Those who leave and those who stay: Entangled temporalities of marital uncertainties in Penang, Malaysia

Öffentlicher Vortrag von Prof. em. Janet Carsten (University of Edinburgh) im Rahmen des Ethnologischen Kolloquiums

Datum: 9. April 2024
Zeit: 16.15 Uhr bis 17.45 Uhr
Ort: Universität Luzern, Raum 4.B02

This paper takes up themes from recent research on marriage in Penang, Malaysia. One paradox, revealed in numerous conversations and interviews, is that, although imagined and hoped-for as a means of achieving security, marriage could often turn out to be the source of unexpected instability. If the expectations of marrying include achieving security, what happens when things unravel? Uncertainty in marriage can take many forms, and is often produced by external circumstances. In this paper, I focus on the unexpected as it is generated not so much by profound political or economic upheaval, but within more everyday marital circumstances. I consider uncertainty as it unfolds at different points in a marital life: during betrothal and early married life, in the middle years, and in older age. Accounts of broken betrothals underline the complex and long-term temporality that stories encompass - in which disrupted beginnings are one prominent theme. Expectations - looking forward to a marital future – are another, but these are assessed and judged with the benefit of hindsight. Narratives attempt to re-align past, present and future in order to judge what has gone wrong, what could have been done differently, what might yet be put right, and illuminating the creativity and transformative potential of kinship. Attachments and detachments in the marriages considered here are revealed as not only those of kinship and relatedness, but of temporality itself.