From genuine to sham marriage: moral panic and the ‘authenticity’ of relationships

Benson, Michaela and Charsley, Katharine. 2015. From genuine to sham marriage: moral panic and the ‘authenticity’ of relationships. In: Michaela Benson, ed. Revisiting Moral Panic. Bristol: Policy Press. ISBN 9781447321859 [Book Section]

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In this chapter we deconstruct the moral panic around ‘sham marriage’—otherwise known as marriages of convenience or marriage for immigration advantage—in Britain. We trace the moral panic over sham marriage through its visual and provocative depiction in media coverage – newspaper articles, investigatory documentaries – to its propagation and perpetuation in the UK government’s continuing project of managing immigration. Marriage-related migration and settlement are a significant challenge to efforts to cap immigration, resulting in attempts to redraw the moral boundaries of immigration policy. Media and policy representations of ‘sham marriage’ must therefore be understood in this context in terms of the strategic positioning of moral entrepreneurs.
The chapter first outlines how immigration policy relating to spousal migration has come to include reference to ‘sham marriage’, the identification of such marriages becoming a mechanism for controlling immigration. We highlight how these policies sit within a wider context that promotes immigration as a challenge to moral order, revealing how current political discourse about ‘sham marriage’ demonstrates many of the characteristics of moral panic. Through a review of Home Office documents, we demonstrate how ‘sham marriage’ has become firmly embedded in government policy and discourse about marriage-related migration.

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Date Deposited:

23 Jun 2015 11:48

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04 Jul 2017 14:16


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