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Department
Anthropology
Course
AN101
Professor
Tristan Long
Semester
Winter

Description
Week 8 Cultural Anthropology: Chapter Nine: Kinship and Descent Conformity and Culture: David W. McCurdy: Family and Kinship in Village India What are Descent Groups? o Kin Groups: made up of our relatives, both consanguine (blood) and affinal (in-laws) o Organize our kin along descent groupings o Descent Groupings: a king of kinship group whereby being a lineal descendant of a particular real or mythical ancestor is a criterion of membership o Descent may be reckoned exclusively through women, or through both What Functions Do Descent Groups Serve? o Descent groups of various kinds – lineages, clans, and moieties- are convenient devices for solving many problems facing human societies: 1. how to maintain integrity of resources that cannot be divided without destruction; 2.how to generate workforces for task that require a labour pool larger than a household can provide, and 3.how to allow members of one sovereign local group to claim support and protection from members of another o Not all cultures have descent groups; in many foraging/industrial societies, some of these problems handled by : o kindred: a group of people with living relative in common but this kindred or membership is not clearly and explicitly defined so it’s generally a weaker unit than the descent group How do Descent Groups Form? o Arise from family organization as long as problems of organization exist that such groups help o Most apt to happen in food-producing groups o First to develop are localized lineages, followed by larger, dispersed groups such as clans o Over time, kinship terminology itself its affected by and adjusts the kinds of descent or other king groups important to a culture How do Anthropologists Study Descent? o Understand not who is descended from whom, but how descent systems function in societies o Through ethnographic methods, descent systems of a multitude of the world’s cultures have been understood o Disparate systems are given classifications o Representations of these descent systems use symbols o Other areas of research into descent are rather recent such as extraction of DNA from living, historic and prehistoric samples o Kinship = one of most important areas of anthropological study o Radcliffe-Brown, Evans-Prichard, Malinowski – all conducted important ethnographic studies of kinship that revealed that kinship was much more than a means of naming relations. Kinship carried with it deep cultural meanings and obligations and was deeply embedded in economic and ritual structures o Every culture develops some sort of family or household structure as a means to address various needs, such as to foster economic cooperation between the sexes, provide a setting for childrearing, to regular sexual activity o Family and household organization can be an efficient and flexible means for rising to these challenges but the fact remains that many cultures confront problems that are beyond the coping abilities of households and families o Ex: members of a sovereign local group often need some means of claiming support and protection from individuals in another group. Is crucial for defence against human or natural disasters – if people have right of entry into local groups other than their own, they can get protection or resources that they may not have o Ex: a group often share rights to some means of production that cannot be divided without its destruction. Witnessed in horticultural societies, where division of land becomes impractical beyond a certain point. Problem can be avoided if land ownership vested in a corporate system that outlives its members. o Ex: people often need some means to provide cooperative workforces for task that require more people than available in the household o One way of dealing with these problems is: develop a formal political system with personnel to mare and enforce laws, keep peace, allocate resources, and perform other regulatory and societal functions o A common practice in nonindustrial societies – especially horticultural and pastoral societies – is to develop kinship groups o Kinship: group composed of people we are related to through blood (consanguineal) and marriage (affinal) o Kin can be divided into three groups (nominal, effective, and intimate or core) o We may have little or no contact with nominal kin, even though we usually are aware of their existence o We meet effective kin frequently at family functions such as weddings, funerals, reunions o Maintain continuous close relationship with our intimate kin, which includes siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, both affinal and consanguineal o In Canadian society, kin group influenced by personal choice, and to a lesser extent by proximity, gender and class factors o In rural, or preindustrial societies, kinship is the focal point of social organization; members live in close proximity and generally form economic bonds o In terms of water or land ownership o In urban, industrial, modern “cults” of individualism and privacy as well as increased mobility and the nuclear family structure have altered extended family kinship systems to a degree o Ex: what used to be family obligations – daycare centres, banks, schools are now no longer within household Why we study Kinship? o Everyone has a kin whether biological, adopted and these “relatives” play an important role in our lives o Kinship is learned from birth o Kinship involves not only how we classify relatives but also how we organize our family – support/family we can count on, how we view our world, our future o Kinship defines gender roles, how many children we will bear, what will happen to us when we grow old and even