INTIMATE - Citizenship, Care and Choice: The Micropolitics of Intimacy in Southern Europe
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Theoretical Framework


1 - The Micropolitics of Partnering

After recognizing same-sex cohabitation since 2001, in 2010 Portugal became the 8th country worldwide, and the 6th in Europe, to allow same-sex marriage (Santos, 2013). Spain has had an inclusive marriage law since 2005 ascribing full equality to spouses regardless of sexual orientation (Pichardo, 2011). In Italy marriage is still strictly heteronormative and same-sex cohabitation is not legally recognized (Bertone et al, 2003; Saraceno, 2003; Trappolin, 2008). None of the countries considers new forms of conjugality, including ‘living apart together’ (LATs) and polyamorous relationships. Hence, partnering across Southern Europe has acquired different status, opportunities and impossibilities.


2 - The Micropolitics of Parenting 

Two major value-discourses are often employed in Southern European countries when debating issues concerning same-sex parenthood – ‘the family’ value-discourse and ‘the child’ value-discourse –, both of which tend to disregard the notion of family that the LGBT movement demands (Santos, 2012). In short, these value-discourses stem from a heteronormative representation of family, based on assumptions about the biological complementarity of men and women, who are expected to be couples, monogamous and have children together (Roseneil et al, 2013). These are entrenched cultural values discursively expressed by key social actors (e.g. the clergy, politicians, teachers, journalists, etc.) who, in so doing, contribute towards reinforcing these values as dominant assumptions. In relation to issues of parenting, the three countries under analysis present different legal frameworks, including prohibitive laws in Italy and Portugal, on the one hand, and unrestricted same-sex adoption and recent changes in assisted conception in Spain, on the other hand (Roseneil et al., 2012).


3 - The Micropolitics of Friendship

One of the most passionate debates in the current sociology of personal lives is the one between proponents of the individualisation theory (Bauman, 2003; Beck and Beck-Gernsheim; 2002)  and those who offer an opposing theory of relationality (Roseneil and Budgeon, 2004), who nonetheless agree with individualisation theorists on one crucial point: we are experiencing an unprecedented shift in the sphere of personal lives, in which ‘choice’ seems important. In this debate, the role of friendship acquires a central place. The sort of willing – ‘confluent’, Giddens (1992) would say – relationship that ‘modern’ friends have, and what this has to say about issues of citizenship, care and choice, is so different from previous models that authors such as Weeks et al. (2001) suggest that a ‘friendship ethics’ is the ideal guiding principle behind many sexual relationships in present times. In their study of friendship, Roseneil and Budgeon have concluded that “there was a high degree of reliance on friends […], particularly for the provision of care and support in everyday life, to the extent that it could be said that friendship operated as an ethical practice for many” (2004: 146).
The centrality of friendship is even more striking when considering the personal lives of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people (Nardi, 1992). Friends as family further contributes towards destabilizing the heterosexual/ homosexual binary (Roseneil, 2002, 2004), to the extent that it challenges heteronormative expectations about who belongs to the most intimate domestic space and who does not.



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