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Romantic love, regional differences and cultural capital: a comparative study between Brazil and Germany

Renata Stellmann de Sousa Lima

Romantic love arose at the end of the 18th century and it has been recognized as an essential element in the structural process of the modern family. Considering that intimate relationships have the function of integration and social organization in modernity, sociologists have advanced and extended the inquiry field of the Sociology of Love in the last 40 years (Burkart 1998).  

Scholars suggest that romantic love arose in modernity as a direct consequence of the increasing individualization process and the weakening of traditional social institutions (Luhmann 1986), the modern “reinvention” of home and maternity (Giddens 1992), the changes in gender relations and in the family (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim 1990; Del Priore 2005), and the advent of a leisure culture (Illouz 1997).  

Some scholars argue that in late modernity the erotic aspect of romantic love has become more influential than the idealization, engendering changes in intimate relationships and producing new concepts of love (Bauman 2003; Del Priore 2005; Giddens 1992; Illouz 1997). 

Despite the growing number of studies on romantic love, an adequate sociological definition of it does not exist. The present work adopts the definition of romantic love proposed by Costa (2005), i.e., love as a historical-cultural model that branches into, at least, five dimensions: as emotion, as cultural praxis, as ideal, as model of relationship, and as social interaction.  

As cultural praxis, love comprises an assembly of discourses, actions and rituals, through which amorous emotions are evoked, perceived, transmitted and intensified. Socio-cultural studies have exposed the different cultural practices that have emerged in the history of western societies (Del Priori 2004; Elias 2002; Luhmann 1986; Singer 1984a, 1984b, 1987) and in some distinct contexts (Lindholm 1998).  

Considering the importance of romantic love in the creation of social and intimate attachments and taking into account the singular cultural constructions of love, the present project proposes an empirical research to investigate how love is being signified and practiced in two different societies, Brazil (Rio de Janeiro) and Germany (Berlin), considering the role of cultural capital (Bourdieu 1986) in this process. The comparative study will enable the investigation on how sociohistorical particularities and the social structure influence the conception and the praxis of love, as well as which are the implications of the individual educational level in this process.

E-Mail: sternberg.renata@fu-berlin.de

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Forschungszentrum Brasilien