The economies of love: love marriage, kin support and aspiration in a south Indian garment city

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De Neve, Geert (2016)

The paper considers narratives and experiences of love marriage in the garment city of Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu, south India. As a booming centre of garment production, Tiruppur attracts a diverse migrant workforce of young men and women who have plenty of opportunity to fall in love and enter marriages of their own making. Based on long-term ethnographic research, the paper explores what love marriages mean to those involved, how they are experienced and talked about, and how they shape post-marital lives. Case studies reveal that a discourse of loss of post-marital kin support is central to evaluations of love marriages by members of Tiruppur’s labouring classes. Such marriages not only flout parental authority and often cross caste and religious boundaries, but they also jeopardise the much needed kin support that youngsters need to fulfil aspirations of mobility, entrepreneurship and success in a post-liberalisation environment. It is argued that critical evaluations of love marriages not only disrupt modernist assumptions of linear transformations in marital practices, but they also constitute a broader critique of the neoliberal celebration of the ‘individual’ while reaffirming the continued importance of caste endogamy, parental involvement and kin support to success in India’s post-reform economy.
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    11 This paper is based on long-term ethnographic research carried out over a total of more than 20 months since 2000 in and around the city of Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu. The research included, among other methods, extensive semi-structured interviewing, the collection of detailed life histories and different forms of participant-observation in garment factories.

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