AUB Celebrates its 140th Founders Day  
SRC 2006 Elections Successful Despite Political Tension  
AUB in the World Media During the 2006 War: Direct and Indirect Contributions  
AUB-AUC Student Exchange Agreement Gives Undergraduates Chance to Study in Egypt  
EMBA Program Kicks Off with Diverse Group of Business Executives  
Senate Meeting of June 22, 2006  
English Department Honors Outgoing Chairperson and Communication Skills Coordinator  
Leila Musfy Exhibits in International Month of Graphic Design  
Samir Alam Appointed Acting Chair of Internal Medicine  
Nawaf Salam Appointed Lebanon's Representative at the United Nations  
Abdallah Soufan: New Scholar of Classical Arabic Language and Literature  
Faculty Profile  
AUB Medical School Alumnus Receives Numerous Awards for Outstanding Achievements  
West Hall Receptions for Arab Students Garner Praise from President and Students  
Obenzinger Follows Melville and Twain to the Holy Land  
Staff Profile: Nada Sbaiti El-Zein, Webmaster  
CASAR Holds Its First Lecture of the Year on Terrorism, Shared Rules, and Trust  
Bush Versus Bin Laden Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism  
SBS Department Hosts Lecture on the Palestine Issue  
Traveling Traditions: Comparative Perspectives on Near Eastern Literatures  
Lebanese Women: A Diminishing Marriage Market  
Lecture Examines Status of Lebanese Mental Health  
AUB Museum Launches New Lecture Series with Presentation on Hurrian Dynasty  
Archaeologist Nina Jidejian Launches Revamped Book on Sidon  
Professor Emeritus Lectures on Dome of the Rock  
George Khoury Traces History of Arabic Comics in the Arab World  
Postwar Reconstruction Debate at the Sociology Café  
Recently Published  
New Book Offers Many Perspectives on America-Middle East Ties  
Women's Auxiliary Hosts Talk on Cornea Donations  
Lecture Provides New Insight on Men's Health  
  Women's League Celebrates the End of Its Activities for 2005-06  
Beirut Marathon: An Introduction for the Women's League  
Ramadan Activities Celebrate Holy Month  
President's Club Celebrates Another Successful Year  
University Libraries Exhibits Its "More Than Books" Collection  
Renaissance and Medieval Music Concert at Assembly Hall  
Twelve Years of Service: A Cashier's Life Merges with Student Life  
Argentine Cinema in the Spotlight  
Iraqi Heritage Music Concert at Assembly Hall  
November | December 2006 Vol. 8 No. 2

Lebanese Women: A Diminishing Marriage Market

Professor Barbara Drieskens

More than a few curious individuals called the Public Health Department on October 31 to inquire about Barbara Drieskens' talk: "Reasons Not to Marry: Rising Celibacy in Contemporary Beirut," according to Marwan Khawaja who introduced the Institut Francais du Proche Orient (IFPO) researcher. Drieskens presented the motivations behind her study: primarily, demographers have documented the rising rate of celibacy in Lebanon. A recent survey by the Ministry of Social Affairs reveals the average age of marriage for Lebanese women is 28.8 years, as compared to men (32.8), and it is 30.2 for women in Beirut. As an anthropologist, Drieskens felt this represents a rich site to explore the concomitant impact on social relationships and how women perceived marriage, rather than restricting the attributions of this phenomenon to economic stagnation and the financial burden of marriage or to the imbalance between men and women owing to labor migration.

Drieskens' fieldwork shows that beyond socioeconomic and demographic factors, "not to marry is also a choice" for women. Her case studies comprise 30 unmarried women between the ages of 25 and 35, living in diverse Beirut neighborhoods, who are of different confessional and class backgrounds. She observed their social interactions at home or leisure, with the family, or in the village of origin, where normative expectations for endogamy were often referenced. However, many considered "homogamy" to be more important, a term coined to express the need to marry someone who shares similar ideals and educational standards. The imperative here is a harmonious relationship rather than sustaining the patrilineage or marrying within one's religious group.

Humorous anecdotes were also shared. For example, a Greek Orthodox parishioner at Mar Mitr proudly claimed that in his 40 years of service, there had not been a single "mixed" marriage. In the absence of state-legislated civil marriage in Lebanon, it is no wonder a representative guide carrying a banner entitled "civil marriage" is always present at the Cypriot airport.

Less amusing accounts of rupture were related, such as a Sunni woman's family refusing that she marry a Maronite, who was willing to convert. She was consequently sent death threats by her father, especially if she were to step into her village again. As Drieskens surmised, "transgression of the rules for marriage leads to different forms of social exclusion."

According to this study's female participants, there was a distinction between marrying to establish a family or for legalizing a love affair. Although Drieskens stated her results cannot be generalized, "few women at the age of 30 said they don't want to marry. Most prefer to be divorced at 40 than to remain a spinster," even if marriage was widely viewed as more of a contract than cohabitation, "like a cage which you enter and never re-emerge from."