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Lecture 28

ANTHR101 Lecture 28: Chapter 13 (Lecture and Textbook)

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University of Alberta
Brent Hammer

Chapter 13- Where Do Our Relatives Come From and Why Do They Matter? - Human life is group life, and how we choose to organize ourselves is open to creative variation o But, each of us was born into a society whose political, economic, and cultural practices were already well established when we arrived - Relatedness- the socially recognized ties that connect people in a variety of different ways o These intimate everyday relationships are always embedded in, and shaped by, broader structures of power, wealth, and meaning - Anthropologists have studied those forms of relatedness believed to come from shared substance and its transmission – the substance believed to be shared may be a bodily one (ex. blood, genes, mother’s milk) or a spiritual one (ex. nurturance, soul, spirit, love); sometimes more than one substance is thought to be shared o Kinship systems- social relationships that are prototypically derived from the universal human experiences of mating, birth, and nurturance o People are thought to share a common substance because it was transmitted to them via the act of sexual intercourse between their parents that led to their conception and birth o In the early days, kinship studies were based on the assumption that all societies recognized basic genealogical relationships between mothers and fathers, children and parents, sisters and brothers, etc.; over the years, evidence accumulated indicating that quite often people’s understandings of kin ties was strikingly at odds with these genealogical relationships ▪ These genealogical relationships turned out to form a small subset of the ways in which people created enduring connections with one another What is Kinship? - Anthropologists call culturally recognized relationships based on mating, marriage, and those based on birth, descent o Marriage- an institution that transforms the status of the participants, carries implication about permitted sexual access, perpetuates social patterns through the production or adoption of offspring, creates relationships between the kin of partners, and is symbolically marked o Descent- the principle based on culturally recognized parent-child connections that define the social categories to which people belong - Although nurturance is ordinarily seen to be closely connected with mating and birth, all societies have ways of acknowledging a relationship based on nurturance alone, adoption o Adoption- kinship relationships based on nurturance, often in the absence of other connections based on mating or birth - Human experiences of mating, birth, and nurturance are ambiguous – systems of relatedness in different societies highlight some features of these experiences while downplaying or even ignoring others o Through culturally created ties of kinship, a society emphasizes certain aspects of human experience, constructs its own theory of human nature, and specifies the processes by which an individual comes into being and develops into a complete (mature) social person - Marriage, descent, and adoption are selective institutions How Do We Define Sex, Gender, and Kinship? - Kinship is based on, but is not reducible to, biology – it’s a cultural interpretation of the culturally recognized “facts” of human reproduction, and how one defines one’s relatives changes with each culture o Another example of how humans are biocultural organisms - Sex- the observable physical characteristics that distinguish the 2 kinds of human beings, females and males, needed for reproduction o Morphological sex- the appearance of external genetalia and observable secondary sex characteristics o Gonadal sex-the presence of ovaries in females and testes in male o Chromosomal sex- 2 X chromosomes in females, one X and one Y chromosome in males - Cross-cultural research demonstrates that physical sex differences don’t allow us to predict the roles that females or males will play in any particular society – distinguish sex from gender o Gender- the cultural construction of beliefs and behaviours considered appropriate for each sex - Sometimes genetic or hormonal factors produce ambiguous external genetalia - In other cases, anthropologists have documented the existence of supernumerary (more than 2) sexes in cultures where the presence of ambiguous genetalia at birth seems to play no obvious role o Ex. berdache/two-spirited- key features of male and female berdache roles were, in order of importance, productive specialization, supernatural sanction, and gender variation, commonly but not always marked by cross-dressing; engaged in homosexual or bisexual sexual practices ▪ Were accepted and respected members of their communities, and their economic and religious pursuits seem to have been culturally more significant than their sexual practices ▪ Berdache was a derogatory term used by the early French colonizers which meant “male prostitute” o Ex. hijras- biological males but performed much different roles in societies; may even remove male gentalia (India) - Herdt’s survey of ethnographic literature led him to conclude that it is difficult for societies to maintain more than 2 sexes or genders - Anthropologists can argue convincingly that a society possesses supernumerary sexes or genders when a culture defines for each a symbolic niche and a social pathway of development into