Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore, married for 40 years and an iconic couple of marital endurance against high odds, are quietly separating. I am sure that thousands of other people join me in wishing them both the best as they move on into new directions.
While the media buzz about the separation, I note the absence of insights from any cultural anthropologists. An article in today’s New York Times Style section, for example, includes comments from psycho-physiologist Robert Levenson of UC Berkeley, neuroscientist Bianca Acevedo of UC Santa Barbara, marriage historian Stephanie Coontz of Evergreen State College and economist Betsey Stevenson of the University of Pennsylvania.
A quick scan of my library’s Anthropology Plus database of journal articles (going back to 2005) revealed nothing by cultural anthropologists on marriage in the United States. And nothing on marriage resilience or durability anywhere in the world.
“Marriage and the family” were core topics of cultural anthropology when I went to college, though typically the subject matter was “other” cultures. Nevertheless, as cultural anthropology has, since then, included in its purview cultures everywhere, including industrialized contexts, it seems to have missed out on love among the Nacirema.
It seems cultural anthropologists have yet to study the shadow (both positive and negative) cast by marriage. Image: “Love and Marriage” by Flickr user hammer51012, creative commons licensed.