Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Lina Fruzzetti Presents her new book: When Marriages Go Astray

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

4:00pm – 5:30pm

Brown Bookstore
244 Thayer Street

Free admission

Lina Fruzzetti, the Royce Family Professor in Teaching Excellence and a Professor of Anthropology here at Brown University has recently come out with her latest work, a book entitled When Marriages Go Astray: Choices Made, Choices Challenged.

This account of inter-caste and inter-religious marriages, unheard of in such high numbers till recently, is the result of Fruzzetti's long term fieldwork in India and presents detailed case studies from Bishnupur, a town in West Bengal. In her study, Fruzzetti looks into a rarely studied aspect of female agency in India: how can we understand society's concern with marriages deemed to have gone astray? How do women cope with their families' rejection of their choices? 

Aside from her positions as a professor, Lina Fruzzetti holds numerous national and international professional appointments and is also the co-chair of the South Asia Studies Program and Director of the South Asia Studies undergraduate major at Brown. Her research work is primarily based in India (West Bengal) and North and East Africa, and focuses on social anthropology, kinship, politics, study of ritual and the construction of gender. Central to her current work is the question of citizenship and issues of cultural as well as religious identities regarding the discourse of the person in India. 

This work addresses women's dilemma in selecting one's marriage partner in a society still bound by the tradition of arranging marriages for their children. On the one hand, young women express their agency, or reclaiming the rights of their bodies, to "act" in a manner that appeals to their sensibilities and to "break away" from familiar to uncharted territory, both physically and symbolically. On the other hand, by refusing to allow the rite of marriage to define or mark them, in the eyes of their society these women are perceived as selfish, lost, and arrogant, committing the critical offense of denying their fathers the ultimate duty - gifting their daughters in marriage.

Fruzzetti analyzes the discourse of how these young women set about negotiating new boundaries by denying their imposed ideal as custodians and preservers of tradition. Instead of acquiescing to rules and cultural obligations, they decide to navigate the confines of culture and their decision often sets them against kinship, family, or even one's faith, notably in cases requiring conversion to a new religion. These women realize that in asserting their "freedom to choose" they face conflict with the expectations of their upbringing and pose challenges of acceptability to their families, society, caste, and occasionally religious communities. 

The book has recently been released by RCS Publishers.

More Information

South Asia Seminar

Contact: South Asian Studies Department