Romantic intimacies, love and sexuality mark significant sensual and emotional relations through which people, communities and states are constituted and connected. We welcome papers that critically engage with 'intimate states' of love, sexuality and romantics with/in and across borders.
Romantic intimacies, love and sexuality mark significant sensual and emotional relations through which people, communities and states are constituted and connected. Intimacies are often considered central to interpersonal and emotional wellbeing, by both lovers as well as states, and the idea of romanticism, love and sexual intimacy is meaningful in many political, economic and religious contexts. Romance can be associated with 'being modern', with an emphasis on personal choice, desire, individualism and partnership and, hence, may be emblematic of state-based citizenship. In addition, love, romance and sexuality is imbricated with capitalism, media, social media and consumerism, and individuals, institutions and states may privilege relational intimacies that model heteronormative values and principles. In these ways and senses, love, sexuality and romantic intimacies are often bounded by borders, both literal and metaphorical.
In this panel, we welcome papers that critically engage with 'intimate states' of love, sexuality and romantics with/in and across borders. We invite contributions that explore the ways in which states, communities and persons mediate or negotiate romantics, sexuality and love as well the constitution, monitoring and transgression of borders and boundaries. Some key issues are suggested below but papers outside of these are welcome:
• Borders, boundaries, states, communities & intimacies
• Movements, mobility and love and sexual/romantic intimacies
• Intimacy, citizenship, choice, desire, individualism and partnership
• States and romance, love and/or sexual intimacy
• Transgressive intimacies, sexualities and love
• Religions, politics, spirituality and sexualities
• Gendered, sexual and romantic states and/or borders
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Contemporary Chinese weddings on the internet
Between viral content on social media, the impact of the Influencer industry, and a nation-wide resurgence of cultural nostalgia, young couples in Singapore are innovating memorable Chinese wedding rituals in the age of the internet. This paper presents preliminary findings on such practices.
In 2016, Chinese wedding traditions attained populist prominence among young Singaporeans at the intersection of gate-crashing documented and viral on social media, Influencers who were promoting advertorials for traditional Chinese weddings, and a resurgence of ethnic and material nostalgia stimulated by a state-sponsorship of branded histories in 2015 during Singapore's 50th anniversary. While such virality has included extreme, unconventional, or highly creative instances of gate-crashing, Influencers have inculcated masses of young followers on different aspects of Chinese wedding ceremonies such as "guodali", "kua" costumes, wedding auspicions and superstitions, "shuangxi" themed wedding favours, and themed catering. This new form of gatekeeping, knowledge dissemination, and cultural policing by young Singaporean couples and vendors in their twenties is unprecedented given that much of Singapore's young and multi-cultural ethnic histories have been formally streamlined by state-sanctioned narratives, or informally inherited through oral tradition via networks of senior generations. Taking an anthropological approach through traditional ethnographic fieldwork among to-be-wedded and recently wedded couples and wedding service providers, and contemporary internet ethnography among the social media microcelebrities known as Influencers, this paper presents preliminary findings from participant observation and personal interviews on young Singaporean couples' motivations to return to Chinese wedding traditions through highly material, documentary, and celebrity-inspired projects.
State, spouse, and family: Facebook postings by Indonesian transnational women
Professional women from Indonesia currently living in Singapore and Australia use imagery of the state in Facebook postings about their marriages. We explore the impact of the state on women's emotional subjectivities around marriage and family within the context of their transnational lives.
The study of marriage in transnational families has explored the impact of wider geopolitical relations on intimacy and partner desire. While transnational female hypergamy has been linked to global political and economic trends, the place of geopolitics on marriage intimacies among transnational professional couples has received far less attention. This paper draws on in-depth interviews and digital ethnography conducted in 2016-2017 with professional Indonesian women living in Singapore and Australia, to describe how women use imagery of the state to talk about their relationships with their husbands. For these women, marriage takes place within transnational social fields, where the woman is highly mobile, often living apart from their equally mobile husbands for extended periods of time as the family pursues global work or educational opportunities. Drawing on insights by Madianou & Miller on the cultural capacities of social media to both challenge and reproduce norms we explore how professional women use images of Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia on Facebook when posting updates about their spouses. In contrast to analyses suggesting geopolitics shapes ideas of desirable mates, we propose that for professional Indonesian women the state is harnessed more to women's subjectivities, with state symbols offering a vehicle for expressing personal intimacies and complex personal ambiguities about their marital relationships. The strong association between state symbolism and Facebook postings about family nonetheless also suggest symbols reinforce normative marital relations that closely adhere to state ideals, and legitimate a highly mobile transnational life.
