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Romantic Love and Anthropology

Charles Lindholm, Boston Uinversity

Westerners generally understand romantic love as a compelling emotional attraction to an idealized other. The Western notion of romantic love is spreading worldwide, while simultaneously theorists argue that romance is losing its authority due to the conditions of post-modernity. This paper seeks to move the discussion of love toward a more comparative and historical level, and argues that romantic love is neither universal, nor a uniquely Western institution. Rather, it is best understood as a form of the sacred, which appears in various forms under certain specific social conditions. It can blossom or fade, but the impulse behind it is not likely to vanish. The paper provides a short history of the study of romantic love in Western social thought and then goes on to present a structural analysis of romantic love in several cultures and epochs. (back)


Mass Media and Gender Equality

The Empowering Message of Romantic Love in Telenovelas
Janneke Verheijen, ICRISAT-Malawi

The increasing reach of mass media all across the globe implies, in theory at least, a large scale diffusion of specific cultural messages or values. Based on an in-depth ethnographic case-study in rural Guatemala (Verheijen 2005) – more specifically in a village where television has recently been introduced – this paper discusses the impact of a theme present in many forms of mass media entertainment, the theme of romantic love. Contrary to the general assumption that mass media perpetuate gender inequality by incessantly reaffirming traditional gender roles, this case study shows that the classic message of romantic love can have a profound emancipating impact on its receivers. (back)

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

The Intimate Relationships of Dakarois Girls
Anouka van Eerdewijk, Radboud University Nijmegen

This article investigates the role that love and money play in the intimate relationships of unmarried girls in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Love carries multiple meanings for these girls. It is related to feelings and ideas about exclusivity and reciprocity. Moreover, it is also an expression of individuality and modernity in relation to parents and relatives. The high expectations that girls have of love are related to the reliability of friendship and the importance of marriage. Ideally, love is incompatible with material interests in intimate relationships, but in reality both love and money are part of girls’ actual relationships. This article attempts to shed light on the discrepancies and ambiguities around love and money in these girls’ relationships. (back)

Love When Love Could Not Be

An Example of Romantic Love from the Caribbean
Francio Guadeloupe

No abstract available (back)

Romance Tourism on Ambergris Caye, Belize

The Entanglement of Love and Prostitution
Joan van Wijk, Free University Amsterdam

The Caribbean is a region where many local men engage in sexual relationships with female tourists. In the sociological literature love and romance are seen as important aspects of these relationships. The local men are given names like ‘gigolo’s’, ‘beach boys’ and ‘romance entrepreneurs’, and the female tourists have been labeled ‘romance tourists’. Male tourists are usually labeled ‘sex tourists’; their relationships are perceived to be of a mostly transactional nature. This article focuses on the men who are known for their sexual relationships with female tourists in Ambergris Caye, Belize. What do they gain from these relationships, are they experiencing ‘romantic love’? Furthermore, the article explores the constructions of gender and sexuality among the local population and the connection between romantic love and money. The article will show that despite the important role of economics in relationships between Belizeans, romance is emphasized where relationships with tourists are concerned.

When God Is Love

Reflections on Christian and Romantic Sentiments in Catholic Poland
Esther Peperkamp, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

Although the topic of ‘love’ has started to attract the attention of social scientists, in modern historical and anthropological accounts of love religion is conspicuously absent. However, the continuing presence of religion in the contemporary world forces one to think about how religion impinges itself on modern intimacy and the other way around. Love itself has become a key notion in many Christian groups today, who profess that ‘God is love’. This article will describe the ambiguity of Christian practices and narratives of love in Catholic Poland. It focuses on how religion deals with popular understandings of love that through the media pervade everyday life. The Christian narrative is designed as a counter-narrative to these popular notions of love and intimacy, but simultaneously I will show how religion cannot afford not to engage with popular notions of love. The article will discuss how Christian ideas and practices of love relate to sexuality, intimacy and expectations of romantic love among religious youth in Poland. (back)

‘All You Need Is Love’

From Romance to Romanticism: The Beatles, Romantic Love and Cultural Change
Colin Campbell, University of York

By focusing on its place in popular culture, and in particular the popular song, this paper attempts to show that the ‘romantic love complex’ is not simply of significance because of its role in interpersonal relationships but can also act as a significant force for cultural change. This claim is then illustrated through an examination of the lyrics of The Beatles’ songs and how the way that these changed between the early and late 1960s reveals that their evolution from ‘mere rock ’n’ rollers’ to sophisticated advocates of a revolutionary romanticism was only made possible because of their initial commitment to the idea (and the ideal) of romantic love. (back)