Love, Marriage and Intimacy among Gujarati Indians

Kath_Twamley_Photo_A new book by network member Katherine Twamley

Love, Marriage and Intimacy among Gujarati Indians
A Suitable Match

One of the first of its kind, this book compares understandings and experiences of love and intimacy of one distinct cultural group – Gujarati Indians – born and brought up in two different countries. Using in-depth ethnographic fieldwork with middle-class Gujaratis aged between 20 and 30 years of age, it explores their relationship ideals and early experiences of marriage formation. It shows how discourses on what it means to be modern have interacted with pervasive ongoing status ideologies in both the UK and India. In bringing together the findings from both contexts, the book addresses the connections between intimacy, class, globalisation and kinship. Young Gujaratis are concerned not only with global ideals of ‘companionate marriage’, but also with national and local ideologies of what constitutes a ‘respectable’ middle-class marriage and family ideal. Such ideals shape not only practices of courtship and relationships, but the very experiences of love and desire.


You will find Katherine’s blog here.


Lena Gunnarsson, a member of the Love Research Network, has published a book on love and gendered power

9780415824118The Contradictions of Love: Towards a feminist-realist ontology of sociosexuality offers a robust and multifaceted theoretical account of how, in contemporary western societies, women continue to be subordinated to men through sexual love. The book defends and elaborates Anna G. Jónasdóttir’s thesis that men tend to exploit women of their ‘love power’, by means of an innovative application of critical realism, dialectical critical realism and the philosophy of metaReality. Gunnarson also offers a critique of the state of affairs of contemporary feminist theory.

The author demonstrates that the meta-theoretical framework of critical realism offers the tools that can counter the poststructuralist hegemony still prevailing in feminist theory. On a general level, The Contradictions of Love attempts at reconciling theoretical positions which tend to appear in opposition to one another. In particular, it offers a

way of bridging the gap between the notion of love as a locus of exploitation and that of love as a force which can conquer oppression.

This book is a unique and timely contribution in the field of feminist theory, in that it offers the first elaborate assessment and development of Jónasdóttir’s important but relatively sidestepped work, and in that it counters poststructuralist trends from the point of view of a robust critical realist framework that has hitherto been spectacularly absent in feminist theory, although it offers solutions to metatheoretical problems at the forefront of feminist debates; in the field of critical realism broadly defined, in that it elaborates on crucial ontological themes of (dialectical) critical realism and the philosophy of metaReality via a discussion of the issues of love, sexuality, gender and power; and finally, in the field of love studies, in that it offers a sophisticated account of how gender asymmetries prevail in love despite norms of gender equality and reciprocity, and in that it reconciles feminist, conflict-oriented perspectives on love with notions of love as transcending conflict.

Review: Europe and Love in Cinema

Europe and Love in Cinema


Intellect Ltd., 2012, ISBN 978-1-84150-379-0

£19.95 (pbk), 281 pp.

This interdisciplinary volume is positioned at the interface of cultural history and film studies and departs from the assumption that cinema and the analysis of films is a particularly useful field for the study of the cultural imaginary of specific societies at specific historical moments. The editors on the one hand state that the aim of the collection is to “explore the cultural implications of the treatment of love in a number of European fiction films” (p. 3), on the other hand, they intend an exploration of the “triangulation of the concepts of ‘Europe, ‘love’ and ‘cinema’” (p. 4). A main point of departure for bringing together these three concepts is the assumption that the concept of ‘romantic love’ is one of the main characteristics of Europeanness. In their introduction the editors show how this concept has evolved over time and how, in this way, private feelings have always had public consequences.

The assumption that cinema has played “a crucial role in conjugating the relationship between Europe and love” (p. 11) is the basis for the following eleven chapters which explore the triangular relationship between Europe, love and cinema by applying an adapted version of Ernesto de Martino’s critical ethnocentrism, attempting to criticize Eurocentrism from within. The single contributions are not restricted to heterosexual concepts of romantic love and they furthermore go beyond the concept of romantic love in order to include also aspects such as friendship or attachment to place.