'We don't want government dowries: we are not cash cows': the interplay between the state, marriage and gender norms in urban Nepal
This paper explores the way in which states and communities negotiate marriage in Nepal through the lens of a government intervention into marriage and the subsequent reactions to the proposed policy.
In 2009 the Nepali Government announced a policy aimed at encouraging men to marry widows by way of a cash incentive. This initiative sparked intense opposition in Nepal, particularly from the most prominent widow's organisation in Nepal, Women for Human Rights - Single Women Group (WHR), which embarked on a highly publicised protest campaign and filed a case to the Supreme Court, successfully blocking the policy. WHR argued that the Government's policy was effectively promoting the dowry system, thereby treating women as commodities and increasing their vulnerability to abuse by traffickers. Further, offering money for remarriage was demeaning to an already stigmatised group. Nevertheless, not all widowed women in Nepal were critical of the policy, particularly women belonging to low castes and ethnic groups, who welcomed the initiative. The state's proposed intervention into marriage and the subsequent reactions to the policy provide a lens through which to explore the way in which states and communities negotiate marriage in this context. Drawing on ethnographic research, this paper highlights that while marriage is central to the ideal life path for women in Nepal - defining her status in society and determining her life options - the experience of marriage, and widowhood, differs based on factors such as caste, ethnicity and religion. Nevertheless, despite variations in marriage norms and practices, constructions of marriage based on high-caste Hindu religious ideologies and assumptions about gender and sexuality dominate, heavily influencing policy and Nepal's legal code and, in turn, affecting women's lived experience of marriage.
Good-looking, hard-working & wealthy: exploring dynamics and experiences of intimacy. love and marriage in Papua New Guinea
In Papua New Guinea, ideals of companionate marriage are part of modern, Christian nationhood. In this paper, I explore how marriage, love and intimacy shape people's lives, emotions, and expectations in PNG in order to more fully understand the dynamics and intricacies of intimacy and marriage
The recent rise of companionate love as the basis of a 'good' marriage is a global phenomenon, and many have embraced the companionate model of intimacy as the most emotionally satisfying. In Papua New Guinea, gendered Christian personhood and ideals of companionate marriage, which accentuates sexual and emotional intimacy, is part of being a 'modern', Christian nation. For many in PNG, intimacies in marriage have been shaped by experiences of Christianity and interactions with missionaries and colonial agents, as well as with the postcolonial state and other global actors.
For Gogodala, whose marriage practices continue to value marriages that privilege substantive connections between social groups, clans and families as much as individuals, companionate marriage was originally modelled by Anglo-European missionaries who lived with villagers from the 1920s, providing educational, medical and Biblical services. Christian notions of gender and sexuality, then, remain central to perceptions and promises of sexual and emotional intimacy. In this paper. I explore the forms and experiences of marriage and intimacy that shape people's lives, emotions, and expectations: from companionate ideals, legal frameworks and Christian values, to ones that privilege 'hardwork', relationality and continuity of collective as well as personal connections. I also focus on relationships formed on the basis of 'brideprice', as well the more recent desire of younger men and women to look 'for a nice face'. In doing so, I seek to draw out the differing understandings and experiences of intimacy, love and marriage.
Peripheral sexualities: women's negotiations with honour and dating practice in urban Nepal
Urban Nepali womanhood & sexuality are practised through local understandings of ijjat (honour). Premarital relationships are often met with disapproval due to the dishonour they bring families. Thus women negotiate romance in peripheries where they can forge modern subjectivities of their choosing.
This paper, based on two years of fieldwork in urban Nepal, will argue three points about urban Nepali womanhood and women's romantic relationships. Firstly, I argue that an urban Nepali womanhood is practised and understood fundamentally through local understandings of what it means to have ijjat (honour). This is grounded in so-called 'traditional', local understandings of what it means to be a 'good' woman. This notion is also predicated on the fact that women's behaviour not only garners honour for herself, but also her kin. Secondly, ijjat is explicitly linked to women's chastity and their mobility. Women's behaviour and movements are routinely surveilled by family and the wider community, in order to control women's sexuality. Having pre-marital relationships is not traditional practice for Nepalis, and dating is seen as damaging to a woman's ijjat, and therefore to that of her family. Accordingly, being seen in certain spaces carries with it the responsibility of being seen in the 'right' ways. As such, I finally argue that dating in urban Nepal can be characterised by practices of negotiation. Women negotiate pre-marital sexual practice, by evading surveillance and seeking out peripheral spaces with their (potential) partners. These peripheries, or 'out-of-the-way', spaces are locations where less social governance occurs. Therefore, couples, and especially women, can escape gendered pressures and forge modern, sexual subjectivities of their choosing.
