Marrying ‘in’/marrying ‘out’? Blurred boundaries in British Pakistani marriage choices

Katharine Charsley, Marta Bolognani

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The widespread practice of transnational marriage among British Pakistanis has often been understood through an ethnic lens, as emphasising the boundaries of ethnicity and reaffirming bonds of kinship to Pakistan. Within British Pakistani families, however, a diversity of marriages may exist, with some siblings married transnationally, whilst others have partners from within the UK. Marriage between cousins or more distant relatives is common, but unions between British Pakistanis are less often consanguineous than those involving a spouse from Pakistan. This paper draws on sibling pair case studies to explore the logics and consequences of contrasting marriage choices: those between kin but crossing international borders, and those within the nation-state but crossing the boundaries of the kin-group. In doing so, we suggest that both ‘types’ of marriage should be understood as part of wider dynamics of creative contextual brightening and dimming of a variety of boundaries of similarity and difference. Negotiations of marriageability may include ethnic, kin and national boundaries, but very often go beyond them. Destabilising these dominant discourses, moreover, also brings into question assumed correlations between cross-border marriage and broader transnational orientation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-378
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2019

Structured keywords

  • SPAIS Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship


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