What Constitutes Intermarriage for Multiracial People in Britain?

What Constitutes Intermarriage for Multiracial People in Britain?

The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Volume 662, Number 1, November 2015
pages 94-111
DOI: 10.1177/0002716215595387

Miri Song, Professor of Sociology
University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom

Intermarriage is of great interest to analysts because a group’s tendency to partner across ethnic boundaries is usually seen as a key indicator of the social distance between groups in a multiethnic society. Theories of intermarriage as a key indicator of integration are, however, typically premised upon the union of white and nonwhite individuals, and we know very little about what happens in the unions of multiracial people, who are the children of intermarried couples. What constitutes intermarriage for multiracial people? Do multiracial individuals think that ethnic or racial ancestries are a defining aspect of their relationships with their partners? In this article, I argue that there are no conventions for how we characterize endogamous or exogamous relationships for multiracial people. I then draw on examples of how multiracial people and their partners in Britain regard their relationships with their partners and the significance of their and their partners’ ethnic and racial backgrounds. I argue that partners’ specific ancestries do not necessarily predict the ways in which multiracial individuals regard their partners’ ethnic and racial backgrounds as constituting difference or commonality within their relationships.

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