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Remaking «Family» Communicatively


Edited By Leslie A. Baxter

Demographers have repeatedly confirmed that the nuclear family is on the decline. Yet when Americans are asked about their ideal family, the nuclear family emerges as the most valued kind of family. Members of families that do not match this cultural ideal face a discursive burden to legitimate their identity as a «family.»
This volume gathers together communication scholars who are working on the many kinds of alternative family forms, from, among others, grandfamilies, diasporic immigrant families, and military families to in (voluntarily) childless families and stepfamilies.
The organizing question for the volume focuses on resistance, reconstruction, and resilience: how is it that alternatives to the traditional family are constructed and sustained through communicative practices? Several chapters adopt a global perspective, thereby framing the issue of legitimation of «family» in a broader cultural context.
None of the family forms described in this volume meets the ideological «gold standard” of the nuclear family, and in this sense they all represent a remaking of the family in profound ways.
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Chapter Seven: Remaking Hindu Arranged Marriages in the Narrative Performances of Urban Indian Women


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Remaking Hindu Arranged Marriages in the Narrative Performances of Urban Indian Women


Even as arranged marriages continue to receive attention in popular media both in India and the West, they remain a neglected subject of academic discussion and social analysis, particularly within the field of communication studies (Chawla, 2004; Rodriguez & Chawla, 2010). Such marriage forms are a cultural, religious, and social norm in many Asian cultures including, but not limited to, China, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. In this chapter, I focus on Hindu arranged marriages among young urban women in North India to explore how women continue to choose this arrangement, yet discursively reframe its traditional understanding. In doing so they are able to alter their own status within the marriage form and transform what such marriages can mean in a largely urban Indian environment. My overarching goal is to illustrate the discourse dependence (Galvin, 2006) that is evident in how urban Indian women narratively perform their marriages. This chapter is an amalgamation of my ongoing work on women’s experiences in Hindu arranged marriages that started in 2003, and I rely on my previously published research and essays dealing with resistance, conflict, and narration for the discussions here (see Chawla 2004, 2007, 2008; Rodriguez & Chawla, 2010).

My analysis and discussion of narrative performances is significant in the “remaking” of family communication studies in a few critical ways. It provides...

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