University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Centre of South Asian Studies Seminars > Love as understanding: marriage, aspiration and the joint family in middle-class Pakistan

Love as understanding: marriage, aspiration and the joint family in middle-class Pakistan

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In middle-class Pakistan, where marriage is the prescribed future for all women, but premarital contact between the sexes is discouraged, finding the right partner, without visibly flouting social norms, requires a skilful balancing act between private interests and aspirations, and public representations and collective concerns. Young women often navigate these conflicting demands by developing, what they call, an understanding: a secret premarital relationship that is “normalised” by involving family at a later stage to orchestrate an arranged marriage. Through a focus on understandings, this article illustrates how love engages the “ethical imagination” and provides a site for experiencing pleasures and desires. Understandings opens a space to self-make and secure a future in face of considerable patriarchal control, however with little liberatory potential as success, in terms of marriage outcome, depends upon a concealment of agency, and futures remained tied to collective support.

This talk is part of the Centre of South Asian Studies Seminars series.

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