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Accepted Paper:

Hoping for fortunate futures: the emergence of extravagant weddings in times of upheaval in Myanmar  
Kaja Berg Hjukse (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the anticipation and production of luck and good fortune in the emerging practices of extensive weddings among Buddhists during Myanmar’s reform period (2011-2021) and asks what this can tell us about the role of marriage in contexts of rapid social and political transformations.

Paper long abstract:

Recent anthropological perspectives on marriage invite us to explore the place of marriage in the ways people constitute and reconstitute social worlds. Marriage among Buddhists in Myanmar confer upon social acknowledgement; conventionally there is no need for a ritual celebration nor a formal registration for marriages to be recognized and legal.

Myanmar’s reform period (2011-2021) was marked by political upheaval, social transformation, and uncertain futures. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Upper Myanmar in 2015 and from 2018 to 2019, this paper explores what seems to be emerging practices of extravagant and elaborate wedding ceremonies (mingala hsaun) during this period. The paper has two main parts: first, I take the local perception of marriage as a matter of ‘luck’ as a starting point to investigate the constitution of marriage and the imagination of future married lives, and second, I explore how these changing marriage practices are connected to social and political transformations in Myanmar. I ask: How is luck and good fortune anticipated and produced through extensive mingala hsaun (lit. ‘to carry out an auspicious ceremony’) and why? How has mingala hsaun become a way of enacting hope in times of uncertainties?

I argue that these emergent forms of extensive wedding ceremonies are important sites for women to enhance the possibilities of fortunate futures of their married lives and suggest that analyzing notions of ‘luck’ in marriage during Myanmar’s reform period provides new insight into the role of marriage as constituting social lives in contexts of rapid social and political transformation.

Panel P025a
The Hope of Marriage: Transforming Intimate Worlds and Social Futures I
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -