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IUAES 2013: Evolving Humanity, Emerging Worlds. 5-10 August 2013.

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Evolving humanity, emerging worlds

Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013


Diversity of the meaning of being 'single' in the globe: drastic changes of the way of life, human relations, and kinship

Location Alan Turing Building G113
Date and Start Time 09 Aug, 2013 at 09:00


Wakana Shiino (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) email
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Short Abstract

The purpose of this session is to highlight plural meanings of being 'single' in different societies. We will reflect on the current situations of our livings through the lens of various singles of the globe.

Long Abstract

With the rapid globalization and urbanization, patterns of our lifestyles, social customs and our relationships are changing drastically. We no longer stay at one particular place for all our lives. Instead, we always shift our place to another looking for better jobs or better places to live intentionally or inevitably. At the same time, more and more people are travelling in search of their marriage partners. Who wouldn't doubt that 'traditional' marriage system and 'family' still exist? Is it the common trend that dwellers in cities will become 'single' in the world? In developed countries, the rate of single household is getting high because of low birthrate and longevity etc.

On the other hand, recently some people seemed to start to look for "quasi-family" or "quasi-kinship" by imitating their traditional kinship model to try to have new relationship.

In this session, we will focus on our experiences of social and physical interruptions in different situations and places in order to examine the contexts of being single or becoming single. Moreover, we will reflect on the current situations of our livings through the lens of various singles of this globe. We invite any ethnographic papers on being single of any societies or any situations.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


'Single' people's life and strategy in Kenya and Japan

Author: Wakana Shiino (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)  email
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Short Abstract

Being/ Becoming 'single' is becoming common in the world cities? I will deal with the Kenya Luo village, which is strongly defined by traditional customs, and Nairobi, which is representative city in East Africa. At the end I try to compare the condition of 'single' among African and Asian cities.

Long Abstract

Urban world, represented by the Kenyan capital of Nairobi is a place of conflation of various ethnic groups. The foundation is made up of ethnic cultural differences.

There are many people who come to Nairobi to earn money from the village temporarily. In addition, the so-called elite - there are people after graduating from college, get a steady job are living in government and business. They have adapted to the system of the modern city beyond each ethnic customary law.

In order to find the partner of the same level, elite people make use of the social network and dating groups. And also they often contribute to the newspaper and magazine column, with the goal of matching men and women. In particular, most of elite working women are single and their ordinary life is supported by maids who are single from the village. I would like to focus on the life of 'single' people who live between the village and city.

In recent Japan, activities to find a marriage partner, is called "Konkatsu". It became synonymous with urban culture. In conclusion of this presentation, I would like to discuss and compare the situation of single men and women of the city between in Japan and Kenya.

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Search for Alternative Lives: A case of Single Female Sex Workers in Tokyo, Japan

Author: Yoko Kumada (Ochanomizu University)  email
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Short Abstract

In Japan, single female sex workers are doubly marginalized due to their marital status and occupations, while sex work offers single women a chance of independence. This paper explores the state of being single based on the view offered by single sex workers who seek for alternative ways of life.

Long Abstract

The outcome of 4 years of ethnographic research at a S/M club in Tokyo Japan reveals that 30 out of 32 workers are single (defined here as those who with no spouse, either divorcees or unmarried). However, there is no "single" explanation for them being single or working for the club. For instance, while the aim of some workers is to secure the income, others come to the club seeking for new sexual possibilities. Accordingly, their experiences of being single are diverse, influenced by their current social statuses and previous ways of living. Nevertheless, every worker struggles to achieve a productive life, which is often different from the one defined by conventional belief. In a way, those women delve into the questions of what is being single and how to live single more seriously than others, as they have already taken action toward establishing their lives without someone's help. Therefore, there must be a lesson to be learnt from those single female sex workers who are often believed to be put in a marginalized position in society.

