Kinship and marriage across cultures Essay

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Discuss the significance of affinity and matrimony in different societies with mention to gender functions, definitions of matrimony and household constructions.


Except for certain biological restraints that are extremely controversial, research into affinity and matrimony has by and large found that there are few rules that are universally applied or accepted across civilizations ( Carsten, 2000 ; Parkin and Stone, 2004 ) . Yet, despite these jobs, forms of affinity may still be evident when a group is investigated closely. Thus, matrimony can be separated from more physically based relationships in that it can be socially constructed through such things as confederations and civilization. As a effect, the manner a household is organised and the functions of the assorted supporters and what constitutes a household varies well across societal groups. Correspondingly, there has been much unfavorable judgment of matrimony as a unitary construct as there are radically different patterns and readings as to what matrimony refers to. Similarly, cross-cousin matrimony and the demand to get married merely a certain type of families have been capable to much argument among anthropologists. There is to boot the job that affinity may non be a fixed trade good in that it can alter over clip and frequently needs to be negotiated harmonizing to altering position and affinities. Furthermore, with endogamy the demand is to get married within a peculiar caste or cultural community whereas exogamy requires matrimony outside usually accepted group ties.

Descent may besides be unilinear, based on affinity linked through ascendants to one gender, or bilateral by which all biological ascendant and descendants are regarded as socially accepted relations in that each individual is a member of both the father’s and mother’s household ( Lowie, 2004 ) . In unilinear systems, persons are frequently members of generational affinities of close kin known as unilineages that can either be matrilineal or patrilineal depending on whether the association favours the male or female line. Unilinear groups might besides hold big inclusive family groups called kins that claim an unbroken descent to some common ascendant that frequently can non be exactly defined and is hence sometimes based on a fabulous ascendant. These differentiations can be farther complicated by other standards e.g. affinity may be traced back to the mother’s or father’s ascendants but merely to a limited grade.

The Nuer of Southern Sudan

The Nuer of India form portion of a larger web of kins that culminate in a folk. Their relationships are determined through blood and matrimony but this becomes diluted with distance from the home-base. Furthermore, in smaller groups, relationships tend to be more varied whereby abode propinquity forms one yarn in a broader system of agnate ( patrilinear descent ) , affine ( kinship associations created through matrimony ) , and cognatic relationships ( following kinship by manner of female parent ‘s and male parent ‘s ascendants to some extent ) . Therefore, the Nuer kin can non be identified as a unitary group with a common affinity, as is the instance with many other groups, but as segmented with larger tribal affinities sometimes ruling harmonizing to fortunes ( Evans-Pritchard, 2004 ) . The sections ( smaller gatherings ) are thought to be based on genealogical line of descents with the kin based on an exogamic system whereby descent can be traced to a common ascendant. In add-on, the Nuer line of descent consists of patrikins made up of those descended merely from males traveling back to the original ascendant of a peculiar line. In this system, line of descents are chiefly comparative groups that are described in footings of how they relate to other groups in the system. So each Nuer small town is linked to a line of descent associated with those in that small town in the sense that it is a aggregation persons centred on an agnate karyon. Their liberty is realised through the regulations of intermarriage mediated by rites in relation to marriage and induction. Therefore there is a complex relationship between sensed biological indexs and socio-cultural factors affecting individuality and propinquity in relation to segmented groups, kins and tribal affinities that determines how kinship forms are realised.

