Dissertation Abstracts

Shared Narratives of Arranged Marriages in the Unification Church

Author: Andrea Belanova, andrea.belanova@email.cz
Department: Department for the Study of Religions
University: Masaryk University, Czech Republic
Supervisor: Dr. Milan Fujda
Year of completion: 2017
Language of dissertation: Czech

Keywords: Unification Church , narratives , new religious movements , arranged marriages
Areas of Research: Religion , Biography and Society , Family Research


his dissertation deals with the relationship between told narratives and the members’ identities. The study is conducted with the primary data, namely interviews and filed notes, collected in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the United Stated of America from 2010 to 2016. The research focuses on a new religious movement, known as the Unification Church, which is being recognized mainly due to the specific practice of arranged marriages. Together with mass weddings, arranged marriages are the most remarkable characteristic of the Unification Church. However, as I argue in my dissertation, arranged partnerships are also the central point of the Unification Church members’ told narratives. These life stories are continuously being offered, shared, and retold within the group. This dissertation argues that by analyzing the structure of a narrative we can also understand the core principle of maintaining the identity as a Unification Church member. Currently, three main generations coexist in the Unification Church: first generation, second generation, and neophytes. Members of each generation form their life stories in a slightly different way, incorporating different experiences. Nevertheless, all of these narratives follow a four-stage structure when speaking about the “matching process” that leads to the creation of the couple. All three generations also include several “more powerful actors” in their narratives who assist them with accepting the chosen life partner and with keeping their life trajectory going in the expected and accepted direction. Moreover, the humor is always present to relieve any drama in the story. The main argument of the connection between recounted arranged marriages and the identity of a church member is supported by the analysis of ex-members’ and marginal members’ narratives. These told stories of disturbed arranged partnerships are used as evidence demonstrating the progressive withdrawal from the group. Regardless of what generation the member belongs to, the inability to adjust own experience to the expected structure leads to weakening of the relationship with the church. Successful matching of partners is thus an implicit condition for proper membership in the Unification Church.

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