Tuesday, March 28, 2023

William Jankowiak's "Illicit Monogamy"

William Jankowiak is professor of anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is the author of Sex, Death, and Hierarchy in a Chinese City: An Anthropological Account (1993) as well as the editor of Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience? (1995) and Intimacies: Love and Sex Across Cultures (2008), among other books.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Illicit Monogamy: Inside a Fundamentalist Mormon Community, and reported the following:
Page 99 is close but incomplete in encapsulating a recurrent theme: the tension between embracing a cosmologically inspired ideal that says plural love is superior to monogamous love, while often lapsing into unvoiced non-pluralistic pair bonds. The page also summarizes the community’s folk idea that a “good” wife is obedient, devoted, and kindhearted and the “ideal” husband has leadership ability, can provide for his growing family, and is fair to all his wives. The ideal in practice is seldom achieved with husbands often disdaining wives who embody the ideal in preference for a wife who is smart, opinionated, and interesting to converse with.

The book strives to divert the readers’ attention from the expected political economy and sexual economy which has been most of the popular discourse on polygynous families recently, and take them into the psychodynamics of it all, and especially the tension between the cosmological-theological rationale and the psychodynamics of everyday life.

Unlike the usual journalism that names names or the usual ethnography that names fake names, the book dispense with that style out of sensitivity to the community’s wants and gratitude for their cooperation to make a more vivid argument grounded in individual examples that become archetypes of people in a matrix of social relations, but at the same time highlighting how different people act and react, think and feel, differently even in the same structural matrix.
Learn more about Illicit Monogamy at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue