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Historically, mixed couples and people of mixed descent have been seen as a problem, in popular culture as well as in academic literature. This conference addresses among other the question how we may gain a fuller understanding of the lived experiences of mixed couples, power, and intimacy, without pathologizing and dehumanizing them. It approaches these questions from international comparative perspectives.

Event details of Power, Intimacy and the State: Mixed Families in Europe and Beyond
Start date 12 June 2017
End date 13 June 2017
Time 09:00

The conference is a joint initiative of the Amsterdam Centre of European Law and Governance (University of Amsterdam), and the Maastricht Centre for Gender and Diversity, in cooperation with LovingDay.NL. It will take place on 12 and 13 June 2017, when Loving Day is commemorated as the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Loving v. Virginia American Supreme Court decision, that held that interracial marriage prohibitions were unconstitutional. The conference is made possibly by the financial support of Ammodo - Institute of Arts and Sciences.

Attendance and registration

Attendance is free of charge and primarily reserved to contributors of papers and invited attendees.

The keynote presentations on 12 June 2017 are open to the public, but subject to registration. 

Please register here for


Historically, ‘ethnically’ and ‘racially’ mixed relationships were described as dominated by power imbalances and as devoid of love. This perspective was brought to bear upon relationships and marriages in colonial times and in times of slavery. Even today, within the context of global migration, mixed couples are often perceived in negative terms, e.g. in discourses on ‘mail order brides’ (marriages between white men and migrant women) or ‘beznez marriages’ (marriages between white women and migrant men).

There is no denying that mixed couples and relations are fraught with power inequalities as they developed in the context of historical and modern-day global inequalities, colonialism, post-colonialism, slavery and racialised hierarchies. However, issues concerning the entanglement of power and privilege with intimate relationships are much more complex than they are often envisioned to be. Since the 1980s, scholars of ‘mixture’ and ‘mixedness’, including critical race and critical mixed race studies, have been questioning this pathologisation of mixed couples and mixed descent. They have called for more nuanced approaches to the lived experiences of mixed couples and persons of mixed descent, that should help us strike a proper balance between an overly negative view on the one hand and an unwarranted romanticised view on the other, which regards mixed relationships and mixed heritage as a means for creating a boundary-less and race-less world.

Hence, this conference addresses questions such as: how we may gain a fuller understanding of the lived experiences of mixed couples, power, and intimacy, without pathologizing and dehumanizing them? This conference aims to approach these questions from international comparative perspectives. How can a balanced view be achieved in the European context, where mixed couples are mostly studied with respect to the contradictory imperative of cultural assimilation on the one hand and respect for cultural difference on the other? And what about other continents such as Africa or Asia?

The conference

The conference seeks to bring together people from different disciplines (ethnic and racial studies, critical (mixed) race studies, history, (post)colonial studies, film and media studies, literature, sociology, anthropology, geography, law, gender studies, sexuality and queer studies, migration studies, et cetera), and from different national backgrounds. We believe that an interdisciplinary and comparative approach is key to gaining the ‘thick’ understanding of mixed relationships that this conference aims at. We especially hope to give a boost to the study of mixture and mixed intimacies in the European context.

Keynote speakers

  • Dr Carina Ray, Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies, Brandeis University, US, will talk about her awarded book Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana (1st ed. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2015).
  • Dr Iris Wigger, Lecturer in Sociology, Loughborough University, UK, present her book The 'Black Horror on the Rhine' Intersections of Race, Nation, Gender and Class in 1920's Germany (forthcoming with Palgrave in summer 2017).

Venue and accommodation

The conference will be held at University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

All participants are asked to organize their own travel and accommodation.

Conference organizers:

  • Prof. Betty de Hart Amsterdam, Centre for European Law and Governance (ACELG), University of Amsterdam
  • Prof. Lies Wesseling, Maastricht Centre for Gender and Diversity, Maastricht University
  • Stichting LovingDay.NL