later life distinctly different from the cultural life plan set out by a model based on male/female duality What is the Role of Descent in Kinship? - A central aspect of kinship is descent – the cultural principle that defines social categories through culturally recognized parent – child connections - Descent groups are defined by ancestry and consequently exist in time; they use parent-child links to transmit group identity and to incorporate new members - In some societies, descent group membership controls how people mobilize for social or political action - 2 major strategies are employed in establishing patterns of descent: o Bilateral descent- the principle that a descent group is formed by people who believe they are related to each other by connections made through their mothers and their fathers equally (sometimes called cognatic descent) ▪ Most common kind is a bilateral kindred – includes all the people linked to an individual (or a group of siblings) through kin of both sexes on the mother’s and father’s side of the family (relatives) • Are centered on an individual (referred to as “Ego”) – each member of that individual’s bilateral kindred also has their own separate kindred o Unilateral descent- the principle that a descent group is formed by people who believe they are related to each other by connections made through either their mothers or their fathers What Roles Do Lineages Play in Descent? - Lineages- the consanguineal members (connected by blood) of descent groups who believe they can trace their descent from known ancestors o Patrilineage- a social group formed by people connected by father-child links o Matrilineage- a social group formed by people connected by mother-child links Who is a Member of a Lineage? - Most important feature of lineage is that they’re corporate in organization – that is, a lineage has a single legal entity - Also, corporate in that they control property, specifically land, as a unit - Are the main political associations in the societies that have them – people living in such societies recognize that their individual political or legal status comes mainly through the lineage to which they belong - In societies where lineages are found, the system of lineages can serve as a foundation for all social life - In societies in which no other form of organization lasts, lineages can endure as long as people remember from whom they are descended – most have a depth of about 5 generations: grandparents, parents, Ego, children, and grandchildren - Clan- a descent group formed by members who believe they have a common (sometimes mythical) ancestor, even if they cannot specify the genealogical links o Sometimes the common ancestor of each clan is said to be an animal that lived at the beginning of time - Distinguishing point is that lineage members can specify all the generational links back to their common ancestor, whereas clan members ordinarily cannot o Thus, a clan can be larger than any lineage and more diffuse in its membership What Are Patrilineages? - Most common form of lineage organization is the patrilineage, which consists of all the people who believe themselves to be related to each other because they’re related to a common male ancestor by connections through men o The prototypical kernel of patrilineage is the father-son pair o In a patrilineage, a woman’s children are not in her lineage o Although, female members normally leave the lineages when they marry, they don’t relinquish their interest in their own lineages - Classic patrilineal system found among the Nuer; they were divided into at least 20 clans (Evans-Pritchard) o Defined clan as the largest group of people who: ▪ Trace their descent patrilineally from a common ancestor ▪ Cannot marry each other ▪ Consider sexual relations within the group to be incestuous o Clan is subdivided into smaller lineages that are themselves linked to each other by presumed ties of patrilineal descent ▪ Most basic level of lineage segmentation is the minimal lineage, which has the depth of 3-5 generations • 2 minimal lineages may form a minor lineage – all those descended from a common father, believed to be the father of the 2 founders of A and B • Minor lineages connect to other minor lineages by yet another presumed common ancestor one more level back, forming major lineages • These major lineages are also believed to share a common ancestor forming a maximal lineage o The members of 2 maximal lineages believe their founders had been the sons of the clan ancestor – thus, all members of the clan are believed to be patrilineally related o Segmentary opposition- a mode of hierarchical social organization in which groups beyond the most basic emerge only in opposition to other groups on the same hierarchical level o Bridewealth- the transfer of certain symbolically important goods from the family of the groom to the family of the bride on the occasion of their marriage. It represents compensation to the wife’s lineage for the loss of her labour and childbearing capacities What are Matrilineages? - Descent is traced through women rather than men - In a matrilineage, a man’s children are not in his lineage - Prototypical kernel is the sister-brother pair – matrilineage may be thought of as a group of brothers and sisters connected through links made by women o Brothers marry out and often live with the family of the wife, but they maintain an active interest in the affairs of their lineage - The most important man in a boy’s life is not his father (who’s not in his lineage), but his mother’s brother, from whom he will receive his lineage inheritance - The amount of power women exercise in matrilineal societies is still hotly debated in anthropology o Matrilineage is not the same as matriarchy (a society in which women rule) What are Kinship Terminologies? - People everywhere use special terms to refer to people they recognize as related to them - Kinship terminologies suggest both the external boundaries and the internal divisions of kinship groups, and they outline the structure of rights and obligations assigned to different members of the society - Also provide clues about how the vast and undifferentiated world of potential relations may be divided What Criteria are Used for Making Kinship Distinctions? - Several criteria people use to indicate how people are related to one another (from most-least common): o Generation – kin terms distinguish relatives according to the generation to which the relatives belong o Gender – the gender of an individual is used to differentiate kin o Affinity- connection through marriage o Collaterality- a criterion employed in the analysis of kinship terminologies in which a distinction is made between kin who are believed to be in a direct line and those who are “off to one side,” linked to the speaker by a lineal relative o Bifurcation- a criterion employed in the analysis of kinship terminologies in which kinship terms referring to the mother’s side of the family are distinguished from those referring to the father’s side o Relative age – relatives of the same category may be distinguished on the basis of whether they are older or younger than Ego o Gender of linking relative – distinguishes cross relatives from parallel relatives ▪ Parallel cousins- the children of a person’s parents’ same-gender siblings (a father’s brother’s children or a mother’s sister’s children) ▪ Cross cousins- the children of a person’s parents’ opposite-gender siblings (a father sister’s children or a mother’s brother’s children) • Desirable marriage partner in many societies ▪ Can marry first cousins in many countries including Canada What is Adoption? - Kinship systems sometimes appear to be fairly rigid sets of rules that use the accident of birth to thrust people into social positions laden with rights and obligations they cannot escape - Ascribed statuses- social positions people are assigned at birth - Achieved statuses- social positions people may attain later in life, often as the result of their own (or other people’s) effort - All societies have ways of incorporating outsiders into their kinship groups, however, which they achieve by converting supposedly ascribed kinship statuses into achieved ones, thus undermining the distinction between them Adoption and Naming Among the Inuit of Nunavut - In some societies, people distinguish between Ego’s biological father (or genitor) and Ego’s social father (or pater); they may also distinguish between Ego’s biological mother (or genetrix) and Ego’s social mother (or mater) o Social parents are those who nurture a child, and they are often the child’s biological parents as well - Among the Inuit of Nunavut, these distinguishing factors aren’t strongly acknowledged – rather, the Inuit view of extended family encompasses the concept of “custom adoption” – a traditional form of adoption in which the adoptee maintains flexible relationships with their birth and adoptive families - In Nunavut communities, children move daily among the homes of birth and adoptive parents receiving care, food and companionship o This practice of adoption encourages the formation of families, which contributes to a strong sense of community and provides families with many hands to help - To understand the cultural significance of custom adoption, it’s important to understand the Inuit tradition of naming (suniq) – Inuit parents and other relative assign the adoptee the name of a deceased relative How Are New Reproductive Technologies Changing Western Concepts of Kinship? - Development and increasing use of relatively new reproductive technologies has created challenges for Western concepts of kinship – kinship is usually understood as the social construction of natural facts, a logic that both combines and separates the social and natural worlds (Strathern) - The new reproductive technologies make clear that everything is negotiable – even the world of natural facts is subject to social intervention - Ambiguities surrounding kinship in Canada and elsewhere have out pressure on courts to decide what constitutes biological parenthood and how it is related to legal parenthood - Changing and challenging how we look at and create kinship systems How Do We Define Marriage? - Marriage- a continuing and socially approved union of 2 or more people o If a society doesn’t approve of the union, it won’t be recognized (ex. gay marriages in some societies) o More than 2 people can be involved – links families, not through blood but through affinal relationships ▪ Also creates relationships between the kin groups (in-laws) o Changes a person’s status – passing from childhood to adulthood (rites of passage) ▪ Status changes in relationship to your partner (ex. wife can take husband’s last name) o Permits access to sexual partners ▪ Way to produce legitimate children, not bastards/illegitimate children o Sharing economic resources, workloads, etc. o Features consistent cross-culturally, although some are changing
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