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The Construction of Fatherhood
  • Alice Margaria, Max-Planck-Institut für ethnologische Forschung, Halle
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: November 2019
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online ISBN: 9781108566193
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Book description

This book tackles one of the most topical socio-legal issues of today: how the law - in particular, the European Court of Human Rights - is responding to shifting practices and ideas of fatherhood in a world that offers radical possibilities for the fragmentation of the conventional father figure and therefore urges decisions upon what kind of characteristics makes someone a legal father. It explores the Court's reaction to changing family and, more specifically, fatherhood realities. In so doing, it engages in timely conversations about the rights and responsibilities of men as fathers. By tracing values and assumptions underpinning the Court's views on fatherhood, this book contributes to highlight the expressive powers of the ECtHR and, more specifically, the latter's role in producing and legitimising ideas about parenting and, more generally, in influencing how family life is regulated and organised.


'To my taste, this book is an exemplary piece of scholarship. It provides a nuanced critical analysis of case law of the European Court of Human Rights, focused on its construction of fatherhood. In doing so, the book simultaneously offers theoretical depth and the solid grounding in realities that is characteristic of excellent socio-legal scholarship. A valuable addition to human rights law, family law, and law and gender studies.'

Eva Brems - Universiteit Gent

'In this wonderful volume Alice Margaria engages the fascinating social and legal evolution of concepts of fatherhood that challenge gender categories, masculinities, partnership, family and the meaning of parenthood amidst profound change in the lived realities of men and children.'

Nancy E. Dowd - David H. Levin Chair in Family Law, University of Florida

'Starting from a well-designed theoretical framework, Alice Margaria has meticulously drawn a crystal-clear overview of the construction of fatherhood by the ECtHR following social change. She then carefully unfolds her critical insights to demonstrate how the ECtHR could, and really should, move beyond conventional fatherhood in a consistent way. The multi-faceted analyses in this book offer both in-depth understanding of the ECtHR’s case-law, and insight in its power to produce - and not only to reproduce - the law. The result is an indispensable roadmap for current and future socio-legal scholarship on fatherhood.'

Frederik Swennen - Universiteit Antwerpen

'This book is a welcome contribution to a very topical area. Margaria’s analysis and critique of the ECtHR jurisprudence is thorough and engaging: it focuses on different situations that can affect fathers and sheds light on the opportunities and obstacles that they encounter when seeking to be carers. Ultimately, this book reflects on the role that ‘moral decisions’ play in our society and, as such, offers a remarkable framework to analyse the situations of fathers.'

Eugenia Caracciolo di Torella - University of Leicester

'Alice Margaria offers a masterfully nuanced reading and analysis of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights regarding parenthood, particularly how the Court positions itself when it comes to (re)defining fatherhood. This book is nothing short of a jewel - the author knows how to allow a highly complex, dynamic and technical theme to unfold gradually and naturally. In doing so, she has produced a 'tour de force' that is both highly enlightening and genuinely exciting to read. At the same time, she makes it clear that the adventure of legally (re)defining fatherhood and all that it implies is only just beginning. This book is a must read for anyone interested in new forms of parenting and how they engage with and fit into the law - a process that is not without its own very unique set of challenges and complications.'

Marie-Claire Foblets - Managing Director Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology


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