The volume is structured in four parts, each consisting of three chapters. It starts with ‘disciplinary and historical contexts’, continues with ‘impossible loves’ and ‘movements in time-space’ in order to end with ‘cultural re-inscriptions’. In this way, the first three chapters give the disciplinary, historical and theoretical context for the case studies which are to follow.

As anticipated in the volume’s introduction, very different kinds of ‘love’ are discussed in the various chapters. Thus, besides the love for the cinema, the common saying of ‘love at first sight’ is transformed to “first looks” (p. 246) explored by Karen Diehl. Seán Allen examines the love between mother and son in Good Bye, Lenin! (2003). And one part of the volume is dedicated to ‘impossible loves’, i.e. unfulfilled love stories, mainly set in colonial contexts. At times, however, the chapters’ focus is rather on two sides of the triangle, i.e. the authors concentrate for example either on film and love or on film and Europe. Still, conclusions to almost every chapter enable the reader to bring together the individual approaches and link them with the broader scope of the volume.

The volume will be useful to students and scholars of film studies, of European studies and of cultural history interested in any side of the triangle. Furthermore, it could become a starting point for the exploration of ‘love’ and ‘Europe’ also in other media.

Sandra Vlasta

Austrian Academy of Sciences, Research project “Literature on the Move”

Vienna, Austria

Many Faces Of Love

A new book-length study of love by two of our network members:

What do we actually talk about when we talk about love? Research on love and emotions has been met with suspicion although people live in a network of relationships from birth to death, and the ability to build and maintain relationships is an important strength. This book provides a comprehensive research-based analysis of love in human life: romantic love and its ups and downs, and the fascination of love, the combination of work and family, the secrets of a long-lasting marriage, senior love, and the throes and relief of a divorce. Love is also discussed in relation to other phenomena, such as friendship, play, and creativity. In addition, themes of parental love and pedagogical love, and the ability to love, as well as dark sides of love are introduced.

Love is worth cherishing and practicing. Other people’s experiences may be helpful, and information about the nature of love can relieve the pain. Thus, love, in its various forms, makes the best health insurance!

This book is meant for everyone interested in love but also for professionals in various fields, such as psychologists, educators, and couple and family counselors. The book is based on authors Prof. Kaarina Määttä’s and Dr. Satu Uusiautti’s extensive research on love at the University of Lapland, Finland.
Paperback US$39.00/€35.00 ISBN 978-94-6209-204-4
Hardback US$99.00/€90.00 ISBN 978-94-6209-205-1

Rewriting the Rules

Our contributor Meg Barker’s book, Rewriting the Rules, is out this week, published by Routledge. Rewriting the Rules provides an alternative to the many self-help books about relationships by locating relationship difficulties in the cultural messages which people receive rather than in their individual psychology or biology. In addition to this, the focus is on questioning and exploring various possible rules of love, rather than putting forward one single set which will work for all people and relationships. The book examines the rules around attraction, love, sex, gender, monogamy, commitment, conflict, break-up, and the ways in which we treat ourselves. In each chapter dominant social rules are considered, and there is an examination of the ways in which these might be challenged, the alternatives that various groups have put in place, and what it might be like to move beyond a rules-based model. Drawing on interdisciplinary research on love, sex and relationships, Rewriting the Rules aims to be both academically informed and accessible to the general reader.

Routledge link:

Meg’s blog:

A review of this book by Michael Gratzke:

“Meg Barker’s Rewriting the Rules: An integrative Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships has been published by Routledge under the banner ‘Psychotherapy/Self-help’. The author is indeed ‘a therapist specialising in sexual and relationship therapy’. (She is also a senior lecturer in Psychology at the Open University). The book comes – therefore – with excellent credentials. No online doctorates here. The author is a bona fide expert in her field, not a jumped up journo dabbling with people’s feelings whilst making a quick buck.

