Loving Attachment: Regulating Danish Love Migration (LOVA)

The interdisciplinary research project LOVA inve­sti­gates the ways in which the juridical and  psy­cho­logical concept of attachment have come to regu­late Danish love migration (family reunification, trans­natio­nal adoption, and trans­national migration marriages) from 2000-2020.

 Analyzing a broad range of sources such as legal documents and decisions on family reunification, media reporting on family reunification-cases, and educational material concerning transnational adoption in Denmark LOVA investigates how the concept of attac­hment has been operationalized as a means of governing types of migra­tion com­monly understood as involving relationships of love. Although the uses of attachment serve different purposes (e.g. preventing marriage migration to Denmark, or ensuring attachment after transnational adoption), the cases all point to attachment as designating the basis from which to evaluate a migrant subject’s potentiality to belong. 


An interdisciplinary understanding of attachment and love migration

The unfolding European migration crises illustrates the urgent need for new conceptualizations and discursive frameworks to qualify our understandings of how and to what effect different forms of migration are conceptually and politically governed. While the con­cept of attach­ment functions as an esta­bli­shed organizing tool for love migration to Den­mark, we know very little about the ef­fects of this form of political and social regulation. Likewise, there is a lack of research into the psychological, juridical, and discursive understandings of attachment upon which these re­gu­lations rest. LOVA establishes such know­ledge through the overall research question:

How and to what effect has the concept of attach­ment been operationalized to regulate different forms of love migration in a Danish context from 2000-2020?

Attachment required: Danish migration legislation 2000-2018

Associate professor Mons Bissenbakker (PI)

The project investigates the introduction of the attachment requirement (“tilknytningskravet”) in Danish immigration law and how the lawmakers have defined and ar­gued for the use of attachment as a migra­tion-regulating mechanism. The projects em­piri­cal archive consists of material collected through The Danish Parliament’s publicly ac­ces­­sible web ar­chive and is analy­sed through dis­course analysis and af­fect theory. Reading law proposals addressing the attachment requirement from 2000-2015 the project asks: What changes discursively in the immigration law with the introduction of the attachment requirement and how are we to understand this change? How is national attachment defined by the lawmakers? How is it ones national attachment thought to be (dis)proven? In other words: What does attachment do as a biopolitical tool?

Securing love: The turn to attachment within transnational adoption

Professor Lene Myong

In the past 20 years efforts to secure circuits of attachment within the adoptive family have become central to adoption legislation, post-adoption programs, and adoptive kinship in Denmark. The project explores attachment as a mode of governmentality that construes the adoptee as an exceptional migrant who is imagined to embody a strong potentiality for attachment and assimilation to her white adoptive family and the Danish nation. The project is guided by questions such as: How and to what effect does attachment theory function as a knowledge regime within a Danish context of transnational adoption? And to what extent can normative notions of attachment be said to (un)make relations between adopters, adoptees, and first families? The empirical material consists of Danish governmental reports, educational material, public debates as well as popular science literature addressing attachment (disorder) in relation to adoption.

Mediated love: Attachment in media debates on transnational marriages

Postdoc Asta Smedegaard Nielsen

The project examines media representations of attachment relative to marriage-based family reunifications from 2000 to 2015. The aim is to investigate the specific forms in which media discourses on attachment fold subjects into relations of love and belonging. The empirical material will consist of personalized stories about individuals who have been denied family reunification on the grounds of the attachment requirement, allowing for an investigation into the kinds of love relations that are represented as unjustly hindered by the attachment requirement. In order to uphold analytical sensitivity to differences across media, cases from different media platforms (newspaper, television, online), scopes (national, local), and genres (news, features, media events) will be chosen.

Justify my love: The affective governing of the attachment requirement

PhD-student Sofie Jeholm

The project investigates how the concept of attachment is put into practice in legal decisions concerning family reunification cases and focuses on how the applicants’ attachment to Denmark has been evaluated from the implementation of the attachment requirement in 2000 up until 2015. Through a discursive analysis, the project investigates how attachment is conceptualized and evaluated by the Danish immigration system. The project’s empirical material consists of documented decisions on family reunification applications and the case material related to them collected through the Danish Immigration Service.




Among the outputs of the LOVA project is the LOVA international conference, a journal special issue, several seminars, keynotes and conference presentations.

LOVA conference: Affects. Borders. Biopolitics

Special Issue: Nordic Journal of Migration Research: The Affective Biopolitics of Migration

International seminar: Migration and Nation in the Age of Affective Biopolitics (22.2.2018 at Schæffergården, Gentofte, DK). Participants: Elisabeth Stubberud (KUN, NO), Stine H. Bang Svendsen (NTNU, NO), Ingvil Hellstrand (UiS, NO), Emma Sofie Klint Wandahl (UCPH, DK), Asta Smedegaard Nielsen (AAU, DK), Lene Myong (UiS, NO), Michael Nebeling Petersen (SDU, DK), Ingvill Stuvøy (NTNU, NO), Sofie Jeholm (UCPH, DK), and Mons Bissenbakker (UCPH, DK).

