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Lecture 16

ANT 2000 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: Bride Price, Incest Taboo, Trobriand Islands

2 pages25 viewsFall 2012

Course Code
ANT 2000
Elyse Anderson

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Marriage & Family
Marriage = a culturally sanctioned union between two or more people that establishes certain
rights and obligations between the people, between them and their children, and between them
and their in-laws; such marriage rights and obligations most often includebut are not limited
tosex, labor, property, childrearing, exchange, and status
Why not “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” as reflected in
US federal law?
Marriage encompasses the biological and the cultural = it embeds mating within an elaborately
constructed social and cultural niche
Backed up by social, political, and ideological factors while also regulating sexual relations and
reproductive rights and obligations
Marriage plays an important role in the formation of social groups; creates affinal relationships
(relations based on marriage) in contrast to consanguinal (blood) ties
Culturally specific rules of marriage involve both endogamy and exogamy
Endogamy = marriage within a particular group or category of individuals
Exogamy = marriage outside of the group
Why have rules for endogamy and exogamy? = incest taboo; biologically in our best interest
(genetics-wise); etc.
Example = Trobriand islanders have to marry outside their clan/lineage (exogamy), but village
endogamy is the norm
Forms of marriage =
o Monogamy = a marriage form in which both partners have just one spouse; in parts of
the world where divorce and remarriage is high, serial monogamy is the norm (end up
being in a series of long-term monogamous marriages); the norm
o Polygamy = a marriage form in which one individual has multiple spouses at the same
time (polygyny = man with more than wife; polyandry = woman with more than one
o Group marriage = (see below!)
Common wisdom = polygyny is particularly common in traditional food-producing societies where
women provide bulk of cultivation labor; women are valued as both workers and child bearers;
also multiple wives can be a source of prestige…. (shows wives; probably savvy)
Polyandry is comparatively rare; in Tibet, inheritance is through male line and arable land is
limited, so the marriage of brothers to a single woman keeps the land together and keeps
population growth at bay
Do you find these explanations satisfactory? Is it exclusively about economics?
Alternative approaches = polygyny in the US; outlawed by Mormon Church in 1890; yet, estimate
of 30,000-50,000 people in Rocky Mountain states live in households made up of a man with two
or more wives (Egan 1999); people have agency
People have agency = people aren’t robots; don’t follow boundaries of their culture exactly;
always cases that fit outside those lines (just because monogamy is law doesn’t mean everybody
practices it)
Polyamory = the practice, state, or ability of having more than one sexual (for some, romantic)
loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved
(Anapol 1997); can come in a range of shapes and sizes (sexual orientations, sexes, etc.)
Aviram (2008) documents a reluctance in this community to adhere to the “rigid and archaic”
institution of marriage (believe having some official structure to their relationships restricts them)
“Marriage” is not stagnant = our ideas of marriage are changing; hence, the debate about same-
sex marriage
Group marriage = a marriage form in which several men and women have sexual access to one
another; also called co-marriage (alternative marriage out of the “West”)
Example = Inupiat Eskimos of northern Alaska; spouse exchange between two husband-wife
couples that are united by shared sexual access; these relationships are based on mutual aid and
support across territorial boundaries and expected to last a lifetime
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