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Accepted Paper:

“Matchmaker, make me a match”? Legal transformations, marital endeavours and the transgression of common life  
Ben Kasstan (London School of Hygiene Tropical Medicine)

Paper short abstract:

Building on anthropological approaches to marriage as an institution of intimacy and innovation, this paper examines the transformative and transgressive power of marriage and marital breakdown when caught between legal worlds by drawing on the case of Jewish orthodoxies in Britain.

Paper long abstract:

Building on anthropological approaches to marriage as an institution of intimacy and innovation, this paper examines the transformative and transgressive power of marriage and marital breakdown when caught between legal worlds. How does marriage provoke multiple, and at times, opposing rights and responsibilities between legal traditions? How do legal transformations re-configure the power held ‘in common’ by marital stakeholders? This paper addresses these questions by drawing on long-term ethnographic research into Jewish orthodoxies in contemporary Britain. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, orthodox Jews were thrust into the limelight for hosting ‘illegal’ weddings, which provoked multiple definitions of protecting life – that of biological and social continuity. At the same time, Jewish women began mobilising against denial of religious divorces (gett refusal). These women have drawn rebukes from rabbinic authorities for transgressing the authority of religious courts. Legal activism around ‘coercive and controlling behaviour’ has enabled women to pursue a legitimate route to challenge men who refuse to grant a gett, though rabbinic authorities have claimed how such legal recourse is inherently transgressive as men must consent to granting a gett – free from coercion. The paper examines how these multiple claims of coercion are embedded in accusations of transgressing competing rights (religious freedoms, gender equality), which are projected by differently-positioned actors. The paper argues that women who by-pass the jurisdiction of religious legal codes to “get” justice reveals how legal pluralism produces competing definitions of marital coercion – and casts attention to where the burdens of transgression are located.

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