Marriage Migrants to the Faroe Islands
: An Analysis of the Life-World of Non-Western Women Married to the Faroe Islands

  • Runa Preeti Ísfeld

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This PhD thesis is about the life experiences and perspectives of
marriage migrants from the global South arriving and making new lives
for themselves in the Faroe Islands, a small society in the global North.
Women from “third” world countries often experience stereotyping
and stigmatisation due to their country of origin. This is due to a history
of colonial power as well as unbalanced economic power relations
between the “first” world countries and “third” world countries.
Women from “third” world countries are often stereotyped for their
choice to marry western men, as their choice is considered to be for
economical purposes only. Furthermore, they are sometimes referred
to as “bought” women or “mail order brides”. There is, at the same
time, a pre-construction and pre-perception of them as poor,
uneducated and in need of a white male to save them from their misery
back home. They are often homogenised as group and their character
essentialised as “third” world women. This creates a loss in agency, as
the women are not perceived for who they are but for whom they are
married to. At the same time, some of these women experience deskilling
in wider society as their credentials are not recognised in the
receiving country and furthermore, they are not acquainted with the
Faroese and the Danish languages.
But who are these women married to the Faroe Islands and how has
marriage migration changed their lives? The aim of this dissertation is
to gain a knowledge of them as women and the consequences of their
choice when choosing marriage migration.
This dissertation is based upon 21 semi-structured interviews, where
four of them were couple interviews (21 women and four men). As this
dissertation investigates diversity among migrant women, I have had
to take into consideration how not to fall into the “analysis trap “of
(re)producing knowledge of the “third” world women. In other words,
avoiding the “analysis trap” is about not (re)producing knowledge
about the “other” without taking some intersectional criteria in mind;
such as age, background, education, culture, country of origin etc.
Therefore, a reflective and hermeneutic approach is applied both when
conducting the interviews and doing the analysis. Furthermore, an
intersectional approach is applied as a tool to show different dynamics
and similarities among the respondents.
I have made use of a transdisciplinary theoretical approach to answer
my research question. A transdisciplinary approach is a combination of
different theoretical thoughts. This approach opens up for different
social dynamics which I would not have grasped by applying a single
theory. The theoretical concepts I am making use of are, gender theory,
post-colonial feminism and Bourdieu’s theory of practice and symbolic
violence. I am also drawing on Judith Butler theory of gender
performances to analyses the women’s expectation of gender and
gender negotiations. Furthermore, applying post-colonial feminism
helps me analyses how the women experience othering and
stereotyping in the Faroe Islands. And Bourdieu’s theory of practice is
used in analysing change in habitus, how they experience change in the
field and how they are subject to symbolic violence. These theoretical
concepts will give us an insight into the consequences of marriage
migration in the women’s lives.
The analysis is divided into a three chapter analysis, where the first
chapter of the analysis analyses and discussed the women’s choice of
marriage migration and their experiences with stereotyping.
Furthermore, the respondents discuss their expectations before
moving the Islands, their choice to marry a Faroese man as a means of
resistance against “traditional” gender expectations of them as
women in their home country, and lastly I discuss how they do not
recognize themselves through the biased discourses of them as
The second chapter of the analysis focuses on their relationship and
negotiations in the marriage and their social relations with their inlaws
and the locals. I also make an analysis of the couple interviews,
which shows different dynamics among the couples in relation to their
background, where they live in the Faroe Islands, religion, age etc.
Thirdly, the last chapter of the analysis focuses on how the women
(re)position themselves in wider society and their coping strategies.
Furthermore, their experiences with de-skilling and the structural
hindrances are analysed and discussed. On the other hand, even
though some of these women experience de-skilling in wider society,
they are earning more money in an unqualified job in the receiving
country than in a qualified job in their home country.
Keywords: Marriage Migration, Faroe Islands, Gender, Post-Colonial
Feminism, Stereotyping, Othering, De-Skilling.
Date of Award21 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Søgu- og samfelagsdeildin - Faculty of History and Social Sciences
SupervisorHelene Pristed Nielsen (Supervisor)


  • marriage migrants
  • gender equality
  • global north
  • global south
  • stereotypes

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