Transforming polygamy: migration, transnationalism and multiple marriages among Muslim minorities


Department of Sociology, University of Bristol, 12 Woodland Rd, Bristol BS7 8LX, UK


In Europe, polygamy is often portrayed as emblematic of unchanging patriarchal traditions among Muslims. In contrast, based on research with Pakistanis in Britain and Turks in Denmark, we explore ways in which polygamy is transformed in the context of migration and transnationalism. Migration-related polygamy features in accounts of the pioneer generations of Pakistani and Turkish migrants to Europe, but there is also evidence of great variety in contemporary practices of multiple marriage, and new permutations of polygamy arising due to the specific conditions of transnational migration. Coexisting legal systems within and between nations; the opportunities of spousal settlement; multiple marital aspirations; and both transnational connections and geographical distance combine to create opportunities and motivations for a range of polygamous situations, including some in which ‘technical’ polygamy masks monogamy in practice.