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Unravelling Marriage in the Indian Context

Sharmita Ray

Edited by Srimati Basu and Lucinda Ramberg
Women Unlimited, Delhi, 2015, pp. viii 283, Rs. 575.00


Conjugality Unbound brings together an impressive range of scholarship that engages with the diverse implications and presuppositions of marriage as an institution and relationship in the Indian context, which is guided by social, cultural, economic, religious and legal parameters. The essays in this volume complicate the conventional understanding of marriage by raising issues with regard to the accepted features and commonalities that normatively define marriage. It challenges the normalization of this institution by questioning the enabling and disciplinary aspects of the marital form that simultaneously renders it as a subject of contention and research. The volume points to the inadequacy of the term marriage to capture the uniqueness of relationships, owing to its multiple implicit assumptions. The editors have argued that the limited and restrictive scope of ‘marriage’ as a term may be avoided to an extent by the term ‘conjugality’ which in itself is ‘less burdened with meanings’ (p.12) and hence is able to encapsulate wider varieties and forms of conjugation, although they recognize that the underlying legal and sexual implications are common to both these terms. The theoretical formulation of ‘sexual economy’ as a concept for analysing the mutual relationship between sexual and material relations is the significant theme that runs throughout the contributions in this volume. Analysis of marriage/conjugality in this volume has been conducted primarily through three lines including the feminist materialist perspective; from the standpoint of postcolonial historians and by looking into the queer critique of marriage. These together point to the legal, regulatory, transactional and disciplinary aspects of marriage as it is practised and performed in India.   This volume presents a wide spectrum of viewpoints through interdisciplinary discussions regarding the conceptual ambiguities of marriage as an institution and its interaction with the operations of caste, religion, ethnicity, gender relations and so on within the Indian society. The individual essays introduce fresh perspectives for understanding the complexities and nuances of the marital forms as these have been practised, accepted, encouraged or discouraged in India and in turn they attempt to review and reinterpret prevailing ideas around the discourses of marriage and conjugality. Marriage being a common subject of concern, representation, discussion and debate across India, the scholars in this volume have tapped into a commendably wide variety of sources including administrative records, divorce registers, literature, contemporary news items, media representations, legal proceedings, oral testimonies and case studies among others to bring forth the profusion ...

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