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[ANNULÉ] Sex, Love and Marriage in the 21st Century


September 17-18


Prof. Jennifer Cole, University of Chicago, US

Prof. Marcia Inhorn, Yale University, US


With a few exceptions, sex and love have long been ignored by anthropologists who were more interested in studying marriage as the pivotal institution on which kinship and social relations in 'primitive societies' are built. This absence is especially striking given the fact that in both the present and the past sex and love have always played a major role in the lives of people. Anthropology seems particularly suited to the study of intimate experiences through its focus on practice and everyday discourse. This module invites participants to give account of the developments, tensions and dynamics involved in sex, love and marriage in contemporary times and to consider them as situated at the crossroads of individual emotions, legal systems and the transnational circulation of people, imaginaries and commodities. For example, participants are invited to question the distinction between arranged marriage and love marriage as categories that have travelled all around the world, deeply affecting practices and imaginaries. The nuclear family has been lauded as a harbour of love by colonial reformers, missionaries, and school teachers, along with novels, songs and films showing stories with Hollywoodian 'happy endings' and sad destinies triggered by unhappy unions have anchored the idea that love and marriage should go together. Often, however, romantic love is contrasted with love after marriage, which some consider the only real love. They are also invited to take into account the construction of new forms of the self, to understand the emergence of romantic love in its modern declination and the current forms of sexual practices in various sociocultural contexts. The separation (or lack thereof) of the (female) domestic and the (male) public spheres, the construction of new models of domesticity, the emergence of the nuclear family, the diffusion of literacy, political and economic reforms, all have contributed to the creation of new gendered identities. The module aims at engaging with those and other related topics in order to shed a new light on classic anthropological objects such as marriage and expand our knowledge of understudied social phenomena such as sex and love.


La Rouvraie, Bellevue-sur-Bevaix if possible, otherwise online



Deadline for registration 31.08.2021
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