The Aghria of MiddleIndia

Carston ( 2004 ) argues that the “everydayness” of groups should be combined with more formal attacks in order to understand the “messiness” of how people really relate to one another. In the instance of the Aghria of in-between India, although a formal analysis may bespeak tendencies in this regard, at the same clip, exclusions seem to be common. For illustration, Skoda ( 2007 ) has found that, in order to to the full understand affinity, the existent life experience of a community needs to be considered. Therefore, the Aghria seem to draw a bead on to a cross-cousin matrimony system that is non obvious in their linguistic communication that exists aboard a delayed sister-exchange with the possibility of granddaughter matrimony and the pattern of matrimony within ego’s ain coevals ( the individual to whom all relationships are referred ) . The ideal of cross-cousin matrimony ( to a person’s male parent ‘s sister ‘s kids or female parent ‘s brother ‘s kids ) thereforeseems to be alongside other patterns that are inconsistent with the regulations of the community. Endogamy in the Aghria, confines matrimony and sexual associations to the Aghria caste wherein interrupting this regulation means ejection from the community and is non-negotiable particularly for adult females. A assorted matrimony is hence regarded as of a lower position though, once more, in the existent state of affairs, depending on the position of the individual concerned, reintegration has been observed. Correspondingly, intermarriage besides limits matrimony to presiding coevalss with turning away of such relationships to next coevalss. However, persons belonging to a grandparent’s issue, for illustration, are allowed to get married every bit long as they belong to a different kin. Besides, a miss making pubescence might be married to a gramps supplying a suited spouse from the girl’s coevals is unavailable. Such matrimonies, nevertheless, may be strictly symbolic. Again in pattern intermarriage regulations may be broken if the spouse is from a distant relation. Matrilateral cross-cousin matrimony is, nevertheless, normally based on the impression that the best act a mother’s brother can will to his sister’s boy is that of his girl. By making this a mother’s brother achieves the spiritual wages of avoiding the ageless rhythm of birth and decease. Patrilateral cross cousin matrimony is practised more seldom and in general cross cousin matrimony has now lost favor due to the jobs with reaping hook cell anemia. The assorted exclusions and prohibitions of Aghria affinity are enforced by certain societal regulations and taboos associating to avoidance and esteem.

TheMahaof Nabraska

In Omaha affinity, male parents were wholly responsible for organizing matrimonies and descent was through the paternal line ( Fletcher and La Flesche, 1992 ) . Unmarried misss, nevertheless, did hold some pick in the affair but this was overseen by the parents and the spouse chosen was normally a mature good established male who had to pay for the privilege. Marriages were constantly monogamous but polygamy was sometimes practiced and divorce was available in certain fortunes ( Ensor, 2003 ) . Each kin consisted of a line of descent of drawn-out households related by manner of a reciprocally shared “father.” Marriages were clan exogamic with no judicial admission into which external kin one should get married. Patrilineal system members of a kin were prohibited from get marrieding into their ain father’s, mother’s or father’s mother’s kin. Therefore, persons from every other kin could potential go a matrimony spouse ( Fox, 1967 ) . Cross-cousin matrimonies were prohibited. The bulk of matrimonies seemed to hold involved diverse kins with a prohibition on the mother’s kin. There was an disposition for offspring of divorced and widowed females to remain with paternal relations that reinforced the patrilinear links of kids ( Ensor, 2003 ) .


The three illustrations cited show the grade to which affinity and matrimony can change and thereby necessitate to be considered on a instance to instance footing in order to derive a proper apprehension of how a societal group relates to such constructs. Therefore, the mundane patterns of a group demand to be investigated and applied to a classificatory system instead, as was antecedently the instance, using preexistent classs that were employed as a templet to sort autochthonal communities.


Carsten, J. 2000. Introduction: Cultures of Relatedness. In, J. Carsten. erectile dysfunction. pp. 1-36.Cultures of Relatedness: New Approaches to the Study of Kinship, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Carsten, J. 2004.After affinity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ensor, B. E. 2003. Kinship and Marriage among the Omaha. 1886-1902

Ethnology.Vol. 42: pp.1-14

Evans- Pritchard, E. E. 2004. The Nuer of the Southern Sudan. In, R. Parkin and L, Stone, eds.Kinship and Family: An Anthropological Reader.Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 64-78.

Fletcher, A. C. , and La Flesche. F. 1992.TheMahaTribe.Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Fox, R. 1967.Kinship and Marriage: An Anthropological Position.Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Parkin, R. and Stone, L. 2004Foreword.In, Kinship and Family. R. Parkin and L, Stone, eds.Kinship and Family:An Anthropological Reader. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. viii-x

Lowie, R. H. 2004 Unilateral Descent Groups. In, R. Parkin and L. Stone, explosive detection systems. Kinship and Family: An Anthropological Reader.Blackwell: Oxford. pp. 43-63.

Skoda, U. 2007. The Kinship System of the Aghria: A Case Study of Peasants in Middle India.Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 13 ( 3 ) : pp. 679-701.

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