Research on mixed couples goes back to the early 20th century. Quantitative studies mainly use the term intermarriage and concentrate on integration or group barriers; other approaches speak of transnational marriage: mixed couples are seen as a consequence of migration. In this article, we will define conjugal mixedness as involving all sorts of interethnic or interreligious couples, even those who are not directly linked to migration. What makes them mixed is not their cultural differences, but the inequality between the majority and the minority partner. Prevalent in-marriage norms (endogamy) and conjugal inequality lead to social disapproval, which varies historically and depends on the societal context. Conjugal mixedness furthermore requires an intersectional approach; questions of ethno-cultural, racial or religious belonging are linked to gender, social class and migration. Illustrated by empirical examples in France, we show how conjugal mixedness is defined from the outside, i.e. through social perceptions or disapproval, and constructed from the inside (the couples’ own experiences of mixedness in daily life and the adjustments they make). We argue that the way spouses deal with mixedness depends on factors other than ethnic belonging, namely gender, class and migration history.
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