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Family Migrations and Uses of Law

Migrations familiales et usages du droit

Actors, Norms and Regulation within International Families' Movement

Acteurs, normes et régulation de la circulation internationale des familles

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Published on vendredi, mai 19, 2017 by Elsa Zotian


In the last decades, international migrations have significantly influenced family structures. Individuals migrate to rejoin their spouse or family; some have to juggle between the law of their country of origin and of their country of residence to divorce; others give birth to a child in a country where they have no right to reside. Minors are adopted or legally taken, others are conceived abroad (surrogacy mothers, medically-assisted procreaction), some are forced or invited to leave their country. This symposium aims at filling existing gaps in this highly topical field of research, regularly approached either by a disciplinary entry, or by employing the regulating action of law. On the contrary, this symposium investigates several other perspectives assumed by the law and the plurality of actors concerned by it.



In the past decades, international migrations have significantly influenced family structures. Individuals migrate to meet their spouse or family; some have to juggle between the law of their country of origin and of their country of residence to get divorced; others give birth to a child in a country where they have no right to reside. Minors are adopted or legally taken, others are conceived abroad (surrogacy mothers, medically-assisted procreation), some are forced or invited to leave their country.

At this symposium, we will question the individual and collective uses of law according to different migratory scheme. Depending on national and international norms, circulations and migration affect the formation and dissolution of conjugality, filiation and kinship and reproduction / procreation. These constitutive moments of family life are regulated by legal pluralism combining respect of the personal status of individuals on the one hand, and fundamental rights (protection of the children/ refugees/ women ‘s rights, fight against human beings traffic, etc.) on the other hand. However, this is balanced by more or less restrictive national, european, international migratory policies. Therefore, individuals are lead to take heterogeneous measures according to their needs, as well as their administrative status, nationality, gender, Ethnic origins, age, as well as their socio-economic and cultural resources. Indeed, individuals have to cope with complex institutional apparatus, conflicting laws, poor administrations, and overcrowded courts faced with everlastingly evolving legislation.

In this context, how does law affect these family trajectories? Does it generate innovative readings of the migration family or, on the contrary, ratify unequal situations? To ensure these questions, we will consider what several researches theorized as "uses of the law" (Lochak 1989, Spire and Weidenfeld 2009, Ewick and Silbey 1998). The law can be perceived as the result of an institutional regulation process or to be used as a resource by the individuals directly concerned, or even by those who help and support them to make it out. We will focus on four dimensions of the uses of the law (among others) can be linked to family migrations: individual uses (1); Activists and collectives (2); Institutional (3) diplomatic and political institutions (4).

Individual uses

Firstly, we deal with the forms of legal socialization and learning (Sacriste, Vauchez, and Willemez, 2005). The power relations with the State and the capacity of the individuals to seize rights and laws depend not only on their social, economic and cultural resources, their biographical trajectory, or their gender; but they also depend on the rights these individuals enjoy according to their administrative status (i.e.: if they are nationals or foreigner, regular or irregulars). Furthermore, one should consider the length and modalities of the institutional procedures. Indeed, it is by meeting the administration again and again that the individuals become aware of the legal rights (Pélisse, 2005; Ewick and Silbey, 1998) which allow them to claim for the respect on a daily basis (Siblot, 2006). Hence, the individuals are objects of the right/law; but they can also become, and be conceived, as actors. They may be « lay persons », or look for legal experts or associative support, or build up their own “legal crafts” or “little arrangements” (Bourdieu, 1986 ; Michel and Willemez, 2008), anyway these individuals are used to rethinking their relation with the law and the rights in order to reach their goals.

Militant and collective uses

Secondly, we are interested in the militant and collective uses of the law.

On the one hand, quite a great number of the studies on social movements describe the process of the legal causes (Israël and Gaïti, 2003), the impact of the reforms and the lobbyist scope of some collective mobilization in favour of women rights (Revillard, 2016), men rights (Blais and Dupuis-Déri, 2011; Fillod-Chabaud, 2014), family rights (Martin et Hassenteufel, 2000 ; Mathieu, 2012) and children rights (Wray et al., 2015 ; van Loon, 2001). Meanwhile, the notion of « politics of rights » (Scheingold, 1974) allows to investigate the way a specific policy forges the relations between institutions and mobilization (Baudot and Revillard, 2015).

