“Now it is difficult to get married”: Contextualising cross-regional marriage and bachelorhood in a North Indian village

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Abstract

Based on eleven months of ethnographic fieldwork in a village in western Uttar Pradesh, this paper outlines the factors that account for the inability of some men to marry within the caste and region/state within a context of a persisting gender imbalance and consequent bride shortage. It focuses on two castes – Jats and Chamars to argue that demographic factors alone cannot explain why some men get left out of the local marriage market. Men are not all in the same position either with respect to their need to marry or the obstacles they face in trying to get married. The challenges that men face are differentiated by caste, class and individual characteristics. Men of different castes pursue different livelihood options that have a bearing on their ability to marry. This paper links marriageability to larger changes in political economy in this part of north India to argue that marriage strategies that worked for men in the past do not in the present. Men of different castes adopt different strategies in response to the difficulties facing them such as exchange marriage, payment to the parents of the bride (instead of dowry) and cross-regional marriage while some remain bachelors. The paper also explores the perceived implications of bachelorhood in the contemporary context.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScarce Women and Surplus Men
Subtitle of host publicationMacro Demographics versus Local Dynamics
EditorsSharada Srinivasan , Shuzhuo Li
PublisherSpringer
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-63274-2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

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