Doing it our way: Love and marriage in Kolkata middle-class families

Donner, Henrike. 2016. Doing it our way: Love and marriage in Kolkata middle-class families. Modern Asian Studies, 50(4), pp. 1147-1189. ISSN 0026-749X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

With the exception of a few anthropologists working on gender much of the recent literature on emerging intimate modernities in South Asia seems to support a view of social relationships evolving in a kind of linear development towards free choice, individualism and sexual identities. In this article I argue that apart from the ostensibly overwhelming transformations that individualism, discourses on coupledom and the public display of affection among the young may suggest, the new ways of being intimate, of choosing a spouse and of conducting conjugal relations among middle-class urbanites have to be interpreted in relation to less conspicuous discourses, which are equally powerful and significant, in particular the resilient ideology and practical implications of the joint family. Based on fieldwork with Bengali-speaking middle-class families in Kolkata spanning two decades, the article charts continuities and supple shifts in the way love and marriage are conceived in this setting.

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Extended periods of fieldwork were undertaken in 1995–1996, 1999–2000, and 2001–2002 and were generously supported by the Economic and Social Research Council. Shorter periods of fieldwork followed. Earlier versions of this article were presented at seminars at the Delhi School of Economics, the London School of Economics, the Centre of Modern Indian Studies Göttingen, and the conference of the European Association of South Asian Studies in Nanterre.


India, Marriage, Love, Middle-Class Comparison

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27 July 2015Accepted
18 April 2016Published Online
1 July 2016Published

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21 Apr 2016 10:31

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2021 13:59

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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