Wednesday, December 20, 2017

“I Do?’ or “Did I?”

 This Blog Post is written by
 Dillon Partap

In antiquity, women and their bodies were seen as property of their fathers. Being property, the father would look for a suitor matching his specific needs for his daughter. This suitor would have to then give dowry to the bride’s father, basically paying for her. 

The Asian Indian arranged marriage process can find its roots in Ancient India, that was much larger then what it is today. India still remains a mostly Hindu country, and in the religion we can find our first origins of arranged marriages. The sacred texts of the Hindus, the Vedas, describe the rules for arranged marriage and its purpose.  In the Vedas, it talks about the caste system of India, which dominates all aspects of social interaction. In the Hindu caste system there are 4 main castes (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras); these then are sub-castes or gotras. The belief is that one can only marry within their caste, then sub-caste, but never any of their kin. The Indian Muslim community also adheres to some rules when coming to their arranged marriages. In their faith, there can’t be marriages between the two main sects (Shia and Sunni). Within each individual sect, marriage has to be within their sub caste to be recognized. 

Currently the world is changing and arranged marriages are out of date, or so you think? In the Asian Indian communities the idea of arranged marriage is still alive and well, no matter the location. Specifically, in the Western Hemisphere this supposed tradition is opposed by what the Asian Indian youth is experiencing. The general norm expected by the Asian Indian youth is to obey the choices made by their elderly family members. Especially in New York City where there are prominent Asian Indian communities, the struggle between tradition and assimilation ensues.

In modern western culture, marriage is often the union of two individuals who have known each other for some time through dating. This western norm is what seems to create the tension between tradition and assimilation. Assimilation theory poses that the parents hold on to their beliefs when migrating to a new country, it is their offspring that is raised in this new setting that adapts fully. Arranged marriages appear to have no substance in a society where the individual chooses their partner. It comes down the setting of where these practices were formed. 

Arranged marriages are meant to benefit the family economically, mainly in India due to its agrarian history. A family would have raise their youth in a faith, then train them in an occupation that is multi-generational. This ensures that society flows smoothly through arranged marriages. With western society being highly industrialized, the need for multi-generational jobs became irrelevant. The individual doesn’t bare the stress of finding necessities because through industrialization these become commercialized commodities.   

The speech acts of these marriage ceremonies illustrate the difference between them. In the western wedding is confirmed with the famous “I do”. This speech act shows some sense of choice because of the word “I”. The “I” demonstrates that before the marriage ceremony, one gain a sense of who their significant other is. In Muslim Indian weddings, the speech act “I accept” is used. This backs up the need of some relation through marriage, and choice is usually with the elders of each family.  

In the West, arranged marriages seem to adapt to the assimilation process of the Asian Indian youth. The processes concerning arranged marriages are now marketed in various forms of media. The Indian youth now see ads for various marriage websites. (I personally see them when flipping through the Indian television channels) These websites are usually broken down based on religion. Based on your religion, it then goes into the specifics of the arranged marriage process.  

The use of entertainment sources to reinforce this practice is interesting, because it explains that the process is entering the modern entertainment forms that the Asian Indian youth use. Parents of the youth would see these website ads and use it to their advantage. Using these websites, parents are arranging and analyzing partners for their children. In reality, their children are following social norms of western society. Socializing with other peoples of different ethnic backgrounds, the Asian Indian youth may develop romantic relations with such people. This leads to conflict between family tradition and assimilation. (Basically the story line of every Bollywood production) Parents want one reality, whilst the child may have one completely different in plan. 
So please share your thoughts and experiences with arranged marriages: 

Do you think that the marketing of arranged marriages are apparent in other cultures in the west?
Are arranged marriages in the Asian Indian community outdated and should be done away with?
Some may say that arranged marriages are totally beneficial, but is that the case?

Netting, N. (2006). Two-Lives, One Partner: Indo-Canadian Youth between Love and Arranged Marriages. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 37(1), 129-146. Retrieved from

Sharda, B. (1990). Marriage Markets and Matrimonial: Match Making Among Asian Indians of the United States. International Journal of Sociology of the Family, 20(1), 21-29. Retrieved from

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