Arranged Marriage: The Politics of Tradition, Resistance, and Change shows how arranged marriage practices have been undergoing transformation as a result of global and other processes such as the revolution of digital technology, democratization of transnational mobility, or shifting significance of patriarchal power structures. The ethnographically informed chapters not only highlight how the gendered and intergenerational politics of agency, autonomy, choice, consent, and intimacy work in the contexts of partner choice and management of marriage, but also point out that arranged marriages are increasingly varied and they can be reshaped, reinvented, and reinterpreted flexibly in response to individual, family, religious, class, ethnic, and other desires, needs, and constraints. The authors convincingly demonstrate that a nuanced investigation of the reasons, complex dynamics, and consequences of arranged marriages offers a refreshing analytical lens that can significantly contribute to a deeper understanding of other phenomena such as globalization, modernization, and international migration as well as patriarchal value regimes, intergenerational power imbalances, and gendered subordination and vulnerability of women.
The first critical analysis of contemporary arranged marriage among South Asians in a global context
Arranged marriage is an institution of global fascination—an object of curiosity, revulsion, outrage, and even envy. Marian Aguiar provides the first sustained analysis of arranged marriage as a transnational cultural phenomenon, revealing how its meaning has been continuously reinvented within the South Asian diaspora of Britain, the United States, and Canada. Aguiar identifies and analyzes representations of arranged marriage in an interdisciplinary set of texts—from literary fiction and Bollywood films, to digital and print media, to contemporary law and policy on forced marriage.
Aguiar interprets depictions of South Asian arranged marriage to show we are in a moment of conjugal globalization, identifying how narratives about arranged marriage bear upon questions of consent, agency, state power, and national belonging. Aguiar argues that these discourses illuminate deep divisions in the processes of globalization constructed on a fault line between individualist and collectivist agency and in the process, critiques neoliberal celebrations of “culture as choice” that attempt to bridge that separation. Aguiar advocates situating arranged marriage discourses within their social and material contexts so as to see past reductive notions of culture and grasp the global forces mediating increasingly polarized visions of agency.
From Mohandas Gandhi’s nineteenth-century tour in a third-class compartment to the recent cinematic shenanigans of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, the railway has been one of India’s most potent emblems of modern life. In the first in-depth analysis of representations of the Indian railway, Marian Aguiar interprets modernity through the legacy of this transformative technology.
Since the colonial period in India, the railway has been idealized as a rational utopia—a moving box in which racial and class differences might be amalgamated under a civic, secular, and public order. Aguiar charts this powerful image into the postcolonial period, showing how the culture of mobility exposes this symbol of reason as surprisingly dynamic and productive. Looking in turn at the partition of India, labor relations, rituals of travel, works of literature and film, visual culture, and the Mumbai train bombings of 2006, Aguiar finds incongruities she terms “counternarratives of modernity” to signify how they work both with and against the dominant rhetoric. Revealing railways as a microcosm of tensions within Indian culture, Aguiar demonstrates how their representations have challenged prevailing ideas of modernity.