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Crossing Sexual Borders. Gender & Sexuality in Migration

Genre & sexualité en migration
An international conference (in English) at MSH Paris Nord

Sex has to do with borders. This can involve very different logics. Migration may be the result of intimate
relationships, for example through family reunification. Sex can also make migration possible – in
particular in the case of sex work. However, these two logics are not always so easy to distinguished. For
example, binational marriages are alternately considered as the cause or as the instrument of migration.

This is due to the fact that, conversely, borders have to do with sex. Migration is sometimes a way to flee
from persecution based on sexual or gender identity. Indeed, States often use sex to define borders, and
accordingly decide whether to let people in, or keep them out. Forced marriage, polygamy, and genital
mutilations are used as arguments to open borders to the persons who are recognized as victims, and close
them for those that are held responsible for their plight.

Sex without borders and the borders of sex are thus the two sides of the same coin.
This process involves a multiplicity of agents – not only migrants, but also the various intermediaries, from judges to activists,
including interpreters. It has consequences on individuals who migrate, as sexual identity does not exist
independent of these power relations: the subjectivation of migrants is thus inseparable from State
policies.

Finally, the sexualization of migration is both an empirical reality and a symbolic one: sex is also a
discourse that produces borders as it draws a line between “us” and “them.” For example, on the one hand,
“brown women” deserve “our” protection; on the other, “brown men” can threaten “our” women, and thus
justify closing borders, as was the case after the Cologne attacks.

This conference will not isolate one aspect or another among these diverse issues; on the contrary, it is
intended to make them resonate together. This conference is part of the project on “Gender and Sexuality
in Migration,” and it is supported by the CNRS research center LEGS, along with the MSH Paris-Nord
and the Université Paris 8.

Organizers:
Éric Fassin (Paris 8 University, LEGSManuela
Salcedo (Défenseur des droits-CNRS, LEGS)
Organizing Committee:
Lucas Monteil (Paris 8 University, LEGS)
Caroline Ibos (Rennes 2 University, LEGS)
Anne-Cécile Caseau (Paris 8 University, LEGS)