Anthro Final Notes Pria Ghia Pria Ghia
Kinship (ch 10)
What is Kinship?
1. It a system of social ties deriving from the recognition of genealogical (blood/marriage)
2. It is universally recognized and is socially important.
Why are Kinship systems important?
1. Help people adapt to interpersonal and environmental challenges.
2. Provide a plan for aligning people and resources strategically.
3. Set limits on sexual activity and on who can marry whom.
4. Establish parameters of economic cooperation between men and women.
5. Provide mechanisms for sharing property that cannot be divided with being destroyed.
6. External ones relationship to a much wider group of people (outside family unit).
Why is it interesting to Anthropologists?
1. It has political, religious and economic aspects.
2. Provides a model and explanation of the dynamics of relationships.
3. Provides an understanding of how societies are organized and how they operate.
How is Kinship determined?
1. It is culturally specific some are determined through Conanguineal relationships (blood
relatives), others through Affineal relationships (marriage/in-laws) and some through Fictive
relationships defined below.
2. Fictive Kinship: Relationships among individuals who recognize kinship obligations although
the relationships are not based on either Conanguineal or Affineal ties (adopted
children/parents, god child/parent and church bother/sister/fellowship).
3. Parenthood is socially constructed rather than universally defined. For example: In the USA
the biological meaning of kinship is very powerful especially when determining parent-hood
(genetically based). However in other parts of the world the social meaning of kinship is
much more powerful. The Zumbagua of Ecuador define parenthood on the bases of the
relationship involved in nurturing the child over a number of years, should a biological
parent re-enter the childs life at a later time they have a very weak claim to parenthood.
Partible Paternity: All men who have sex with a woman during her pregnancy contribute to the
formation of the fetus (multiple fathers) followed by some cultures in South America. Kinship systems serve two purposes:
1. Vertical Function: the way in which all kinship systems tend to provide social continuity by
binding together different generations.
2. Horizontal Function: the ways in which all kinship systems, by requiring people to marry
outside their own small kinship group function to integrate the total society through
marriage bonds between otherwise unrelated kin groups.
Kin type: refers to the degree of actual genealogical relatedness and are thus universal.
(mothers bothers daughter)
Kin terms: are the labels given in a particular culture to different kinds of relatives. (in
north America: cousin)
Descent Systems are rule that people in different cultures use to determine:
2. Identify ancestry
3. Assign people to social categories, groups and roles on the basis of inherited status.
What is a descent group?
1. A group of people who recognize lineal descent from a real of mythical ancestor (criteria of
2. Membership needs to be clearly defined so one known where ones loyalties lie.
3. A publicly recognized social entity.
4. Traced through one sex, everyone is unambiguously assigned to a group.
5. Obligations and roles keeps group together.
6. Citizenship derived from lineage membership and legal status depends on it.
7. Political power and religious power derived from it, cults of gods and ancestors.
8. A strong effective base for social relations.
9. In small scale societies, the descent group, not the nuclear family, is the fundamental unit.
How is a descent group like a cooperation?
1. Continues after the death of the members.
2. New members are born into it.
3. A perpetual existence that allows it to take corporate actions.
4. Land owning. 5. Organizing productive activities.
6. Distributing goods and labor.
7. Assigning status.
8. Regulating relationships with other groups.
1. People trace ancestry through either the mother's or father's line (not both)
2. Generally clear cut and unambiguous social units.
3. People of same descent group live together, hold joint interests in property and corporate
functions (land holding).
4. Unilineal descent groups are exogamous, i.e. marriage must occur outside the descent
Patrilineal Descent (agriculturalists/ pastoralists)
1. Most prevalent (65%)
2. Established by tracing descent exclusively through males from a founding male ancestor.
3. Both men and women are included but only male links are utilized to include successive
4. A woman's children are not included in her paternal group but her brother's are. Her
children belong to her husband's group
5. Property is passed through fathers lineage
6. Tends toward male dominated power-structure
Matrilineal Descent (horticulturalists)
1. About 15% of cultures
2. Established by tracing only through females from a founding female ancestor
3. A Man's children are not included in his matrilineal group but his sister's are
4. Property is inherited through female line
5. Eg. Trobriand islanders and Hopi
1. Person related equally to both mothers and fathers side.
2. Kin links through males and females are perceived as being similar or equivalent.
3. aunt applies to fathers sister and mothers sister without distinguishing which side.
4. E.g. !Kung & N. America 5. In North American bilateral kinship is often matrilineal skewing: a preference for relatives
on the mother's side.
What are the Features of a Bilateral Kindred?
1. Everyone is different
2. Changes as grow older
3. Does not function as a group except at weddings and funerals
4. Functions in relation to ego
5. Little generational depth
6. No leader
7. Does not hold property, organize work or administer justice i.e. does not function as a
8. Inheritance is allocated equally between siblings
9. Besides the recognition of consanguineal kin or blood relatives there are Affinal relatives or
those related by way of marriage
Parallel Descent: Males trace their ancestry through male lines, females trace their ancestry
through female lines.
1. lineage traced through one parent or another, but not both
2. People choose the descent group that to belong to.
3. Since each generation can choose which parent to trace descent through, a family line may
be patrilineal in one generation and matrilineal in the next.
4. choosing one side over the other often has to do with the relative importance of each
5. ambilineal descent is flexible in that it allows people to adjust to changing family situations.
6. E.g. when a man marries a woman from a politically or economically more important family,
he may agree to let his children identify with their mother's family line to enhance their
prospects and standing within the society.
1. lineage traced through both parents equally
2. every individual is a member of his or her mother's matrilineage and father's patrilineage