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Eric Henry (12)

Lecture 5: Marriage and Kinship

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ANTH 1002
Eric Henry

Lecture 5: Marriage and Kinship How are members of a culture connected to each other? Social relations can take many forms:  Friendship: personal and unofficial relations of relative equality. Friendship potentially opens up ties across social boundaries (class, ethnicity, gender, etc.)  Age Sets: many cultures make use of generational categories based on relative age and time of initiation into adulthood. These are more formal than friendships, but also establish crosscutting social ties.  Ritual (Secret) Societies: some cultures encourage members to join one or more ritual societies. Ritual societies are often responsible for initiation, and guard secret forms of knowledge such as songs, dances, and magical chants.  Kinship: relations based upon marriage and descent (egalitarian; parents order around kids). What is Kinship?  By kinship, anthropologists mean the social relationships derived from the universal human experiences of mating, birth, and nurturance.  This can include relationships based on marriage (mating), descent (birth), and nurturance (adoption).  Biological product of two people; gestate inside mother, spend a long time being vulnerable infants that are nurtured by other people; shapes how we think about kinship.  New reproductive technologies have changed how we are being born and how anthropologists think about kinship (e.g. surrogate mothers, IVF, sex selection, embryonic genetic screening, etc.).  Kinship provides a way of talking about human relationships based on metaphors of shared substance: blood, milk, genes, or soul. o If one were to discover that you weren’t biologically related to someone, your relationship might change or even be severed completely. o In the Trobriand Islands, Malinowski (1922) was taught that children are the reincarnated souls of the mother’s ancestors that have returned to earth. o In northern Sudan, anthropologist Janice Boddy (1989) discovered that some adults could not marry because they had shared a woman’s breast as infants.  Genealogical relationships based on metaphors of shared substance are central to the ways in which people create enduring ties to one another and understand their connections. Kin
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