On the other hand, we will first focus on the « cause of law », namely the legal professional (Willemez, 2003) and associative (Lochard and Simonet, 2003), and then on the experts who act in favour of foreigners’ rights (Marek, 2003) and the family members as well. The notion of cause lawyering (Israël, 2001) should be used to question the production of associative and lobbyist knowledge (Kawar, 2015 ; Sarat et Scheingold, 2006), and the legal information circulation and sharing at the local, national, European and international levels.

Institutional uses

The private sphere is the object of a significant legal work. Nevertheless, it is when one observes the administrative and judicial everyday practices of legal implementation (Dubois, 2015) that we may clearly see how family right evolves. The institutional regulations of conjugal and parental ties are subjected to a variable and territorialized application that fills in some legal gaps or responds to local and customary injunctions. The daily work of street level bureaucrats in charge of family circulations and migration management and the production of new forms of “civic stratifications” (Morris, 2003) may be suitable perspectives to approach some institutional uses.

Furthermore, this section may handle the migration gateways configurations (Spire, 2008), with the “juridical solidity” of state agents’ decisions (Dodier, 1991), with the judicial treatments of family litigations (Collectif Onze, 2013), and with the child protection (Séraglini, 2001) perspective. We will also consider the distinction between social and biological kinships, the way it is produced by the institutional testing, that is to say the evidence asked and the tools mobilised by the administrations in order to control the veracity of family ties (i.e.: Civil Register certificates, genetic testing in the frame of family reunification procedures).

The diplomatic and political uses

The juridical diplomatic challenges (Perrin, 2004a ; Perrin, 2004b) are pertinent to study how the States, aiming at managing marriage and family migrations, produce law and rights on the basis of international jurisprudence. Beyond migration laws and bilateral/multilateral agreements (international conventions and readmission agreements), private international law seems to favour political issues at the expense of the juridical coherence. For several years, the security injunctions and the public order safeguard break into family norms process (Bernard-Maugiron and Dupret, 2012). The individuals respect of religion and cultural tradition in family institutions’ management (Brunet, 2010) may be a further topic to be debated. Last, but not least, not only the international regulation of adoption (The Hague Convention) and the diplomatic challenges linked to the circulations of children (diplomatic embargo, international adoption blockage, corruption) (Leinaweaver, 2008; Roux, 2015), but also the circulation of future parents (circulation of gametes, sperm, ovocytes, namely reproductive migration) will find a proper position in this research stream.

How to participate

The expected communications will be interdisciplinary. They will integrate varied approaches from sociology, anthropology, political science and law, but also from demography, history, and geography. The aim will be to promote the recent and ongoing field research - carried out in various geographical areas - as well as the theoretical remarks aimed at bringing a new and nuanced perspective on the current uses of the law.

Proposals of communication - in English or in French - must indicate the name, status, affiliation of the communicants, a title and a 500-word abstract, including the bibliography. The abstracts should present the research question, the theoretical framework as well as the empirical fieldwork mobilized in the communication. Communications must be sent to the organizers

before September 15 2017

for evaluation by the Scientific Committee. Responses will be communicated to participants by October 30, 2017 at the latest. Written communications will be sent to the organizers before January 15, 2018.

A publication will be considered following the symposium.

A solidarity fund is available for non-funded researchers to finance their travel to Marseille (transport and / or accommodation).


