Modern Loves

The Anthropology of Romantic Courtship and Companionate Marriage
Jennifer S. Hirsch and Holly Wardlow, Editors
Grounded in recent, cutting edge feminist anthropological theory, these essays discuss how women and men do courtship, intimacy, and marriage around the world


How are love, marriage, and desire changing? This collection confronts that question, examining how global cultural flows, changing gender relations, specific economic structures, and state policies are reshaping intimate life around the world. Grounded in cutting edge feminist anthropological theory, these essays discuss how women and men craft courtship, intimacy, and marriage around the world, situating intimate relations in their respective social and economic contexts and exposing the dynamics that are shared cross-culturally, as well as those characteristics that are specific to each site.

In this first comparative ethnographic look at the global transformation toward marital ideals characterized by emotional intimacy, companionship, and mutual choice—discussed here as "companionate marriage"— Modern Loves asks how this shift is occurring and explores the factors that promote and hinder it, just who is pushing for these more companionate relationships, and what advantages men and women see in modern love. The contributors analyze the intricate negotiations surrounding love, marriage, and sex in Mexico, India, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Singapore, and Hong Kong and among Latino youth in East Los Angeles. Modern Loves presents the new global approach to kinship studies, examining both the microlevel practices that constitute and bind relationships and the macrolevel forces that shape the landscape of love.

Contributors: Margaret E. Bentley, Selina Ching Chan, Pamela I. Erickson, Jessica Gregg, Jennifer Higgins, Jennifer S. Hirsch, Wynne Maggi, Constance A. Nathanson, Gayatri Reddy, Daniel Jordan Smith, and Holly Wardlow

Jennifer S. Hirsch is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Visit her faculty website page and her main project/research website.

Holly Wardlow is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Praise / Awards

  • "Modern Loves offers an overview of current scholarship on love in the context of sexual relationships cross-culturally, and provides a view of the complexity of varied aspects of emotion, social structure, and social change in contemporary sexual relationships. It clearly makes the case for a political economic understanding of the emergence of ideologies of love, marriage, and courtship as part of expanding global economies."
    —Linda-Anne Rebhun, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Yale University

  • "With its rich descriptions of the nuances in romantic love and its lucid analysis of the political economy of conjugal relations, this book will be widely read and loved by anthropologists as well as the concerned public."
    —Yunxiang Yan, Professor of Anthropology, UCLA

  • "What's love got to do with it?? Hirsch and Wardlow answer this question by demonstrating the relevance—indeed, centrality—of the ideologies and practices surrounding romantic love and companionate marriage to the study of social transformation more broadly. The papers compiled in this volume explore the material, structural, and demographic underpinnings of the global shift in marital ideals while also tracing the some of the sources of this marital shift in mass media, missionization, and the spread of individualism. The contributors of the chapters provide ethnographically rich examples of the ways in which people living in different societies interpret and act upon these global forces and images in sometimes overlapping and sometimes varying ways. This volume is an important and thoughtful contribution to the study of emotion, gender, kinship, and social change."
    —Laura M. Ahearn, Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University

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Copyright © 2006, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. .

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 248pp.
  • 18 illlustrations & B&W photographs, 1 table.
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  • Hardcover
  • 2006
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-09959-7

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  • $84.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2006
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06959-0

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  • $28.95 U.S.