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Angel Park is a Mormon fundamentalist polygamous community where plural marriages between one man and multiple women are common. In contrast to mainstream America's idealization of the nuclear family and romantic love, its residents esteem notions of harmonious familial love, a spiritual bond that unites all family members. In their view, polygyny is not only righteous and sanctified--it is also conducive to communal life and social stability.

Based on many years of in-depth ethnographic research in Angel Park, this book explores daily life in a polygamous community. William R. Jankowiak considers the plural family from the points of view of husbands, wives, and children, giving a balanced account of its complications and conflicts. He finds that people in polygynous marriages, especially cowives, experience an ongoing struggle to balance the longing for romantic intimacy with the obligation to support the larger family. They feel tension between deeply held religious convictions and the desire for emotional exclusivity, which can threaten the stability and harmony of the polygamous family. Men and women often form exclusive romantic pairs within plural marriages, which are tolerated if not openly acknowledged, showing the limits of the community's beliefs. Jankowiak also challenges stereotypes of polygamous families as bastions of patriarchal power, showing the weight that interpersonal and social expectations place on men.

Offering an unparalleled look at the complexity of a polygamous religious community, Illicit Monogamy also helps us reconsider relationships, love, and family dynamics across cultures and settings.

Publication Date: 
March 28, 2023