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Accepted Paper:

Love in a Tense Atmosphere: Cautious Intimacy in Delhi's Muslim Neighborhoods  
Thalia Gigerenzer (Princeton University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores changing ideas of intimacy and romance among young Muslim women in Delhi against the backdrop of rising security concerns for Indian Muslims. With the rise of "WhatsApp romances" and love marriages, these young women are radically shifting the way they conceive of intimacy.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores changing ideas of intimacy and romance among young Muslim women in Delhi against the backdrop of an increasingly tense climate of suspicion in their neighborhoods. Drawing on 24 months of ethnographic fieldwork in low-income, Muslim areas of Delhi, India, I found that residents would proclaim that their neighborhoods were in a state of moral decline. Residents linked these statements to narratives of moral decline on a national scale, citing the increasing persecution of Muslims under the current right-wing Hindu government. With the rise of so-called "WhatsApp romances," premarital relationships and love marriages, young women in these communities are experiencing a radical shift in the way they conceive of and practice intimacy. At the same time, however, concerns about security and waning morality encourage women to limit their romantic attachments. I argue that this climate of suspicion has caused these women to approach the search for a husband with heightened caution. Rather than being a move towards individualism or Western relationship forms, I argue that these new practices and technologies of romance actually enable a more cautious approach towards finding a compatible spouse. Social media platforms like WhatsApp enabled couples to extract background information about each other, while premarital relationships allowed young women to buy time to truly test their compatibility with a potential husband. My paper asks how these young women, in an atmosphere in which no one is as they seem, attempt to know their romantic partners intimately.

Panel P025b
The Hope of Marriage: Transforming Intimate Worlds and Social Futures II
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -