American University
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posted on 2023-09-07, 05:04 authored by Michelle A. Marzullo

This study shows how progressive-identifying people living in the Village of New Paltz, New York USA come to decisions about marriage in the current neoliberalized economy through different renderings of time (temporality). It examines how national discourses on marriage in light of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer movement integrate with the ways that villagers come to understand their life's trajectory through various understandings of work opportunities (i.e. shift work versus salaried work, time spent on higher education) and marriage (i.e., proper age to marry, marriage timing and marriage length). My fieldwork was conducted from June 2007 through December 2008 when the "Great Recession" began to be felt in the U.S. On-going village support of "same-sex" marriage combined with this historic circumstance created a fitting environment for examining the tensions between intimate marriage decisions, the marriage movement and the political-economy. Even the most progressive villagers decided to marry only when a calculus of economic or social capital achievement for themselves or their partner seemed imminent. I define this calculation as marital arbitrage. Many villagers reported perpetually deferring marriage as they attempt this timing, choosing cohabitation until they feel "ready" and thus further contributing to the deinstitutionalization of the rite even among those who desire marriage. Through such timings, marriage has become a rarified social category marked by plummeting marriage rates except among the most educated and affluent in the U.S. This finding clarifies why many activists for economically marginalized groups, including welfare and LGBTQ advocates, find the push toward marriage promotion to be limited and discriminatory. Regardless of sexuality, marital arbitrage accounts for marriage being entered into later and later in life as a way to vest a partner with inheritance and decision-making powers upon disability or death imbuing the phrase "until death do us part" with critical new meaning.



American University


Degree awarded: Ph.D. Anthropology. American University


Degree grantor

American University. Department of Anthropology

Degree level

  • Doctoral

Submission ID