Ahearn on Romantic love in Nepal

Laura M. Ahearn’s study is one of the very few studies that have tried to understand the changing notions of romantic love in Nepal. Love is described by the young villagers from Junigau, Nepal in Ahearn’s ethnography (2001) as happening naturally to them. It catches them in a web, makes them feel like they are going crazy. To be in love, to date someone, to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, to experience romantic love is something that happens outside of the eyes of the public to avoid backbiting which may violate one’s and the family’s social reputation. Romantic love is not something that necessarily evolves into marriage, but it becomes more and more something young people desire in marriage because of its association with being modern, developed and successful in life (Ahearn, 2001).

She says, “Junigau love letters both shape  and reflect changing notions of romantic love, thereby demonstrating that there is no universal, ahistorical experience of romantic love that all humans share. Context is absolutely crucial. while every human being might possess the capacity for romantic love, emotions do not exist as fully formed feelings, identical across all cultures and time periods. Rather, emotions are constructed in and through the linguistic and social interactions. they are inherently cultural and linguistic in their manifestations. Discourse is therefore central to any understanding of emotions.”


Ahearn, L. M. (2001). Invitations to Love: literacy, love letters and social change in Nepal. Ann Arbor Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.

Watch Ahearn (linguistic anthropoligist) talk about her ethnography in Nepal in this 7 minute video  titled “Social Change and Marriage in Nepal: Love Letters”.

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