Society for Anthropological Sciences 2019 Book Prize – Romantic Love in America: Cultural Models of Gay, Straight, and Polyamorous Relationships

Culture and the Individual: Theory and Method of Cultural Romantic Love in America: Cultural Models of Gay, Straight, and Polyamorous Relationships

Romantic Love in America: Cultural Models of Gay, Straight, and Polyamorous Relationships (Lexington, 2019) by Victor De Munck takes us beyond mere definitions of love, romantic love, and sexual attraction to understand how Americans understand and make meaning using these terms, using the framework of cultural models. He takes a synthetic approach, neither rejecting evolutionary thinking about the foundations of romantic love, nor giving it unwarranted weight, integrating sociocultural, psychological, and biological factors. Using a diverse range of methods, from cross-cultural analysis to cultural consensus, De Munck sets out an agenda for an empirical analysis. The heart of the text consists of careful analysis of long-form interviews with Americans of diverse gender and sexual orientations. Romantic Love in America is important because it takes an explicit interest in thinking about queer, nonbinary, and polyamorous people whose ideas about romantic love are rarely interrogated. De Munck shows that that all these perspectives are amenable to scientific inquiry. Contemporary American lovers of all identities and orientations share much in common – what they want from romantic love is based in universal human orientations towards mutuality, passion, friendship, and comfort.