Places and belongings: circular conjugalities between Angola and Portugal


Project website:

Team Members

Marzia Grassi (Coord.), Jeanne Vivet, Tatiana Ferreira, Luena Marinho.


Based on empirical evidence substantiating a recent upturn in migration flows from Portugal to Angola which is twice that going in the other direction, this project examines the belief that labor-driven migration is a phenomenon that runs from developing to developed countries. In fact, we challenge the use and utility of sociological categories connected to the nation-state, and provide support for the alternative, transnational approach (Bash at all, 1994; Guarnizo e Smith 1998) considering it to be more appropriate for understanding the changes imposed on conjugal/partner relationships and lives of the migrants.

In the context of contemporary studies of families and transnational lives (Bryceson and Vuorela 2002), we study the emergence of new forms of conjugality among heterosexual couples living apart (one in Portugal, the other in Angola). Considering the importance of gender stratification when the domestic space is transnational rather than shared (Lubkemenn 2008), we seek to understand how the construction of masculinity is reformulated in the couple when the man migrates to the other country to find work. The data gathered capture the repercussions of mobility on conjugality as well as the self-perception and representations of those involved of the domestic space – here understood in its physical, affective, and social dimensions. When a conjugal pair separates as a result of the migration of one person, fluid forms of conjugality arise, demanding realignment of gender roles. As few studies have addressed masculinity and migrations between Angola and Portugal, this project fills a gap in the investigation into historic, identity, and symbolic relationships, which since the 16th century have characterized the migrations between these two countries.

The “circular” forms of conjugality that are emerging today can also be studied from the point of view of Post-colonial Theory – seen in the continuities and ruptures in Portugal’s colonial imagination, the gender-role building, and the migrations between the two countries (Castelo 2007). All of these issues are closely linked to reconstructions of the sense of “home” in the minds of those involved. “Feeling at home” can be construed at several levels: domestic, neighborhood, city, and even country. Besides habitation, which is the first “home sphere” – the most intimate and private, where one actually lives with one’s partner – “feeling at home” is something constructed through daily practices in one’s city, through the knowledge of and sense of belonging to the urban space, through the building of social networks, and through one’s feeling of identification with other groups that exist in the city (Lambony et al 2003).

We seek to investigate the process of (re)constructing the “home” in both city of origin and city of destination of the male migrant, as well as the repercussions on the conjugal relationship of the couple, of its representations, and experiences. Regarding the theoretical challenges mentioned above, the methodology employed, too, will be novel. Based on the Simultaneous Matched Samples method (Mazzucato 2008), both quantitative and qualitative features will be used – using two questionnaires (for Portugal and Angola), and 30 detailed interviews in those countries, respectively.

Starting date: 01/03/2012