This paper aims to address the question: ‘Is Romantic love the same world over?’ by studying the experience, expression and manifestation of Romantic love in Guadeloupe’s (2006) and Du’s (2008) ethnographic accounts.
We meet, we fall in love, we get hurt, we part, and then we meet again. Sounds familiar? Yet, a simple question like, ‘How do you know you are in love?’ baffles many.
The study of human emotions began in the late 1970s and has flourished since; centring on the role it plays in the personal and social life of the individual, and how culture influences emotion (Lutz & White 1986: 405, 410). Love is considered to be one of the six, fundamental emotions surrounding human ...view middle of the document...
He further suggested that Romantic love does not subsist in non-individualistic societies, with the exception for the few that encourage premarital sexual freedom (Lindholm 2006: 11).
This paper is neither concerned with proving the universalness of Romantic love, nor disproving Lindholm’s (2006) insistence that some cultures lack the existence of Romantic love. Instead, this paper accepts that as an emotion, Romantic love may be both socially shaped and socially shaping (Lutz & White 1986: 418), and thus, questions the cultural relativity of Romantic love. Cultural relativity refers to whether or not a phenomenon occurs in similar forms across different cultural settings (Stevenson 2008: 8). Is falling in love in Paris the same as it is in Japan? Simply put, should Romantic love exist in a culture, it is probable that it varies in the way it manifests, how it is experienced and expressed when compared to another culture. Consistent with this, Jankowiak and Paladino (2008: 8) states that basic emotions are similar between cultures, but may vary in the degree to which the culture values or emphasizes the emotion.
By recognizing that there may be differences in the expression, experience and manifestation of Romantic love, it is then important to explore it emically and etically (Jankowiak & Fischer 1992: 154). In a study of East meets West, this paper will determine and define when Romantic love occurs, and identify the approaches these cultures takes to Romantic love (Lindholm 2006: 11). Du’s research focuses on the Lahu people, a collectivist society, who mainly reside in Southwest China, while Guadeloupe’s’ research focuses on the Caribbean, an Individualist society. Elza was born in the Dominican Republic, and moved to Aruba at a young age. Guadeloupe’s research is particularly interesting, as while the Caribbean subsists within the Euro-American realm, it appears to implement dissimilar cultural practices from the average Euro-American.
Manifestation and Experience
One major example of how Romantic love may differ in its experience and manifestation is in the varying views as to when Romantic love is expected to flourish. As Sarsby (1983: 2) states that Romantic love is not restricted to an individual and can exist in both the private and public spheres. Similarly, Lindholm (2006: 15) states that while individuals may experience the emotion that we identify as akin to the Western sense of Romantic love, those feelings may pose different implications in varying cultures. Moreover, Lindholm (2006: 11) states that some cultures perceive marriage as a family concern, and thus, any feelings felt, experienced or expressed prior, during and after marriage subsists in the public spheres. Thus, young men and women alike regard matrimony as an obligation and requirement instead of a love-match.
The popular Western notion about Romantic love and marriage is well encompassed by Frank Sinatra in his hit song, Love and Marriage (1955)...