two stones drawn like people
two stones drawn like people

Displaying Difference, Displaying Sameness

Love is often assumed to be a universal feeling, a blind force which transcends different cultural and religious backgrounds, as well as sexual orientation. However, some couples still have to cope with social constraints and questions about their love due to societal prejudices and normative ideas of what a couple and a family should be. Couples with different cultural and religious backgrounds often report various societal obstacles in accepting their relationship. They find themselves forced to prove their love to families and society.

What defines a family? 

Radboud Researcher Francesco Cerchiaro states that this, among other things, has to do with the fact that we often view cultural diversity and minority groups as separate entities in our societies. But when individuals from different societal groups make a family together, that's where we see what "integration" or "migrant inclusion" really means. These families, whether referring to interfaith, interracial or intercultural types of mixedness, challenge and (re)shape our definition of family and test our definition of love as a universal code that transcends social boundaries.

Despite progress in many areas, societal norms still primarily define identities in binary, rigid terms and overlook intimate parts of people's lives. By carefully and thoughtfully interviewing mixed families about their love and everyday lives, Cerchiaro seeks to aid in closing this gap.

What is mixedness?

What exactly is a 'mixed family', then? Cerchiaro uses the term 'mixedness' to refer to couples having a different cultural background, with specific attention to couples with a Muslim and a non-Muslim partner. The families are, indeed, often perceived as an emblematic case study of "mixedness" that incorporates ethnic-racial and religious differences. His study shows that the definition of 'mixedness' is culturally constructed and reflects the perception of minorities by the majority of society.  

Cultural diversity as a resource for society itself

Cerchiaro uses his interviews to understand how mixed couples discuss their identities and cultural differences daily. He also points out how this can reveal ever-changing definitions of family and societal diversity. He states that, above all, the couples' experiences highlight the richness of cultural diversity as a resource for society itself.

'After all', Cerchiaro says, 'Is love in a couple not always about finding a way to navigate between difference and sameness, defend your own individuality and merge with the other?'.

Literature reference

Read the complete publication Displaying Difference, Displaying Sameness: Mixed Couples' Reflexivity and the Narrative-Making of the Family here