Since the end of Portugal’s 41-year dictatorship in 1974, the cultural primacy of the “traditional family” has been fractured by dramatically transformed social conceptions of marriage. The state’s cultivation of a unified national identity throughout the dictatorship relied heavily on the three core values of Deus, Pátria e Família – God, Fatherland, and Family – which demanded the maintenance of heterosexual, monogamous partnerships through Catholic marriage as a primary organizer of Portuguese society. In the last 40 years, annual divorce rates have skyrocketed from one percent of marriages to over 70 percent, while the number of annual marriages have reduced by 38.5 percent. Amidst the weakening primacy of marriage have emerged new, non-normative forms of intimate relationships; in the past ten years, political activists, scholars, and the media have paid particular attention to the emergence of polyamory, or consensual participation in non-monogamous romantic and/or sexual relationships by more than two people.
During my independent study in Lisbon in the fall of 2015, I seek to explore how Portuguese people engage in critical discourse and practice surrounding polyamory: (1) How does Portugal’s historically specific post-dictatorship context inform conceptualizations of gender, sexuality, and intimacy in polyamory? (2) How does the Portuguese polyamorous community include itself in, or distance itself from, other polyamorous movements around the world? This project will put into dialogue parallel discussions of polyamory which already take place both in queer theory and sociological research. By accounting for historically specific conditions in a post-dictatorship context, we deepen our understanding of political factors which influence when, how, and which groups become invested in challenging traditional notions of marriage and family as the foundation for intimate relationships and social organization.