The twist – however – is that the book comes flagged by the author as an ‘anti-self-help book’. All chapters of the book are divided into three sections outlining the ‘rules’, introducing ‘alternative’ rules, and finally challenging the reader to embrace the ‘uncertainty’ of not following any set rules.  Instead we are invited to embark on some self-reflective thinking – aided by a small number of  written exercises or drawing tasks some readers may find bemusing, others helpful. Incidentally, the drawings interspersed in the text (by the author herself?) add an unusual DIY flavour to a book by such a prestigious publishing house.

The reader’s journey starts thus with a small number of first assumptions about people: according to Barker, a person is not a singular, static entity but always in the ‘plural’ and in flux. We are different people in the way we relate to different people and we are not the same today we were ten years ago or will be in ten years from now. If you accept this you have suitably limbered up to for some thought-provoking claims about love, sex, gender, monogamy, conflict, break-ups and commitment. Meg Barker makes you question commonly held beliefs about all of these. Why should romantic or erotic love be held in higher esteem than love for your siblings or friendship? Why do so many of us seek the One True Eternal Love when all the evidence points at love being plural both in time (serial partners) and in space (the prevalence of non-monogamous relationships)? Do love and sex have to coincide in a romantic relationship? Is it OK to seek sexual gratification or even emotional validation outside your main relationship? After all many people do.

The author slips queer-feminist thought from controversial writers such as Gayle Rubin and Judith Butler into mainstream relationship therapy and due to a lack of jargon it may very well make sense to a lot of readers who would usually not have engaged with such a radical approach to gender roles and the way we love. Compulsory (heterosexual) monogamy is the ideal propagated by conventional self-help books and psychology textbooks. Barker – on the other hand – contests that any relationship style (conventional or not) can get too tightly controlled by rules. Her acceptance of non-monogamous relationships may startle many readers; the lesson to be learnt is however to ask questions about the rules which we allow to govern the way we think about ourselves and our loved ones, not blindly to accept that other lifestyles were somehow better.

In the latter part, the book moves on to more technical and less surprising advice about dealing with relationship conflicts: they are completely normal. Try to communicate well, take time out when needed, always see your partner as human and aim to understand the full picture by putting yourself into their shoes. There may come a time when the negative behavioural patterns in a relationship cannot be overcome any more. You and your partner should accept that. Breaking-up is common and should not become part of a negative inner monologue. Don’t go through your life blaming yourself or others!

If there is any criticism to be levelled against any part of this book, it would be that the section on common wedding vows, which Barker dissects on a linguistic and ideological level, does not take into account that to many people who get married the vows may just be part of the public ritual. How literally do we really take these words? Women today often don’t use the traditional promise ‘to obey’ any more but many other phrases in these vows have been handed down to us and may not mean very much in married life.

Throughout the book the author challenges her readers to question the social rules governing the ways we see ourselves, we see others, especially the ones we love, and the ways in which we are supposed to experience this love. In the final chapter Meg Barker nevertheless offers her own ideas on fulfilling romantic relationships. These include being emotionally available (‘being present’), being tolerant of our partners and their needs and feelings (‘flexibility’), being compassionate, and to preserve as much as possible the ‘freedom’ of our partners to make their own choices. As a feminist, the author is after all mindful of power imbalances in relationships caused by differences between genders, generations and income levels. Having read her book, though, many readers will find that Barker’s mix of provocation and sound advice is a liberating experience.”

Meg Barker: Rewriting the Rules

An interesting book by Meg Barker:

“Rewriting the Rules  is a book examining the complicated – and often contradictory – advice that is given about relationships.  It is a friendly guide through attraction and sex, monogamy and conflict, break-up and commitment.

Rewriting the Rules  asks questions such as: which to choose from all the rules on offer? Do we stick to the old rules we learnt growing up, even though they don’t completely fit? Or do we try something new and risk being out on our own and seen as a freak? And what about the times when the rules we love by seem to make things worse rather than better?

This website provides extra information about the topics covered in the book, including further reading, useful links, and posts on related topics.

The book, Rewriting the Rules, will be out in August 2012, published by Routledge, and available through their website and on Amazon. You can read a summary of the book here.

The book, and this blog is written by me, Meg Barker. I’m a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University and also a sex and relationship therapist. This website also gives information about my other research and writing as well as talks and training that I do.”