Class Notes (1,100,000)
CA (650,000)
UTSG (50,000)
SOC (3,000)

SOC214H1 Lecture Notes - Trobriand Islands, Nuclear Family, Group Marriage

Course Code
Bonnie Fox

of 2
Cross-cultural pattern and a description of foraging societies
- Households: only 1/4 contain mom, dad, kids- more are multiple-family households (most are extended
familyconcentration of immigration population)
- Families: 67% are married couples [1961: 91.6%]
16.7% are common-law couples [1981: 5.6%]
16.3% are lone parents [1961: 8.4%]
An increased number of same-sex couples- 2.6% are blended families (1 of every 10 children live in
Young adults living in their parents‘ home (a worldwide phenomenon): 59.3% of 20-24 year-olds;
25.2% of 25-29 yr.-olds
I. Cross-cultural Evidence on Family Patterns
A. Common-sense assumptions
- We assume the nuclear family was universal and was found in all societies
- Anthropologists: there is nothing about family since people organize themselves in different ways
B. The evidence on the range of human societies F. Edholm‘s summary
- Conception and sex: a variety of understandings; no causality of biology
In most society, biology is not known
In Trobriand Islands, it is believed that conception results from the entry of a spirit into the
womb; the male‘s role is to ―open‖ the womb through intercourse. The child‘s blood comes
from the mother‘s side and the child is not related to the father
In Marind-Anim society, it is believed that fertility is only possible from a mixture of semen.
Thus, gang raped at marriage and on subsequent occasions are common
The Lakker of Burma believed that the mother is only a container for the child. She has no
blood-connection with her child
There is always a social aspect or relationships in biology
- The mother-child relationship: not always close; biological mothers are not necessarily responsible
for care
There is nothing about maternity-instinct (when women are pregnant, they tend to go and read
books since they have no idea what to do)
In Melanesia and Polynesia, children are adopted just after weaning
In Tahiti, young women often have few children before they are considered to have a stable
relationship. These children will be take care by the young women‘s parents
- Fatherhood biological vs. social (recognized, given responsibility)- in some culture, father is
defined by social not biological
- Marriage different forms
Multiple spouses
Group marriage
Ghost marriage
- Household diverse compositions
Nuclear families are often embedded in an external families
Monogamy, polygyny, vivilocal, martilocal, neolocal, etc
- Incest variable interpretation
It is not necessary based on family
Exception: in ancient Egypt, inbreeding (brother-sister) was enforced to keep the purity of the
royal line
In Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, father-daughter and brother-sister sexual relationship were
II. Foraging Societies (Hunters & Gatherers)
Evidence: Kung San, Botswana, Africa (R.B.Lee)
Montagnais-Naskapi, Labrador and Newfoundland, Canada (E.B. Leacock and the ‗Jesuit notebooks‘) -
The development of the Montagnais-Naskapi Indians: Indian men became trapper. They traded furs for
luxury items. The trade opened up a source for new food, weapons and cloths. This changes lead to the
change in sexual definition of functions-the wife and children were provided for and the men were the
providers. The family group (usually two or three tent groups) was broken into smaller units
approaching the ‗nuclear‘ family. In the early 17th century, these Indian women control their own work
and made decisions accordingly. Women have the power to decide and control household arrangements
Pygmies, Zaire (C. Turnbull)
Anthropologists tend to study the whole culture between 95%-99% of human history lives in foraging society
A. General Organization small groups, nomadic
- Membership of the group is based on whether people can live together. It is not based on blood
relationship or marriage
- Nomadic: they move whenever there is no resources, which means there is no idea of private
property (e.g. ownership of lands)
B. Organization of Production
1. No storage of surplus so a need to organize on a regular basis to acquire necessary food.
It is more reliable for them to gather foods since hunting also requires luck
The gathering of food require much less work than we do and it is more flexible
2. Simple technology
3. Simple, non-rigid division of labour by gender and by age [women: gatherers, men: hunters, children
and elderly do not work]
4. ―Production for Use‖ (work until you get what you need) [vs. Prod. For Exchange(nowadays)]: the
―original affluent society‖
5. Classless societies no group own the ―means of production‖ (eg, the land; what is needed to
acquire subsistence) and thus have a basis for power over others. Also, gender ―egalitarian‖ societies:
no gender can impose its will on the access to ownership or power
Matters were resolved through discussion
6. Co-operation as the key ―survival strategy‖ in a community based on reciprocity
Co-operation and sharing. This helps to create obligation for people to give back
C. Social Organization
- Communal societies, featuring considerable autonomy (freedom) for individuals (as long as they
fulfill their responsibilities)
- Sexuality
People were forced to marrymake ties with other community
Divorce is easy in this society
Married couples do not have private space
D. ―Family‖ organization
1. Nuclear units are embedded in larger units of work, consumption and child care. No private
households or sense of ―my personal business‖
Consequences of absence of private space:
i. women are not socially dependent on men- she has the community to rely on
ii. violence against women is not a private matter, and is likely to be stopped
2. Childbearing: infrequent, under women‘s control
3. Childrearing: collective responsibility among all adults
4. ―Housework‖: organized by a fluid division of work based on gender
5. Children tend to grow up in multi-age grouping. This helps kids to learn how to co-operate
6. Children have a sense that they can rely on every adults in the community