Accepted paper:

Pre-marital relationships and the family in contemporary India


Parul Bhandari ( O P Jindal Global University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores pre-marital relationships of professionals in Delhi. It enquires into the role of the family in obstructing or supporting these relationships and examines the affect of these strategies on the relationship between family members.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is an enquiry into a form of intimate relationship that is garnering much public attention in contemporary India, namely, pre-marital relationships. In order to query the rhetoric of individual agency and 'freedom' that often gets associated with pre-marital relationships, this paper explores the family's relation to the pre-marital experiences of the younger generation. The paper argues that though pre-marital relationships often fashion themselves as a disjuncture from the narrative of marriage, in reality, they model themselves on structures and expectations of a marital union. This paper also pays attention to the ways in which families position themselves vis-à-vis pre-marital relationships. Specifically, it discusses the strategies by which the family can obstruct or encourage certain pre-marital relationships over the others; thereby highlighting the bearing of the family's involvement in changing the nature of a coupledom, either from a non-serious to a committed one (marriage) or leading to the break-up of a serious relationship.

This paper is an enquiry of new forms of intimacies, which it is argued, are expressed not only through the phenomenon of pre-marital relationships but also in the shifting relations between the family members, caused in the pursuit of alignment of their interests, approval and disapproval, towards the pre-marital relationships. This alignment entails confrontation with sexual independence of their children, concern for class reproduction or status maintenance, and discussions and apprehensions on concepts of morality and upholding cultural integrity. The analyses of these experiences further encourage us to view the family in non-'traditional' ways.

panel P23
Changing family realities in South Asia