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Accepted Paper:

Crafting romance with limited resources? Young Ammani men negotiating masculinity and "true love"  
Sandra Nasser El-Dine (University of Tampere)

Paper short abstract:

My paper discusses the current struggles and negotiations of young Ammani men in performing masculinity in romantic relationships. In Jordanian cultural context, material exchanges and producing love are entangled, yet the resources of young men are often limited due to the current economic climate.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted among local and Syrian middle-class youth in the Jordanian capital Amman, my paper discusses the current struggles of young men in performing masculinity in romantic relationships. This discussion is based on a notion of love, present in my interlocutors' narratives, and also stated by bell hooks: "love is an action, never simply a feeling". In my interlocutors' narratives, romantic love (associated with the local concept of ╩┐ishra) is presented as processual, developing in reciprocal interaction. Especially unselfish actions for the sake of the partner and the exchange of gifts and favours are seen as important symbolic expressions of love, and also as essential in creating love. Love is therefore not "just an emotion", as it needs to be continuously produced by repetitive performative acts of attending to the needs and requests of the partner, according to gender specific roles.

In addition, these processes are deeply entangled with materiality. For most young women, their partner's financial investments in a relationship signal care, commitment and respect. Conceptualising material exchanges in intimate relationships within this framework questions the dichotomisation between 'love' and 'money', present in the current Western idealised notion of 'true love'. However, the role of material exchanges in generating love is problematic for young men in the current economic climate, as performing masculinity in a relationship often requires unattainable financial capacity. Young men therefore negotiate the entanglement of material exchanges and love, and often equate their partner's willingness to compromise on material necessities with 'true love'.

Panel P001
Anthropology of the "New Arab Man"
  Session 1