  • AURELIE FILLOD-CHABAUD, aurelie.fillod-chabaud@univ-amu.fr, Sociologue, Post-doctorante Aix-Marseille Univ, CNRS-AMU-UAPV-EHESS, CNElias/IREMAM, LabexMed
  • LAURA ODASSO, laura.odasso@univ-amu.fr, Sociologue, Post-doctorante Aix-Marseille Univ, CNRS, LAMES/TELEMME, LabexMed

Scientific committee members

  • VIRGINIE BABY-COLLIN, Géographe, Temps, Espaces, Langages, Europe méridionale-Méditerranée (TELEMME), Aix-Marseille Université
  • SASKIA BONJOUR, sociologue et politiste, Département de sciences politiques, Université d’Amsterdam, Pays-Bas
  • ANNE-MARIE D’AOUST, politiste, Faculté de science politique et de droit, Département de science politique, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada.
  • LINDA GUERRY, historienne, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada. 
  • AGNES MARTIAL, anthropologue, Centre Norbert Elias, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Marseille
  • SYLVIE MAZZELLA, sociologue, Laboratoire Méditerranéen de sociologie (LAMES), Aix-Marseille Université
  • SERGE SLAMA, juriste, Centre de recherche et d’études sur les droits fondamentaux, Centre de théorie et analyse du droit, Faculté de droit et de sciences politiques, Université Paris X Nanterre.
  • DELPHINE PERRIN, juriste et politiste, chaire d’excellence Aristote d’études méditerranéennes, LabexMed, Aix-Marseille Université
  • BARBARA TRUFFIN, juriste et anthropologue, Centre d’histoire du droit et d’anthropologie juridique (CHDAJ), Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgique

Partenaires / Partners

  • Aix-Marseille Université              
  • Programme LabexMED,
  • Les sciences humaines et sociales au cœur de l'interdisciplinarité pour la Méditerranée
  • Centre Norbert Elias, UMR 8562               
  • Institut de recherches et d’études sur le monde arabe et musulman, IREMAM UMR 7310            
  • Laboratoire Méditerranéen de Sociologie, LAMES UMR 7305                    
  • Temps, Espaces, Langages, Europe Méridionale, Méditerranée, TELEMME UMR 7303                 
  • GenderMed
  • MUCEM, Musée des civilisation de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée


  • Baudot Pierre-Yves et Anne Revillard (2015) L’État des droits. Politique des droits et pratiques des institutions, Presses de sciences po, Paris.
  • Bernard-Maugiron Nathalie, et Baudouin Dupret (2012) Ordre public et droit musulman de la famille en Europe et en Afrique du Nord, Bruylant, Bruxelles.
  • Blais Melissa et Francis Dupuis-Déri (2011) « Masculinism and the Antifeminist Countermovement », Social Movement Studies, 11 (1) : 21‑39.
  • Bourdieu Pierre (1986) « La force du droit », Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 64 : 3‑19.
  • Brunet Laurence (2010) « La réception en droit français des institutions familiales de droit musulman: vertus et faiblesses d’un compromis », Droit et Cultures, 59 : 231‑51.
  • Collectif Onze (2013) Au tribunal des couples. Enquête sur des affaires familiales, Odile Jacob, Paris.
  • Dodier Nicolas (1991) « Les actes de l’inspection du travail en matière de sécurité : la place du droit dans la justification des relevés d’infraction », in Normes juridiques et régulations sociales, par François Chazel et Jacques Commaille, Librairie générale de droit et de jurisprudence, Paris : 189‑203.
  • Dubois Vincent (2015) La vie au guichet. Relation administrative et traitement de la misère, Point-Seuil, Paris.
  • Ewick Patricia et Susan S. Silbey (1998) The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  • Fillod-Chabaud Aurélie (2014) « Au nom du père. Une sociologie comparative du militantisme paternel en France et au Québec », Thèse de doctorat en sciences politiques et sociales sous la direction de Martin Kohli, Florence, Institut Universitaire Européen, Italie.
  • Israël Liora (2001) « Usages militants du droit dans l’arène judiciaire : le cause lawyering », Droit et société, 49 (3) : 793-824.
  • Israël Liora et Brigitte Gaïti (2003) « Sur l’engagement du droit dans la construction des causes », Politix, 16 (62) : 17-30.
  • Kawar Leila (2015) Contesting Immigration Policy in Court. Legal Activism and its Radiating Effects in the United States and France, Cambridge University Press, New York.
  • Leinaweaver Jessica (2008) The Circulation of Children: Kinship, Adoption, and Morality in Andrean Peru, Duke University Press, Durham.
  • Lochak Danièle (1989) Les Usages sociaux du droit, Presses universitaires de France, Paris.
  • Lochard Yves et Maud Simonet (2003) L’expert associatif, le savant et le politique, Syllepse, Paris.
  • Loon Hans van (2001) « Mondialisation, enlèvements d’enfants, droit d’hébergement et maintien des contacts », Journal du droit des jeunes, 201 (1) : 18-21.
  • Marek Anna (2003) « L’usage militant de l’expertise juridique : le GISTI », in L’expert associatif, le savant et le politique, par Yves Lochard et Maud Simonet, Syllepse, Paris : 67-87.
  • Martin Claude et Patrick Hassenteufel (2000) « Comparer les politiques publiques au prisme des groupes d’intérêt : le cas des associations familiales en Europe », Revue internationale de politique comparée, 7 (1) : 21-51.
  • Mathieu Lilian (2012) « Soutenir les familles sans papiers. L’engagement dans le Réseau éducation sans frontières », in Les nouvelles frontières de la société française, par Didier Fassin, La Découverte, Paris.
  • Michel Hélène et Laurent Willemez (2008) La justice au risque des profanes, Presses universitaires de France, Paris.
  • Morris Lydia (2003) « Managing Contradiction: Civic Stratification and Migrants’ Rights », The International Migration Review, 37 (1) : 74-100.
  • Pélisse Jérôme (2005) « A-t-on conscience du droit ? Autour des Legal Consciousness Studies », Genèses, 59 (2) : 114-130.
  • Perrin Delphine (2004a) « Ballets  diplomatiques  et  droit  des  étrangers  en  Libye », Maghreb - Machrek, 181 : 9-23.
  • Perrin Delphine (2004b) « La nouvelle politique juridique de l’Europe en matière de contrôle et de limitation des  migrations », L’Année du Maghreb, I : 117-137.
  • Revillard Anne (2016) La cause des femmes dans l’État: une comparaison France-Québec, Presses universitaires de Grenoble, Grenoble.
  • Roux Sébastien (2015) « La circulation internationale des enfants », in Marchés contestés. Quand le marché rencontre la morale, par Philippe Steiner et Marie Trespeuch, Presses universitaires du Mirail, Toulouse.
  • Sacriste Guillaume, Antoine Vauchez et Laurent Willemez (2005) Sur la portée sociale du droit, Presses universitaires de France, Paris.
  • Sarat Austin et Stuart A. Scheingold (2006) Cause Lawyers and social movements, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
  • Scheingold Stuart A. (1974) The Politics of Rights: Lawyers, Public Policy, and Political Change, The University of Michigan Press.
  • Séraglini Christophe (2001) « La protection de l’enfant en danger », Plein droit, 51 (4) : 21 -24
  • Siblot Yasmine (2006) « « Je suis la secrétaire de la famille » La prise en charge féminine des tâches adinistratives entre subordination et ressource », Genèses, 3 (64) : 46‑64.
  • Spire Alexis (2008) Accueillir ou reconduire: Enquête sur les guichets de l’immigration, Raisons d’agir, Paris.
  • Spire Alexis et Katia Weidenfeld (2009) « Les usages sociaux de la justice administrative », Tracés, 9 (3) : 75‑85.
  • Willemez Laurent (2003) « Engagement professionnel et fidélités militantes. Les avocats travaillistes dans la défense judiciaire des salariés », Politix, 16 (62) : 145‑164.
  • Wray Helena, Saira Grant, Eleonore Kofman et Charlotte Peel (2015) « Family Friendly? The Impact on Children of the Family Migration Rules: A Review of the Financial Requirements », Children’s Commissioner of England, Office of the Children’s Commissioner, England.


  • Marseille, France (13)


  • vendredi, septembre 15, 2017


  • usages du droit, famille, parenté, migration, circulation, institution, politique publique, mouvement social, militantisme


    courriel : aurelie [dot] fillod-chabaud [at] univ-amu [dot] fr
  • Laura Odasso
    courriel : laura [dot] odasso [at] univ-amu [dot] fr

Information source

    courriel : aurelie [dot] fillod-chabaud [at] univ-amu [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Family Migrations and Uses of Law », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on vendredi, mai 19, 2017, https://calenda.org/405606

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