Doing Coupledom: imagining, managing and performing relationality in contemporary wedding and civil partnership rituals

Bruce, Katie Rose Esther (2012) Doing Coupledom: imagining, managing and performing relationality in contemporary wedding and civil partnership rituals University of Southampton, Sociology and Social Policy, Doctoral Thesis , 308pp.


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This thesis investigates how relationality is imagined, managed and performed by twenty-seven UK-based couples during their wedding and civil partnership rituals. The methodology involves a case study approach with eleven of the couples, who were followed through the planning of their ritual, retrospective interviews with sixteen couples and a photograph project with eight of these couples. Diversity in the sample in terms of age, gender and class allows these factors to be explored along with differences of sexuality between the couples.

Commitment rituals put relationality into sharp focus as they demand practices of inclusion and exclusion. Each chapter of analysis (The Decision to Marry, Wedding Work and The Big Day) highlights how tradition and relationality are particularly significant to an understanding of the fateful moments that commitment rituals represent. The perceived expectations of family members and friends are implicated in the performance of traditional symbols, while these symbols also provide a recognised form for these relationships to take. The Discussion chapter builds upon these ideas in drawing the key themes, of imagining, managing and performing that run through each chapter, together in outlining a typology of strategies. This typology challenges a central idea of the reflexive modernisation thesis, as asserted particularly by Giddens (1991, 1992, 1994, 2002), that reflexivity involves the disembedding of individuals from their relational networks. In this way the research builds upon theorisations of relationality and embeddedness, particularly those developed by Smart (2007a) and Bottero (2010). The intersubjective nature of reflexivity is emphasised with the introduction of the terms ‘reflexive coupledom’ and ‘relational reflexivity’ alongside ‘individual reflexivity’. ‘Strategies of tradition’ is also included in the typology to emphasise how meaningconstitutive tradition continues to shape ritual action. These concepts aim to be of use in future exploration of these rituals as well as in relation to other areas of personal life.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Organisations: University of Southampton, Social Sciences
ePrint ID: 341785
Date :
Date Event
May 2012Published
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2012 14:28
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 16:43
Further Information:Google Scholar

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