Redeeming marriage? Bittersweet intimacy and the dialectics of liberation among Haredi Jews in London

Ruth Sheldon*, Stephen Frosh, Marita Vyrgioti

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

This article intervenes in feminist anthropological debates about marriage within Western cosmopolitan, ‘post-traditional’ contexts through a close ethnographic examination of food and ritualised meals among Haredi Jews in London. We focus on this diasporic religious Jewish minority, whose marital practices have been the object of debates over marriage, gender, and cultural difference in cosmopolitan London. Learning from ethnographic and conjugal instances of hunger around Haredi dining tables, we explore the broader question of how heterosexual marriages endure in the face of struggles for intimacy and freedom between different genders. By focusing on what can be learnt about marriage through mealtime rituals with religious significance, we develop a response rooted in a form of Jewish relational ethics that has been repressed within ‘Western’ liberal culture. This approach addresses some tenacious dualisms at play in the anthropology and politics of marriage and articulates a vernacular dialectical grammar of desire, tradition, freedom, and love.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI)
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Jan 2024

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