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The Commodification of Intimacy: Marriage, Sex, and Reproductive Labor

Posted: 4 Jun 2010  

Nicole Constable

University of Pittsburgh

Date Written: October 2009


Over the past three decades, scholars have paid greater attention to the intensification and complex interconnectivity of local and global processes. Anthropological studies of cross-border marriages, migrant domestic workers, and sex workers have burgeoned, demonstrating growing scholarly interest in how social relations have become evermore geographically dispersed, impersonal, mediated by and implicated in broader political-economic or capitalist processes. At the same time, intimate and personal relations -especially those linked to households and domestic units, the primary units associated with reproductive labor - have become more explicitly commodified, linked to commodities and to commodified global processes (i.e., bought or sold; packaged and advertised; fetishized, commercialized, or objectified; consumed; assigned values and prices) and linked in many cases to transnational mobility and migration, presenting new ethnographic challenges and opportunities. This review highlights contemporary anthropological and ethnographic studies of the transnational commodification of intimacy and intimate relations, related debates, themes, and ethnographic challenges.

Suggested Citation

Constable, Nicole, The Commodification of Intimacy: Marriage, Sex, and Reproductive Labor (October 2009). Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 38, pp. 49-64, 2009. Available at SSRN: or

Nicole Constable (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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