• Unconventional in all respects: same-sex, married and living apart together

      Pratesi, Alessandro; University of Chester (2016-06)
      New, emerging forms of relationships, intimacies and care represent some of the most important challenges facing individuals, society and public policy today. Increasingly, due to work-related geographical mobility, several families and partners live separately and are forced, as such, to entwine love and care relationships at a distance. How far are alternative family models and non-conventional partnering—such as ‘living apart together’ (LAT) couples, same sex couples, solo living persons, or indeed relations ‘beyond the family’, such as friendship—seen as equally valid and entitled? What are their multiple challenges, opportunities and implications? Long distance relationships and caring at a distance may be connected with emotional and psychological exhaustion but also gratification, reward and empowerment; above all, they possess important implications in terms of social justice, equality and citizenship. The expression ‘world families’ (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 2014) includes a heterogeneous and tension-filled set of social actors who share in common the potentiality to bridge traditional distinctions between public and private, centre and periphery, national and international, able-bodied and physically/cognitively impaired, heterosexual and homosexual, bypassing dichotomous ideas of inclusion/exclusion which typically characterise the concept of citizenship. This concept resonates with the notion of ‘cultural rights’ described by Pakulski (1997) in terms of a new set of claims including the right to symbolic presence and visibility vs. marginalisation; the right to dignifying representation vs. stigmatisation; and the right to affirmation and propagation of identity vs. assimilation. Among the numerous issues concerning the need to provide different social actors with fair and adequate responses, James (2014) emphasises that of the social and ethical framing of the problem, which requires going beyond unilateral, inflexible and value-neutral definitions of entitlement to rights. More specifically, the author suggests the necessity to ground the ethics of rights to an ethics of care through which fundamental questions of difference/identity, inclusion/exclusion, and mobility/belonging are negotiated. This requires shifting the focus upon the micro level of analysis and looking at the spaces where the situated actions and interactions occur; at the ways, in other words, in which people constantly construct and negotiate their sense of entitlement and belonging. Drawing on recent work on families, relationships, intimacies and caring for distant others and contextualising it within the specific and still unexplored context of LAT same-sex couples, this paper examines the moral, sociological and institutional geographies of these less visible chains of care and affection and their unequally entitled rights and visibility. The literature review of the current state-of-the-art is empirically grounded on self-ethnographic work analysing and discussing the case of a same-sex, transnational, LAT married couple.