Honor and Happiness: An ethnographic study of arranged marriages in a context of tradition and globalization in South India
The tradition of arranged marriages is still the most popular form of organizing a marital relationship in India. Traditionally, parents are in charge of choosing the life partner for their child, which is a manifestation of honor in the Indian society. With globalization, the transcultural flow of media and ideas is rapidly increasing, which makes young middle-class Indians start nurturing new dreams and ideals such as free choice, individualism and romantic love. This essay is an ethnographic study based on interviews and participant observation with nine middle-class, English-speaking South Indians. The research objective is to explore how they understand the term arranged marriage and personal respective collective wishes in the choice of spouse and how they deal with the conflicts that occur when incompatible normative systems start to overlap. By using Appadurai’s (1996:33-36) concept ideoscapes and Lyn Parker’s (2005:20) definition of agency as “how people shape the world according to the possibilities of the context”, I investigate how my informants navigate in the landscape of ideas and as active agents select, reject, combine and transform cultural norms, creating new models of marital ideoscapes. Being more mobile than the older generation both geographically and within these different scapes they find new, creative ways to support their personal interests and preferences without losing the loyalty and respect for their parents, both within and opposed to social structures.