Seminar and Public Lecture by Dr. Silvia Posocco (Birkbeck, University of London): Traces, Archives, Dead Ends: Adoption in Guatemala (13.12.2017, UCPH, DK). 

Open seminar: Jan-Therese Mendes and Mons Bissenbakker: The Necropolitics of Public Mourning (12.12.2018, Gender Studies, UiS, NO). A collaboration between LOVA and Uis Gender Studies.  

Keynote (2020): Mons Bissenbakker & Michael Nebeling: “Holes in the map. The affective spatial politics of the ghetto, Aesthetic Relations Conference, Institut for Kunst- og Kulturvidenskab, KU.

Keynote (2019): Mons Bissenbakker: “National monogamy and queer orientations: The heteronormative language of family migration policies”, Lavender Languages and Linguistics-conference, University of Gothenburg.

Keynote (2019): Mons Bissenbakker: “Affects. Borders. Biopolitics. The Danish context”. Opening address for the Affects. Borders. Biopolitics.-conference, UCPH.

Keynote (2017): Lene Myong: “Regimes of Care: Representations of Adoption from China in Danish Newspapers 1993–2002”, Age, Agency, Ambiguity – Gender and generation in times of change, University of Oslo.


Sofie Jeholm (2021) Justify My Love: The affective governing of the attachment requirement, Det Humanistiske Fakultet, Københavns Universitet, 2021. 290 s. Ph.d.-afhandling: https://nors.ku.dk/ansatte/?pure=da%2Fpublications%2Fjustify-my-love(5e5e20df-1501-401e-a9f7-cf3fc6b90cee).html 

Mons Bissenbakker & Michael Nebeling  (2020)’ En følelsernes grammatik og politik’, in DN Madsen, E Obelitz Rod, LHJ Kramhøft, MAE Kim-Larsen & N Cramer (red), Sara Ahmed: Et ulydigt arkiv: Udvalgte tekster af Sara Ahmed. 1 udg, Forlaget Nemo, København. https://koensforskning.ku.dk/ansatte/?pure=da%2Fpublications%2Fen-foelelsernes-grammatik-og-politik(40b64dad-e7f7-4e4e-9beb-03e895778ef6).html 

 Mons Bissenbakker & Lene Myong (2021), 'Governing belonging through attachment: marriage migration and transnational adoption in Denmark', Ethnic and Racial Studies, s. 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2021.1876901 

Lene Myong & Mons Bissenbakker (2021), 'Attachment as Affective Assimilation: Discourses on Love and Kinship in the Context of Transnational Adoption in Denmark ', NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, s. 1-13. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08038740.2021.1891133 

Asta Smedegaard Nielsen (2020) ‘Compassionate celebritization: unpacking the “True feelings” of the Danish people in the media reporting on a deportation case’, Feminist Media Studies (E-pub ahead of print) https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2020.1826995 

Mons Bissenbakker & Lene Myong (2019), ‘The Affective Biopolitics of Migration’. Nordic Journal of Migration Research, 9(4), pp.417–424. DOI: http://doi.org/10.2478/njmr-2019-0043 

Asta Smedegaard Nielsen and Lene Myong (2019) ‘White Danish Love as Affective Intervention. Studying Media Representations of Family Reunification Involving Children’, Nordic Journal of Migration Research, 9(4), pp.497–514. DOI: http://doi.org/10.2478/njmr-2019-0038 

Sofie Jeholm & Mons Bissenbakker (2019) ‘Documenting Attachment: Affective border control in applications for family reunification’, Nordic Journal of Migration Research, 9(4), pp.480–496. DOI: http://doi.org/10.2478/njmr-2019-0039  

Michael Nebeling & Mons Bissenbakker (2019), 'The white tent of grief: Racialized conditions of public mourning in Denmark', Social & Cultural Geography, bind 20, s. 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2018.1563708 

Mons Bissenbakker (2019), 'Attachment required: The affective governmentality of marriage migration in the danish aliens act 2000-2018', International Political Sociology, bind 13, nr. 2, s. 181-197. https://doi.org/10.1093/ips/olz001 










DFF LogoProject period: 2017-2023

PI: Mons Bissenbakker

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Name Title Phone E-mail
Bissenbakker, Mons Associate Professor +4535335923 E-mail


Professor Lene Myong (Universitetet i Stavanger): 

Postdoc Asta Smedegaard Nielsen (Aalborg Universitet)