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Lecture 3: Economies of Courtship - Gender, Class and Matrimonial Transactions in Egypt

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Ping- Chun Hsiung

SOCB49 – Lecture 3 (Jan.21) Economies of Courtship: Egypt Vignette One: Frustrated Love  Randa and Elwan: A young couple who are neighbours and co-workers who were engaged for a few years. Engagement broke off because of their inability to finance the establishment and maintenance of a new household. Randa ends up marrying their boss instead, but is unhappy in her marriage. Elwan murders Randa’s husband. o From the novella The Day the Leader was Killed. Vignette Two: Love Postponed  Zeinab and Muhammad: Engaged for 6 years while they saved up to afford the goods necessary for a respectable marriage. They were pretty old considering Egyptian standards. Zeinab wanted to get married younger, but their parents were unable to help them earlier. Vignette Three: Forbidden Love  Usama and Saimaa: Entered into a secret marriage when his parents, who he depends on for his livelihood, objected to the match because she was divorced. His parents saw this as her being tarnished. The Economic Foundations of Family Foundations  What are the causes and consequences of the high costs of marriage in contemporary Egypt? Definition of Terms  Costs of marriage: o Who: Incurred by brides, grooms, and their families. o What: Expenditures on housing, appliances, jewellery, celebrations, etc.  Bride Wealth:  Common in Muslim communities  The opposite to a dowry (from Bride to Groom family), in this case its money from the grooms family to the bride. Necessary for the marriage to be legal o When: During courtship and engagement o Where: In Contemporary Egypt o How: Customs govern who pays for what, but the level and timing of expenditures are negotiated by brides, grooms, and their families. o Why: To symbolically mark a new life-stage and the new relationships that come with it. To prepare the newlyweds to set up a new family. The Egyptian Context: Introduction  South of Europe, north of Africa.  Speaks Arabic. The Egyptian Context: Marriage  Marriage is the only pathway to residential independence and sexual activity. Difficult to move out of one’s parents house before they are married.  Love versus arranged marriage o Many people said that they met their significant other at work or at school. o In the past most marriages were arranged, and continue today but it is very hard to characterize matches that are purely arranged. o Expected to fall in love during the engagement, if they don’t they are allowed to end it.  Marriage stages for Muslims: o Engagement  Can be pretty long, because they see casual dating o Signing of the marriage contract  Basically facilitated by an Imam.  After it is signed you are considered to be married, but do not have sex until they announce that they are married to their peers.  An extension of the engagement period. o Marriage  Marriage stages for Christians: o Engagement o Marriage The Egyptian Context: Economy and Labour Market  The previous generation benefitted from a government employment guarantee  Todays young people are entering a labour market where unemployment is high. Jobs are informal, so they don’t have a contract or insurance, etc. Usually low-paying. Very unstable.  Compared to other age groups, more likely to be unemployed and to have low wages  While unmarried youth have no children to support, they have to finance their own marriages. How have the costs of marriage changed over time?  Peaked in the early 1980s, then declined and plateaued in the 1990s.  Average cost is $7000 for the last 10 years. Among which groups have the costs of marriage changed over time?  Has gone down for everyone. Possible Explanations for the Rise and Fall of Marriage Costs  Family Nucleation o Families used to live with their multigenerational extended family lived in one household.  Was cheaper, less costs when getting married.  Decreasing o Nuclear Family: Parents and their children living in one house.  On the rise in Western/developing countries since the Industrial Revolution.  Increasing  Changing consumption standards o As lifestyles shift, many things that were unnecessary are now seen as vital.  Employment patterns o Women are working now o Migration work options are less available now than in the past. In the past men could go work in Saudi Arabia and make a ton of money. Possible Consequences of the Rise and Fall of Marriage Costs  Delayed Marriage  Never Marriage o Could be a consequence of delayed marriage.  Secret Marriage How have the marriage costs of marriage changed over time?  Marriage costs have increased from the early 1970s to the early 1980s  After 1985, marriage costs declined dramatically  This pattern of a rise and decline in marriage costs was most pronounced for the middle and upper classes  Marriage costs for the poor dropped steadily over this period.  Nuclear families have become more and more common over time, so family nucleation cannot explain the trend of rising then declining marriage costs  Little is known about consumption standards, but it is likely that couples see more and more goods as necessary for married life  Men’s migration opportunities have diminished since the early 1990s and this may have driven lower spending on marriage. With what effect have the costs of marriage changed over time?  Women and men (to a lesser extent) have been marrying later and later over time. Rising then falling marriage costs do not appear to have impacted marriage timing over time.  Very few Egyptians never marry, and never-marriage does not appear to be affected by trends in marriage costs  Little is known about how rates of secret marriage have changed over time. How do labour market experiences affect men’s marriage timing?  Men who worked were more likely to get married, and sooner than people who had never worked. o People still in school were factored out.  People who were employed were more likely to get married than people out of the labour force, or who had never worked.  Working in the private sector reduced
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