World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Transnational Families between Islamic and Dutch Family Law (176) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 9.00-11.00 am

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Radboud University Nijmegen, Inst. Sociology of Law, Centre for Migration Law (Netherlands)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Betty de Hart

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: This session explores the social working of family law in transnational legal space; a social field across borders, in which individual family members, family networks or NGOs mobilize law, creating and using new norms in response to the interaction or collision of different family law systems.

Transnational families are faced with more than one state and their legal systems, laws and regulations, and legal norms, which may conflict or interact with each other. Families may have transnational ties in both countries, e.g. family ties and friends, or economic, national or cultural ties. Furthermore, they may have contacts with other transnational families, but also with NGO’s or lawyers that have ties to both countries.
Family law is central to the reproduction of the social and cultural order and connected to gender relations. Hence, it is the issue of intense public and political debates in the three countries under study: Morocco, Egypt and the Netherlands. The impact of such debates on family law or amendments of law do not remain confined to the domestic space, but are exchanged across borders between countries, e.g. in negotiations between states or in exchanges between networks and NGOs. As a result of such developments, families are confronted with legally and normatively pluralist family law.

This session is about the power of law in transnational legal space, but also about the power of individuals to negotiate, ignore or resist law. Transnational family law may have different meanings in the everyday lives of family members. Law may constrain their choices, but also offer opportunities for strategies that do not exist when one comes into contact with only one national legal system. Law can have far-reaching consequences in peoples’ daily lives. It influences the thinking and actions of individuals. However, law is just one of the normative relations that influence the everyday lives of families in transnational legal space, besides social norms about family, marriage and divorce. The study of law in everyday live of families in transnational legal space raises the question of how family members use law, or how they ignore it, and which meanings they attach to law in their daily family life. Family members do not necessarily have the same interests. Men and women, children and individuals of various ethnic backgrounds are positioned differently in transnational legal space, having various amounts of room to negotiate the meaning of law in everyday life.

Most studies of transnationalism or transnational ties confine themselves to one geographical space. This session moves beyond that in studying the reciprocal connections between Morocco and the Netherlands, and between Egypt and the Netherlands. This means that not only Moroccan or Egyptian Islamic family law may have an impact in the Netherlands, but also that Dutch family law may have an influence in Morocco or Egypt.

The focus of this session is on empirical research of the experiences of family members, collected in interviews and further fieldwork in Morocco, Egypt and the Netherlands.

Chair: Prof. Willy Jansen, Radboud University Nijmegen, centref for Gender studies

Discussant: Prof.Baudouin Dupret

Paper presenter: Betty de Hart (Radboud University Nijmegen), “Transnational Legal Space. A Concept to Study experiences of Transnational Families?”
The first paper looks at the concept of transnational legal space. Is there a social field that crosses borders and if so, what does it look like for Dutch-Moroccan and Dutch-Egyptian families? In a theoretical approach, this paper aims to answer the question whether the concept of transnational legal space is useful in studying the experiences of transnational family members.

Paper presenter: Friso Kulk (Radboud University Nijmegen), “Parents and Children: Moroccan-Dutch Families Negotiating Family Law in Morocco”

The second paper discusses how parents in Dutch-Moroccan transnational families living in Morocco deal with the family law systems of both countries when forming the legal relationship with their children. In a legally complicated environment, choices such as where to get married, where to register the child, what name to give the child, etc. can have far reaching effects on how the legal relations between parents and their children are shaped.

Paper presenter: Iris Sportel (Radboud University Nijmegen), “Transnnational Divorce in Moroccan-Dutch families”

The third paper will discuss transnational links between Morocco and the Netherlands in case of divorce. The focus will be on institutions, lawyers and NGOs which can provide socio-legal advice and information in both the Netherlands and Morocco. It will be argued that these institutions and the links between them form a kind of transnational field in which certain norms about divorce are shared. Additionally, examples of transnational Dutch-Moroccan divorce cases and their use of this transnational field of socio-legal institutions will be discussed.

Paper presenter: Jessica Carlisle (Radboud University Nijmegen), “Egyptian-Dutch Custody Disputes (‘Parental Child Abduction’) in Egypt”

The fourth paper will be an empirical assessment of the conduct of transnational family disputes involving allegations of parental abduction in Egypt. This study is based on recent fieldwork conducted in Cairo and the Netherlands with lawyers, ‘left behind’ and ‘receiving’ families, NGOs and government representatives. The analysis will refer to literature on the impact that differing levels of legal consciousness, linguistic competence, financial and social resources and institutional support have on dispute conduct.