of the interview. Mona’s difficult move from Denmark startled them both; they never imagined that her migration would be as challenging and emotionally trying as it turned out to be. Their quotes show the complex feelings a migration coming about because of a relationship can bring on: even a relatively short move (as Karin says, “Denmark is only a few hours away by train, it’s not like Mona never visits there.”) between culturally very similar countries brings with it a flood of feelings but also new realities to negotiate. Mona says, “My identity became so weird when I moved here, and I can still feel like I’m not fully myself. I kind of don’t do the things I want to do. I have lost a part of myself.” While Mona and Karin tell a story of Mona gradually becoming more independent and settling into Sweden, they are stunned by how they both lost their independence in the migration process: Mona because she knew no one and Karin was the only person available to her, both emotionally and socially. Karin because she became responsible for Mona in a way neither of them had anticipated when she realized the social and emotional need she filled for Mona. Their narrative is one of a dawning realization that even a fully voluntary migration propelled by what is generally interpreted as a positive feeling, romantic love, can be very complex and unsettling. 18 INTRODUCTION For Mona the migration also meant feeling that she does not belong in ways she had not experienced before. Because she has roots2 in Iran as well as Denmark, she says: I’m from Denmark, or I grew up there, but I don’t look Danish. People in Sweden can’t place me. My background means a lot to me, it’s been important in all situations in my life, and it’s always meant something, both to myself and to others, that I’m not Danish. It’s like a constant thing, it’s just the way it is. And then things happen based on that, because of that you deal with things in one way and not another, and because of that you become the person you are and not someone else in the eyes of society. It’s an important part of my life, that I’m from Iran, or I’m not Danish in that way. I might be able to say I’m from Denmark but it’s pretty obvious that I’m not in that way. Race and nationality matter when both migrating partners and nonmigrating partners narrate feelings in the migration process. For Mona, it means negotiating being Danish, but “not in that way,” in a Swedish context that racializes her. Because she is read as ‘not-white,’ she is also assumed to be ‘not-Swedish’ as well as, by extension, ‘notDanish,’ as the assumption is that both Danes and Swedes are white. In order to be read as Danish (rather than Swedish), a white Danish person would need to speak to show through language that they3 are Danish. Mona, however, is read as neither Danish nor Swedish. She 2.  I use the term ‘roots’ rather than ‘country of origin’ when discussing the countries interview participants have lived in or migrated from, as roots can be grown in many places and do not limit themselves to growing in the country indicated on an individual’s passport. 3.  I use a singular ‘they’ throughout this dissertation. This is because it is a neutral pronoun, a singular personal pronoun of indeterminate gender. A singular ‘they’ has a long history of usage in both spoken and written English, and my reasons for using it are both to avoid writing ‘he or she’ and to use inclusive language that does not assume that a person identifies as either ‘he’ or ‘she.’ 19 CHAPTER 1 is read as a ‘migrant’ because of the inability of the people she meets in Sweden to interpret a non-white body as Danish. The migration to Sweden adds new layers to her already existing migrant identity. Mona and Karin’s narrative shows the importance of emotions and feelings in their migration process. There is the love they feel for each other, the longing that eventually causes them to decide that Mona will migrate to Sweden, joy when this decision is made, pain when the migration causes Mona to lose her footing, Mona’s feeling of loss, Karin’s guilt, their frustration over the loss of independence and the equal relationship, and the feelings of alienation that race and nationality can cause. These are also some of the emotions and feelings of migration that I explore in this dissertation about queer intimacy and partner migration to Sweden. In particular, I center on love, loss, and belonging in this type of migration process. Feelings ‘do’ ‘things’ to us, they affect us in ways we did not expect and move us in different directions than we had anticipated. It can mean we are caught by surprise, just like Mona and Karin in their narrative. Like Mona says, it is “because of that [the social processes of power that shape our experiences] you become the person you are and not someone else.” This dissertation in Ethnic and Migration Studies focuses on how migration experiences help orientate our lives differently depending on who we are – social processes of power such as gender identity, sexual identity, race, nationality(ies), class, economic resources, education, and language all affect the different paths available to us to walk. However, who we are also means that what we come to expect from the world differs, and so our feelings, and what those feelings do to us, also differ. THE AIM OF THE STUDY In this dissertation I explore narratives of queer partner migration; a migration that means that one of the partners of a relationship has migrated in order for the partners to be together, and where the 20 INTRODUCTION partners queer the migration in the sense that they are ‘same-sex’4 and/or gender non-normative. Having said this, the dissertation is organized around several different themes. It is about migrants who queer migration because of their sexual or gender identities, about queer intimacy and migration, about voluntary migration, and about privileges and migration. Above all, it is about feelings, in particular romantic love, and migration. I also explore the concept of queer partner migration from the perspective of both migrating and non-migrating partners. I do this by placing the relationship’s queerness at the center of the migration and the migration at the center of the relationship’s queerness. Specifically, I study what feelings do to individuals and relationships in queer partner migration processes to Sweden. The research questions I aim to answer are: first, how do feelings and emotions...
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