An Ever-Fixed Mark? On the Symbolic Coping With the Fragility of Partner Relationships by Means of Padlocking

  • Kai-Olaf Maiwald Universität Osnabrück
Keywords: padlocking, couple relationships, relationship status, symbolism, romantic practices, artifact analysis, objective hermeneutics


"Padlocking" is a quite recent phenomenon observable in many major cities in Europe and throughout the world. Couples engrave their initials or names on a padlock, fix it in a public place, preferably bridges, and throw the keys away. Locations like the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne, Germany, have become a hotspot for this practice, with thousands and thousands of padlocks covering the grids of the banisters. But what kind of practice is it that we are dealing with here? With an objective-hermeneutic approach, the symbolic meaning of the "love lock" and the practice involved is disclosed. Compared to common, legal practices of institutionalizing couple relationships, padlocking seems to explicitly accommodate the fragility of romantic attachments. In this, it is an attempt to perpetuate the feeling of being in love.



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Author Biography

Kai-Olaf Maiwald, Universität Osnabrück

Kai-Olaf MAIWALD is a professor for microsociology and qualitative methods at Osnabrueck University (Germany), and a member of the council of the Institute for Social Research, Frankfurt/M. (Germany). Major research areas: couple and family relationships; professionalization; gender; law; biography; hermeneutic sociology.

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