The panel scrutinizes the dynamics of exchange and emotion in contemporary marriages, weddings and intimacies. We explore the relevance of marriage in an age of multiple intimate relationships and commitment uncertainties.
One important legacy of anthropological theory is the comparative study of kinship and marriage. Influential research paradigms such as alliance theory were derived from the dynamics of marriage ties. The critique of structural-functionalist approaches to kinship in the 1970s and 1980s was followed by a decline of research on kinship and marriage. Since the 1990s, a revival under the rubric of 'New Kinship Studies' has taken place. Novel concepts such as 'relatedness' have been introduced. In-depth analyses of new reproductive technologies, divergent sexualities and a focus on the creation of filial ties are main concerns of this research. To put it a bit polemic, it seems that the study of kinship and marriage has moved from the exchange of wives to the exchange of babies. What can the 'New Kinship Studies' add to the contemporary study of marriage? How can other emerging fields, like the anthropologies of love, emotion, sexuality and consumption, be integrated into our rethinking of marriage? In times of multiple intimate relationships, including same-sex marriage, and increasing commitment-uncertainties, how important is marriage today? Taking exchange and emotion within marriage and intimacy as our starting point we ask contributors to also address the influence of other social transformations, e.g. global consumption trends, divergent sexualities and the life-styles of the emerging middle classes.