what faith we may practice o Kinship is culturally diverse Urban Kinship Systems in Cthada o In early part of 20 century, researchers assumed that urbanization and industrialization would reduce significance of kinship in Canadian society – that nuclear family would replace extended kin groups and that non-kin ties (friends) would become more important in our lives than kin. o Isolated Nuclear Family Structure: however recent studies show that extended family kin ties are still fundamental, especially within parents and adult children (child care during vacations, regular gift giving) o Modified Extended Family: does not require residential proximity or restrictive rightsst and obligations but maintains close emotional ties and support and common in 21 century fam o Canada is multi-cultural and strongly influenced by aboriginal cultures, immigration patterns and ethnic, linguistic and cultural proximities o Early immigrants to Canada, mainly of French, British and Irish descent, were organized in nuclear family structure but developed strong kin ties with other relatives in Canada o More recent immigrants to Canada such as Italians maintain close ties with kin, substitute friends especially of the same ethnic origin if they don’t have any family in Canada o Neolocal nuclear families are the basis of kinship unit although other members of kin usually live nearby o Fictive Kinship: friends not biologically related but considered part of the kin group o In Canada kinship is voluntary and selective with no strong obligations compared to tribal horticultural kin group. o Nuclear family doesn’t operate in isolation, instead they’re a modified extended family support system, involving frequent communication, visiting and support is available to each family Descent Groups o Descent group: any publically recognized social entity requiring lineal descent from a particular real or mythical ancestor for membership o Members of a descent group trace their connections back to a common ancestor through parent-child links o Appear to stem from parent-child relationships which is built upon as the basis for a structured group o Descent groups define membership clearly, and it can also be restricted. Usually restricted by sex, so from birth you are assigned to either mother or father’s group only. Most common way is tracing membership through sex Unilineal Descent o Unilineal (unilateral) Descent: descent that establishes group membership exclusively either through mothers or the father’s line o In non-western cultures, Uni-lineal descent groups are very common especially in middle level societies (large variety of horticultural and pastoral societies which are neither hunting-gathering nor industrial) o At birth an individual assigned to membership of specific descent group, which may be matrilineal descent (through female line) or patrilineal descent (through male line o Close relationship between descent and culture’s economy -generally patrilineal descent dominates where male is breadwinner (pastoralists and intensive agriculture where male labour is key) -Matrilineal cultures in south Asia, also prominent in Aboriginal Group such as Huron and Iroquois and many parts of Africa including Bemba of Zambia o Just because you are in patrilineal descent, doesn’t mean mother’s side is unimportant, it’s just for the purposes of group membership, so for that mother’s relatives excluded o Even if TROBRIAND islanders keen on matrilineal descent, they also highly regard paternal side (fathers affection for kids is HUGE there) - although children belong to mother’s side, upon marriage, groom and bride’s paternal relatives contribute gifts and throughout life, a man may expect his paternal kin to help him improve his economic/political position and sons expect to inherit personal property from their fathers Patrilineal Descent and Organization o Patrilineal Descent aka agnatic or male descent is more widespread of the two Unilineal descent systems o Male members of a patrilineal descent group trace their descent through other males from a common ancestor o Brothers and sisters belong to the descent group of their father’s father, their father, their father’s siblings and their father’s brother children o A man’s son and daughter also trace their descent through the male line to their common ancestor o In a typical patrilineal group, the responsibility for training the children rests with father or his elder brother o Woman belong to same group as her father and his brothers but her children do not trace their descent through them o A patrilineal culture is very much a man’s world, and often women are in difficult situation (ex: back in the day, women wore tight corsets, now where high heels). Women try to manipulate the system to their own advantage as best they can Matrilineal Descent and Organization o Matrilineal is opposite of patrilineal as it goes through mother’s line o However in matrilineal, the descent does not automatically confer authority o Although patrilineal societies are patriarchal, matrilineal societies are not matriarchal o Women still do not hold exclusive authority in descent its shared with men (brothers, rather than husbands) o Matrilineal systems usually in farming communities where women take on great productive work o In matrilineal system, brothers and sisters belong to the descent group of the mother’s mother, the mother, the mother’s siblings, and the mother’s sister’s children o Males belong to the same descent group as their mother and sister but their children cannot trace their descent through them. o Ex: children of a man’s maternal uncle are considered members of the uncle’s wife’s matrilineal descent group o And a man’s children belong to his wife’s but not his descent group o Common feature in matrilineal