Blended boundaries: romantic expectations among young, unmarried Muslim men and women
This paper examines the varied ways in which young Sydney Muslims pursue and understand romantic relationships within and across the borders of ethnicity, community, and religion as well as their engagement with Islamic, ethnically specific, and mainstream Anglo-Australian norms of courtship.
Based on research conducted among unmarried Muslims aged between 18-30 of various ethnic backgrounds in the vibrantly multicultural city of Sydney and its surrounding suburbs, this paper will examine the varied ways in which young Muslim men and women pursue and understand romantic relationships within and across the borders of ethnicity, community, and religion. Australian Muslims are subjected to stereotyped portrayals that characterise them as belonging to a repressive religion that overwhelms personal will and determines their relationships and life choices. Representation produces meaning and this interacts with power, shapes identities, and can influence the decisions that people make. The pressures that negative representations of Islam place on young Australian Muslims can impact upon self-perceptions, piety (or the public performance thereof) as well as concepts of intimacy, all of which then in turn influence the romantic relationships they pursue. Similar to many other so-called second generation migrants, my research respondents often blended a range of cultural beliefs and practices, yet they also told stories of temporarily adopting specific, situational practices that depended upon their emotional states as well as their perceived need to emphasise certain aspects of their identities in particular contexts. Starting with a brief examination of the various expectations my research respondents have of intimate relationships, this chapter will then discuss examples that illustrate the various ways in which some young heterosexual Sydney Muslims strategically engage with or resist Islamic, ethnically specific, or mainstream Anglo-Australian norms of courtship.
Friends and lovers: understanding friendship in Swakopmund, Namibia
In Swakopmund, Namibia, friendship is a way of steadying characteristically unstable financial and social lives. This paper explores friend relationships between men, contextualising them in relation to family, love, romance and homosexuality.
Swakopmund, Namibia, is a city characterised by insecurity, instability and inequality. In this context, friendships between men became ways of stabilising both current finances as well as hopes and dreams for the future. This notion of friendship, however, runs counter to a western conception of these relationships as revolving around autonomy, sentiment, individualism, lack of ritual and lack of instrumentality (Killick and Desai 2010). In Swakopmund friendships were highly instrumental; they were also considered dangerous because of the intimacies that they involved.
Whilst these friendships sometimes involved sex, they should not be seen as 'boyfriends' or 'affairs'; indeed, in the majority of cases these relationships were known and approved of by the wives involved. Amongst other men, however, they would sometimes lead to accusations of homosexuality which was more symptomatic of jealousy than it was any real comment on the nature of friendship. Indeed, it was jealousy that would often mean these relationships were kept secret as far as possible. Defined intersubjectively, these friendships were transgressive insofar as they resisted definition by outside agency; in that way friendship is a powerful relationship which exists outside of state regulation.
Based on two years fieldwork, this paper is an exploraton of friendship in several ways: firstly, the importance of material things in creating and maintaining these bonds. Second, friendship in relation to love, family, romance and homosexuality.
Interspecies affection and nonhuman labour in state projects of biodiversity conservation
What happens if we consider relations of intimacy between human and animal individuals for understanding projects of environmental statecraft? This paper explores this question by applying a multispecies perspective to captive elephant management in Nepal and its role in biodiversity conservation.
A posthumanist critique has emerged which challenges the concern of the Western intellectual tradition with treating the human in conceptual isolation. This critique informs the multispecies turn in anthropology, which considers social life the generative outcome of not-just-human interactions. Producing more-than-human, material-semiotic accounts of both multispecies networks and interspecies relations, this is allowing us to rethink interspecies sociality and to reconsider the ways that other species are implicated in human lives, landscapes, projects, and technologies. Drawing on fieldwork in and around Nepal's lowland Chitwan National Park, I seek to integrate these emerging strands in order to theorize intimate relations of affection between humans and elephants as a form of interspecies labour integral to state projects of biodiversity conservation. I do so by combining auto-ethnographic reflection on my affective apprenticeship with an elephant named Sitasma Kali, with analysis of the assemblage of people, places, things, and ideas through which Nepal's projects of protected area management are enacted. In so doing, I argue that enduring, reciprocally affectionate relations between humans and elephants represent key components of a social technology vital for understanding South Asian civilization. Comprising the kinaesthetic union of human and elephant, this technology is important not only for contemporary utilitarian functions, which include vehicular transport for biodiversity fieldwork and anti-poaching patrols, but also for understanding histories of state power that produced the lives, landscapes, and scenarios upon which today's lowland conservation regime is predicated.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.