Emerging Dimensions of Marriage in Asia

Valerie  Yeo's picture
Call for Papers
December 31, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Demographic History / Studies, Social Sciences, Women's & Gender History / Studies

Conference on Emerging Dimensions of Marriage in Asia
29-30 July 2020
National University of Singapore


The goal of this conference is to bring scholars from multiple disciplines to update and broaden our understanding of the rapidly changing patterns and issues related to marriage in the different regions of Asia. 

Trends in marriage in Asia are highly diverse, but are influencing in very important ways the demographic viability of some countries, as well as challenging the traditional role of the family in many. East Asia and South Asia are worlds apart, in a number of respects – prevalence of premarital sexual relations, who chooses the marriage partner, age at marriage, prevalence of cohabitation, consanguinity, and divorce. In some East Asian countries, the rising tide of delayed and non-marriage, in a context of continued popular opposition to childbearing outside marriage, is making it almost impossible to reverse fertility declines. Thus governments are challenged either to find policies to counter imminent population contraction, or to learn to live with diminishing and ageing populations. In China, though marriage remains near-universal, a trend toward delayed marriage is clear among well-educated city dwellers; cohabitation and divorce are rising; and the pace of change in all things associated with marriage appears to be accelerating. At the same time, emerging sharp gender imbalances in the key marriageable ages are placing in jeopardy the chance for many men, particularly less educated and rural men, to find brides. In other East Asian countries, too, men facing problems in finding marriage partners are resorting to seeking spouses from other countries.

In South Asian countries, child marriage (below age 18) remains common, though its incidence is declining. Parental choice of spouse remains the norm, divorce rates continue to be low and for many women an escape route from a violent or disharmonious marriage is very difficult to find. The way marriage customs and patterns are likely to be affected by the high rates of economic growth and rising proportions of young women proceeding to tertiary education in recent years in countries such as India and Bangladesh requires careful scrutiny.

Southeast Asian patterns of marriage are more diverse than those in other regions of Asia. Some Southeast Asian countries – notably Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar – have patterns of delayed marriage among women – especially the highly educated – rivalling those of East Asia. But while average age at marriage is rising almost universally, as it is throughout Asia, two Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia and Vietnam, have seen a reversal of this trend (as has Sri Lanka in South Asia). Quite high levels of child marriage continue to characterize Cambodia, Lao PDR and Indonesia. Thailand shows elements of the issues facing both East and South Asian countries – rising levels of child marriage, at the same time as marriage delays are much in evidence, especially among the more highly educated.          

Many questions arise in relation to marriage trends in Asia, and the conference is open to submissions covering a wide range of topics. The following are examples of some of the questions that might be addressed, though the list is certainly not exhaustive. Both qualitative and quantitative papers are welcome.

  • As mate selection arrangements and marriage patterns change in Asia, is there any observable tendency towards increasing uniformity, or increased diversity, of these arrangements and patterns?
  • What are the patterns of age difference between spouses in different parts of Asia, are they changing, and what do they reveal about power relationships within marriages?
  • In what ways are rising educational levels and changing labour markets, especially changes in the nature of women’s labour force participation, affecting marriage markets, erosion of parental choice of marriage partners, age at marriage, non-marriage?
  • Role of marriage migration in different Asian cultures; how do other types of migration shape family formation processes including divorce and remarriage?
  • Trends in international marriages – is the upsurge in international marriages in the region over? How to explain the trends? What are the key issues around international marriages?
  • What impacts are evolving feminist attitudes in different parts of Asia having on marriage trends? How much are sexual norms changing, and what is the effect on marriage, cohabitation, divorce?
  • What patterns of cohabitation are observed in the region? How do these compare with cohabitation in other world regions? Does cohabitation lead to marriage?
  • Effect of internet dating, religiously based matchmaking arrangements, and other emerging ways of seeking a marriage partner, on success in spousal choice.
  • Issues related to rapidly rising numbers unmarried in their 20s and 30s – for example, changing family and social involvement of adult singles; issues about provision of contraception to the unmarried.   
  • Understanding trends in divorce – effects of simplification of divorce procedures; changes in normative systems governing divorce (e.g. in East Asia); can South Asian divorce rates rise much unless arranged marriage and patrilocal residence cease to be the norms governing marriage?
  • Remarriage – issues arising in step families


Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (250 words) and a brief personal biography (150 words) for submission by 31 December 2019. Please note that only previously unpublished papers or those not already committed elsewhere can be accepted. The organizers plan to publish a special issue based on papers presented at the conference. By participating in the conference, you agree to participate in the future publication plans of the organizers. Hotel accommodation and a contribution towards airfare will be provided for accepted paper participants (one author per paper). 

Please submit your proposal using the provided template to Ms. Valerie Yeo at valerie.yeo@nus.edu.sg. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by 31 January 2020. Participants will be required to send in a completed draft paper (5,000 words) by 1 July 2020.


Prof Wei-Jun Jean Yeung | National University of Singapore
Prof Gavin W. Jones | Australian National University

Contact Info: 

Ms Valerie Yeo
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
AS8, 07-01, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260

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