Focusing on five single workers, this paper explores how each worker lives single and understands being single, based on her point of view. Finally, based on the findings, this paper reexamines the essence of being single in the changing city of Tokyo.

The moment to seek the other side: Analyzing life histories of gay men in Japan

Author: Akitomo Shingae (Osaka City University)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper explores how Japanese gay men living in urban areas come to realize at a shocking moment the need of reconsidering their anonymous, provisional, and ephemeral sexual relationships and seek for a more personal, committed, and long-term bond.

Long Abstract

This paper explores recent transformations of some Japanese gay men who seek to leave "their side of the world" for "that side." What they call "this side of the world" is a loosely shared perception of gay life in Japan. This term, in their discourse, is contrasted with "that side," the imagined heterosexual life with idealized norms such as monogamy, intimacy, and personal bond. I propose to examine "this" and "that" sides that appear in the discourses of life histories of gay men in this paper.

The boundary between "this" and "that" sides has arisen prominently when some gay men faced life-changing circumstances, such as HIV infection and betrayal of partnership. These gay men experience "this side" as isolation or loneliness in their anonymous, provisional, and ephemeral relationships, formed within their impersonal network of sexual encounters. They reflect on their previous relationships via "that side," idealizing certain normative aspects of heterosexual relationships and perceiving "this side" as lacking in those norms. Then they desire a stable and personal relationship with others.

To these gay men, "this side of the world" consists of non-heterosexual kinship, excluded from the normative marriage system of "that side." Gay marriage is not yet legalized in Japan, while more gay couples choose to commit to their long-term, monogamous relationship. Against this background, this paper examines the possibility of kinship that emerge in the tension between "this side" and "that side" of the world as experienced by them.

Structure and choice: Comparing rural bachelors and single mothers by choice in Spain

Author: Nancy Anne Konvalinka (UNED, Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper will compare two cases of singleness in present-day Spain, based on ethnographic research carried out by the author and by other researchers. I will discuss the origin of singleness among men in a rural area of Spain and the origin of singleness among independent working women in Spain in general, and the effects of singleness in both cases on family formation.

Long Abstract

Living as a single adult or as part of a couple is the result of the interaction of structural conditions, cultural understandings, and personal options. This paper will compare two cases of singleness in present-day Spain, based on ethnographic research carried out by the author and by other researchers. I will discuss the origin of singleness among men in a rural area of Spain and the origin of singleness among independent working women in Spain in general, and the effects of singleness in both cases on family formation. In both groups, singleness seems to be the result of changes in the life course, specifically of changes in the timing of vital conjunctures. More than an a priori choice to remain single, people in both cases seem to make a series of decisions that result, often to their surprise, in singleness.

In the first case, my own research on men in a rural area in Spain shows that career decisions made at a young age unintentionally limit their chances of finding a partner. In this context, remaining single effectively truncates plans for forming a family. In the second case, the research of colleagues shows that singleness, while often an unexpected situation for independent Spanish working women, is not an insurmountable obstacle to family formation. I suggest that the concepts of what men and women are and what they do in the two different contexts are at the root of the diverse relation between singleness and family formation.

A Curse or a Blessing: Perceptions of Being Single in Contemporary Ireland.

Author: Attracta Brownlee (National University of Ireland Maynooth)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper explores the multivocal character of singleness by focusing on the historical, psychosocial, cultural, gender and religious dimensions of being single in Irish society. The construction of dominant discourses of singleness, and challenges to these discourses, will be reviewed.

Long Abstract

Historically in Ireland there has been a high level of singleness, particularly in some rural communities. However, recent demographic analyses now demonstrate an increasingly higher proportion of single people in urban areas, and a higher percentage of singleness among males. This study explores how Irish men and women negotiate their single identity.

Ideological accounts of singleness in Irish society range from the negative construction of the single individual as failing to attain full adulthood to the positive interpretation of singleness as the realisation of personal autonomy and freedom. The varied ways in which positive and negative societal narratives of singleness create tensions within the individual psyche in terms of identity will be investigated.

