Europe’s New Migrants: Marriage Practices and Policies

University of Birmingham 16-18 April 2018


The spread, speed and scale (Vertovec 2007) of refugees and migrants coming into Europe since the second Gulf War have challenged and impacted existing European, political, social and legal systems. One of those issues that have become of major concern within European societies and have been hotly debated is Muslim marriage practices performed by these relatively new comers. These practices have posed various legal, religious and social challenges. Legally, some of these practices lack formalised documentations either because they have not been officially registered or because documents have been lost during the displacement process. This conference focuses on European family law on Muslim marriages that were contracted both before and after displacement. One part of the conference is seeking papers that examine to what extent the national systems of family law in the receiving countries in Europe secure women’s rights within these marriages or their breakdown. Religiously, some of these marriages are unconventional, such as between a Muslim women and a non-Muslim man. This conference seeks papers which examine various forms and new types of marriages, how they are contracted and what role they play in defining religious boundaries. Socially, these trans- and intra-religious Muslim marriage forms impact social relations and define them anew. This last part of the conference seeks papers which examine how marriage practices are a means to negotiate one’s ‘politics of belonging’ (Yuval-Davis 2011) and integration into the new host societies.

This interdisciplinary conference brings together scholars in Law, Religious/Islamic Studies, Anthropology, Sociology as well as policy makers and practitioners who engage with

  1. the existing legal discourses and policies around the recognition and non-recognition of particular Muslim marriage forms in the legal systems of the various European national-states
  2. the various legal, religious, social and civic support structures these women can refer to in case of a marriage breakdown, inheritance and custody rights
  3. women’s and communities’ agency in interpreting existing normative religious discourses anew and developing new forms of marriage practices
  4. Policy makers and organisation related to asylum and migration polices.

The main purpose of this conference is a) to demonstrate the complex nature of Muslim marriage practices and their constant evolution alongside political and sectarian tensions and cultural developments b) to initiate international academic research on Muslim marriage practices among Europe’s new migrants c) to enhance public and academic understanding of the issues and debates surrounding marriage practices through offering comparative insights into and discussions on various marriage forms and their legal, religious and social impact across various European countries.

Paper proposals from academics of all relevant disciplines who are actively engaged in peer-reviewed research and publication in the field of marriage practices as well as from various practitioners are invited. Topics may include (but are not limited) to the following:

  • Marriage, displacement and integration
  • Family law regulations and non-registered Muslim marriage forms
  • Non-governmental organisations and their role in providing legal protection
  • Contestations around trans-religious marriage practices
  • Sunni-Shia marriages (also known as Sushi-marriages)
  • Marriages and conversions
  • Nikah-only marriages and challenges
  • Family breakdown, divorce, child custody, inheritance and adoption
  • Migration marriage or family-related migration
  • We might offer travel/accommodation bursary for some PhD candidates and early career researchers.


Confirmed key note speakers:

Shaheen Sardar Ali, Professor of Law, Warwick Law School

Annelies Moors, Professor of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

Confirmed participants at round table discussion:

Aina Khan, Head of the Islamic and Asian Department at Duncan Lewis solicitors

Dr Vishal Vora, Max Planck Institute, Halle, Germany

Dr Federica Sona, Collegio Carlo Alberto, Turin, Italy and Max Planck Institute, Halle, Germany

The deadline for abstract submission is 15 January 2018. Abstracts of up to 300 words and a short bio of (up to 200 words) should be sent in MS Word format as an email attachment to Presentations of papers should be 20 minutes long, followed by 10 minutes for questions and discussions.

Notifications of acceptance of papers will be sent out by 31 Jan 2018.


Deadline for abstract submission: 15 Jan 2018

Notification of acceptance: 31 Jan 2018

Conference: 16-18 April 2018