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Chapter 9

Chapter 9 Textbook Notes - Kinship and Descent

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ANTH 1150
Susan Chuang

Chapter 9: Kinship and Descent  All cultures have a form of family or household organization to deal with problems human groups face: o Facilitation of economic cooperation between the sexes o Providing a proper setting for childrearing o Regulation of sexual activity  Many cultures face problems beyond the coping ability of family and household organization o one sovereign group needs support and protection from another  Defence against disasters  If have right of entry into local groups other than their own, can secure protection or critical resources when own group cannot supply them o Group needs to share rights to some means of production that cannot be divided without its destruction  Horticulture societies (division of land)  Land ownership vested in a corporate group o People need a means of providing cooperative work forces for tasks  Solutions: o Develop a formal political system, personnel to make/enforce laws, keep peace, allocate, resources o In nonindustrial societies (horticultural and pastoral), develop kinship groups  Kinship: the people we are related to through blood (consanguineal) and marriage (affinal)  Three groups of Kin: o Nominal Kin: little or no contact, but aware of existence o Effective Kin: meet fairly regularly, at family functions o Intimate Kin: continuing, close relationships, extended family (affinal and consanguineal)  Size of kin group determined by personal choice, proximity, gender, and class factors  Rural, preindustrial societies – kinship the focal point of social organization  Urban, industrial societies – ideologies of individualism, privacy, nuclear families and increased mobility have altered the extended family kinship systems o Daycare, banks, school usurped what was formerly a family obligation Why We Study Kinship  Virtually everyone has kin, biological or adopted, and these “relatives” have a profound effect on our lives  Kinship also involves how we organize our family, the support an assistance we count on, whom we will marry, our residential patterns, and how we view our world and children, what will happen when we grow old, what fair we will practice Urban Kinship Systems in Canada  Researchers thought an isolated nuclear family structure would function better in our urban environment, than an unwieldy extended family – recent studies dispute this  Extended kinship ties in Canada are still fundamental to well-being of individuals and nuclear families – establish mutual aid  Modified extended family does not require residential proximity or restrictive rights/obligations, maintains close emotional ties and a network of reciprocal support, st common in 21 century families  Early immigrants to Canada, mainly French and British, were organized in a nuclear family structure, but developed strong kin ties with other relatives in Canada (farmers needed extra help with labour – extended ties provided this)  Recent immigrants (ie. Italian Canadians) maintain close ties with kin in the country of origin due to global transportation and communication systems, also establish close ties with relatives already in Canada  Neolocal nuclear families – basic kinship unit, other members of extended family live nearby though  New immigrants sometimes substitute friends and neighbours in their kinship group – fictive kinship: friends not biologically related but considered part of a kin group  In Canada, kinship is voluntary and selective, no strong obligations (as seen in tribal horticultural kin groups); nuclear family does not operate in isolation; modified extended family and it’s support available to each family  Degree of contact determined by closeness of individuals, not geographical proximity Descent Groups  Descent Group: any publicly recognized social entity requiring lineal descent from a particular real or mythical ancestor for membership  Stem from a parent-child bond, built upon for the basis for a structured social group  Clearly define membership o Membership restricted by: tracing membership through one sex, each individual automatically assigned from the moment of birth to his/her mother’s or father’s group and to that group only Unilineal Descent  Descent that establishes group membership exclusively through either the mother’s or father’s line  Middle-level societies, horticultural, pastoral societies  At birth, assigned membership in a specific descent group: o Matrilineal Descent: descent traced exclusively through the female line to establish group membership o Patrilineal Descent: descent traced exclusively through the male line to establish group membership  Connection between descent system and a culture’s economy – patrilineal where man is bread winner (pastoralists, intensive agriculturalists); matrilineal where woman is breadwinner (horticulturalists)  In all cultures, the kin of both mother and father are important components of the social structure – if one descent is excluded does not mean unimportant, means for the purpose of group membership the one side’s relatives are excluded Patrilineal Descent and Organization  More widespread  Males of a patrilineal descent group trace their descent through other males from a common ancestor  Responsibility for training children rests with father or his elder brother  Woman belongs to the same descent group as her father and his brothers but her children cannot trace their descent through them  A “mans world”  Women try to actively manipulate the system to their own advantage as best they can Matrilineal Descent and Organization  Reckoned through the female line  Descent does not automatically confer authority – matrilineal cultures are not matriarchal (as patrilineal cultures are patriarchal)  Women share authority in the decent group with men – the brothers (not husbands) of the women descent is reckoned through  Provided continuous female solidarity within the female labour pool  Farming communities (women provide much of work)  Males belong to same descent group as mother and sister, but their children cannot trace their descent through them  Man’s children belong to his wife’s descent group  Weak tie between husband and wife – wife’s brother distributes goods, organizes work, settles disputes, administers inheritance and succession rules, supervises rituals  Husband has legal authority not in his household, but his sister’s; his property and status are inherited by his sister’s son rather than by his son  Brothers and sisters have lifelong ties; marital ties are easily severed (marriages ended easily)  Formed the basis of Iroquoian kinship – longhouse for clans, matrilocality preferred, “clan mothers” held in great esteem and held responsibility and selected chiefs and advisers, men would comply o Not a matriarchy though, it was egalitarian – neither men nor women dominated Double Descent  A system tracing descent matrilineally for some purposes and patrilineally for others, very rare  Each group takes action in different spheres of society (ie. Yako of Nigeria) Ambilineal Descent  Descent in which the individual may affiliate with either the mother’s or the father’s descent group (also called nonunilineal, or cognatic)  Flexibility, option of affiliating with either descent group  Cultures in Pacific and Southeast Asia  Allowed to belong to only one group at a time, regardless of how many groups he/she is eligible to join  Group divided into discrete and separate groups of kin as in patrilineal and matrilineal culture  Some societies, Samoans, Bella Coola, allow overlapping membership in a number of descent groups Forms and Functions of Descent Groups  Nonindustrial societies – organized working units providing security and services, support the aged, help with marriages and deaths, role in determining who one can marry, repository of religious traditions, ancestor worship The Lineage  A corporate (single “body”) descent group whose members trace their genealogical links to a common ancestor  Unilineal descent is rule, but some ambilineal groups are similar  Ancestor-oriented, relationship to a common ancestor must be traced and proved  Individual have no legal or political status except as a lineage member, religious and political power derived from it as well  Religious and magical powers – ie. cults of gods and ancestors, may be bound to the lineage as well  Perpetual existence, survives after death of some members, enables to take corporate actions (owning property, productive activities, goods and labour power, assigning status, regulating relations with other groups) – a strong lineage base of social organization  Not a corporation, goal is not profitably or based on business principles  Exogamy – lineage members must find partners in other lineages, potential sexual competition within the group is curbed, promotes group solidarity o Marriage more than an arrangement, it is a new alliance between lineages, supports open communication within a culture, promotes diffusion of knowledge The Clan  When lineage becomes to large fission occurs: the splitting of a descent group into two or more new descent groups; new lineage members still recognize their ultimate relationship to one another – results in a clan  Clan: a noncorporate descent group whose members claim descent from a common ancestor without actually knowing the genealogical links to that ancestor (also called sib)  Founding ancestor so far in the past, links are assumed rather than known  Clan lacks residential unity, the characteristic of a lineage’s core members; descent may be patrilineal, matrilineal or ambilineal  Does not hold tangible property corporately, more a unit for ceremonial matters, only on special occasions the memberships gathers for specific purposes  Clans may regulate marriage through exogamy; give individuals entry rights into local groups other than their own as well  Depend on symbols to provide members with solidarity and a ready means of identification (totems) – associated with the clan’s mythical origin and reinforce an awareness of their common descent  Totemism: the belief that people are related to particular animals, plants, or natural objects by virtue of descent from common ancestral spirits o Haida – totemic groups: Bear, Killer Whale, Cannibal Spitit, Salmon, Beaver Moieties  Each group t
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