systems is weak link b/w husband and wife o Because it is the women’s brother that holds authority, distributes resources, organizes work, etc. NOT the husband o Brothers and sisters maintain better ties but there is risk for ties between husband and wife o More unsatisfied marriages in matrilineal as oppose to patrilineal o Matrilineal clans formed by the basis of IROQUOIAN kinship. - each clan owned a longhouse in which their members lived, matrilocality was preferred and usually long house consisted of an elder woman, her husband, their daughters and families and any unmarried sons - senior women of matrilineages called clan mothers were held in great esteem as they were responsible for overseeing domestic tasks and allocating farmland to the women of the clan - if senior women were opposed to the men heading off to war, they could withhold supplies and men often complied to wife’s and mothers wishes - Clan mothers also play an important role in selecting or demoting chiefs and advisors - The political power of can mother can be likened to that of a senate or president as they had veto power over certain decisions - Greatly respected and the control over resources led early European observers to note this culture is MATRIARCHY - However, Europeans were wrong because “Iroquois culture was egalitarian: neither men nor women dominated the culture” Original Study (The Domus: Households through the ages) o Myriad rules of kinship and descent reflected in residential pattern o Matrilineal culture possess compounds, longhouses, or individual hunts which contain married daughters and their families o Patrilineal cultures feature male membership and are associated with avuncular or to her descent systems o Households occupy a crucial position in the evolution of human society and kinship patterns and it reflects symbolic orders – an area that has had great research in research years o Associates domus (Latin for house) with concept and practice of nursing and caring o Archaeologists and ethnographic studies on household reveals much about the culture living in it o DOGON OF MALI: build their houses resembling a human body, chief’s house at head of village and longhouses of the lineages arranged so they represent limbs of the community o MBUTI PYGMIES: orient their houses so they face friends and relatives and will not face people they dispute with o earliest forms of residence are basecamps of earlier hominids such as Homo Habilis with bases that were little more than a raised platform or a cave entrance safe from predators o these camps emerged monogamous pair bonding in bond groups which was a major step forward in the emergence of what would become a family o base camp is associated with mother, father and children o then later, when humans were mobile hunter-gatherers or forages, little development in architecture of the house o TERRA AMATA, close to nice: series of huts with fireplaces and small poles supported by rocks for walls and larger poles in centre to support roof – for 20 – 40 people and one of world’s first beachfront properties o CZECH REPUBLIC: before a site called Dolni Vestonice where huts made of animal skins -Separate hut has a kiln -Instead of wood, houses were from broad, strong bones, and houses were the centre of the world for socializing o True towns in middle east emerged where agriculture had been adopted and complex settlements developed o Two ex: Jericho – world’s oldest “real houses” were found and Catal Huyuk – symbolism of the first house becomes apparent o CATAL HUYUK: earliest towns and their households held 6000 at a time, each house had its own ritual shrine and housed images of wild animals and their actual remains (auroch, ancestor of cattle) - domesticated the wild ringing remains of animal into interior of houses - No obvious public building, there was an absence of social classes and each household was self-sufficient unit not just economically but spiritually o Linear Band Ceramic (LBK) built long houses over northern, western and central Europe and some of the dead were buried beneath the floor boards “the link between graves and houses were part of a metaphor for continuing life of those humans o Structures were more than just households: 1.they help maintain a sense of order, 2.orienting people’s daily lives and no doubt 3.played a large role in reflecting and determine kinship structure o IROQUOIAN people: lived in long houses and so did Huron and oriented houses in particular order by catching as much sunlight, entrances faced away from prevailing winds with no windows -typically long house lined by sleeping platforms on both sides as a central passageway - Huron residence appears to be matrilocal and the lived with extended family that consists of woman and her daughters or a group of sisters with their husbands and children all of whom normally lived in a long house o Neolithic houses represented a continuation of lineage, immortalised in wood and stone o House form is linked to gender roles and the physical division of the house - Women often at rear of house and entrances often with men Not just a physical space but a conceptual space o House not just material but built of ideas and concepts that reflect and creates lasting kinship ties The Kinkeepers o In most extended families, one person takes responsibility of maintaining formal and informal ties with extended family members o Usually a female, and older woman o Regularly visits families especially with shut-ins and young couples with new baby and organizes holiday gatherings to bring into kin together o Offers emotional support to kin in crisis- usually becomes the primary caregiver for the elderly parents o Reminds other family members of their family obligations an
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