Invitations to Love provides a close examination of the dramatic shift away from arranged marriage and capture marriage toward elopement in the village of Junigau, Nepal. Laura M. Ahearn shows that young Nepalese people are applying their newly acquired literacy skills to love-letter writing, fostering a transition that involves not only a shift in marriage rituals, but also a change in how villagers conceive of their own ability to act and attribute responsibility for events. These developments have potential ramifications that extend far beyond the realm of marriage and well past the Himalayas.
The love-letter correspondences examined by Ahearn also provide a deeper understanding of the social effects of literacy. While the acquisition of literary skills may open up new opportunities for some individuals, such skills can also impose new constraints, expectations, and disappointments. The increase in female literacy rates in Junigau in the 1990s made possible the emergence of new courtship practices and facilitated self-initiated marriages, but it also reinforced certain gender ideologies and undercut some avenues to social power, especially for women.
Scholars, and students in such fields as anthropology, women's studies, linguistics, development studies, and South Asian studies will find this book ethnographically rich and theoretically insightful.
Laura M. Ahearn is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Rutgers University.
Publisher: University of Michigan Press