Marriage seems to be an ordinary fact of life, not a contested concept. In U.S. culture, however, the term “marriage” has pointed to two simultaneous but incompatible functions. As a component of U.S. kinship law, marriage sanctions particular sexual alliances, from which property relations are determined. It thereby defines a sphere of protected sexual and economic interests, whose exterior is marked by sexual “deviants.” Yet as an aspect of modern emotional life in the United States, marriage is also the ideological linchpin of intimacy—the most elevated form of chosen interpersonal relationship. At the core of political debate and much critical debate in American studies and cultural studies is whether marriage is a matter of love or law, a means of securing social stability or of realizing individual freedom and emotional satisfaction. These have become national questions; marriage seems so tied to collective national identity and democratic practices that many U.S. …

This essay may be found on page 162 of the printed volume.

Collectivities, Feelings, Histories
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