Differences in perceptions of singleness among minority ethnic groups in Ireland also highlight how cultural constructions of singleness may influence individuals' perceptions of their status in their communities, and in the wider society. The concomitant pressures that these perceptions may place on individuals in terms of mental and physical well-being, economic stability and educational opportunity will be outlined. Equally, the release from cultural expectations and norms which the status of singleness may also confer on the individual is also explored.

The Changing Meaning of Protecting Women: Reconfiguring Sense of Belonging among the Urban Poor in Turkey

Author: Kaoru Murakami (Institute of Developing Economies)  email
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Short Abstract

Based on fieldwork, this paper aims to examine how Turkish women from the urban lower class in Istanbul experience conventional norms of protection by family and kin, and how they have reconfigured their sense of belonging in a time of increasing economic instability.

Long Abstract

Among the urban poor in Turkey, women are thought to be protected by their husbands and other (especially male) kin. Protecting women has material, emotional, and sexual implications. Material protection is seen as a means of preventing women from reliance on non-kin males, which would be a threat to their individual and family honor. However, as the urban poor have become more economically vulnerable under neo-liberalist economic policies, men now have difficulty providing material support for their wives and other female kin.

The aim of this paper is to examine how women from the urban lower class experience conventional norms of family/kin protection, and thus reconfigure their sense of belonging at a time when receiving full-fledged protection has become difficult. The study is based on fieldwork that I conducted in a low-income district in Istanbul.

For women in the district, the control of sexuality is generally seen as acceptable when it is coupled with material support, although subtle differences in perspectives on the control of sexuality are evident. The paper will suggest that a greater value is attached to the emotional factor of protection when women reconfigure their relationships with their families or kin, and is also connected to a sense of belonging.

"Mice - bulls - neighbours": Being single in the Maghreb

Author: Sonja Buchberger (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)  email
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Short Abstract

The proposed paper explores the lives of middle-class singles in the contemporary Maghreb and the meanings they and their social surrounding attach to their state of being unmarried.

Long Abstract

Fīrān - tīrān - ğīrān (Moroccan Arabic: "mice - bulls - neighbours") is a Moroccan proverb describing a human's life cycle. After childhood and before becoming a "neighbour", somebody one can cultivate social contacts through mutual visiting networks, one is in the liminal position of a "bull". The saying suggests that singlehood is socially constructed as problematic and potentially destructive for social cohesion.

Various anthropological studies on the Middle East have highlighted the phenomenon of "marriage problems" among young men who cannot afford costly wedding expenses and, forcibly, stay unmarried until their 30s. This understanding of singlehood as the result of economic hardship is reflected by the Moroccan term for "single" (zūfrī), which is derived from French les ouvriers, the "factory workers". However, more and more members of the middle class remain single for long; a few might not even take marriage as the only future option for granted.

Based on my ethnographic fieldwork in Tunis (2009) and Marrakech (2010), this paper seeks to explore the phenomenon of increasing age at first marriage among members of the middle class. It will highlight the co-implications of their understandings of singlehood, partnership and conceptions of "love" or emotional intimacy. In particular, I will argue that it is these changing notions that leave young men and women feel overwhelmed by difficulties to find suitable partners.

Being Single in Saudi Arabia

Author: Namie Tsujigami (The University of Tokyo)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper argues how people in Saudi Arabia choose or not to choose to be single in a society with high pressures in marriage.

Long Abstract

Marriage without substantial marital life can be strategic for women in a society where women face restrictions on freedom of movements and women are often required to be accompanied by her male guardian. This paper explores how women strategically keep marital contract in order to protect herself and children, and enjoy a relative freedom within conjugal relationship in Saudi Arabia. The paper, based on hte author's fieldwork research in Riyadh and Jidda, argues how people pressures youngsters to enter into marriage. In the meante, it how it also discloses those who choose to be single.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


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