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Unformatted text preview: East and Southeast Asia: A Multidisciplinary Survey Colin Mackerras (editor) LYNZE RIENNER PPPP ISHERS BOULDER LONDON 4 Basic social structures and family systems Introduction This chapter attempts to show how domestic and communal life was organised in Asia in traditional times. It has three objectives. Firstly, it intends to familiarise readers with the variety of ways in which Asian people have organised their lives in tradifional society. Secondly, it tries to show some of the ideas and values lying behind these different forms of domestic and community organisation in traditional Asia. Finally, it aims to introduce basic conceptual tools essential to an understanding of various forms of domestic and community organisation in Asian societies. The chapter presents a generalised picture of the situation which existed before modernisation affected the lives of people in Asia. Here caution is called for, since what we sometimes read about other people’s lives does not necessarily correspond to what they have actually done in daily life. Descriptions of the lives of a people are often mixed with their ideals — in other words, what they think they ought to do. To complicate the matter further, some of the ideals presented may not even have been the ideals of the ordinary people, but the ideals of the upper class or the elite of the time. We try to distinguish these two orders of ’reality' in this chapter, for they are conceptually different from each other. This chapter is written on the basis of available anthropological litera- ture. Discussions are limited to four Asian societies, namely Javanese so- ciety in the first half of this century, Minangkabau society (in central Sumatra) in the pre—twentieth century period, Chinese society before the twentieth century and Japanese society from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. The economies of all four societies were prima- rily derived from labour—intensive agriculture, and in this sense they share a common ground. Yet these societies are quite different from one another in their domestic and community organisation. The above time indications are by no means definitive, since no society is static; they should therefore be taken as a rough reference to the time framework of the societies discussed in this chapter, where the ethnographic present tense is sometimes used. 44 Part II: Traditions It is first necessary to clarify what we mean by family and how it dif- fers from household. In the West, family and household are very often used interchangeably, a family meaning a nuclear family sharing a liv- ing. The concept of ’family’, however, is not identical to that of ’house— hold’. Firstly, family is a concept based on kinship (relationship through blood, marriage and adoption), while the concept of household is based on propinquity of residence or co—residence. Secondly, family and house- hold do not always correspond to the same content. There are societies where a nuclear family (one type of family) does not form a household, as we will see later in the case of the Minangkabau, and there are other societies where a household contains members other than family, such as apprentices and servants as in the case of the traditional Japanese ie. In this chapter, the term family means a group of people who are related through kinship, but who do not necessarily share a common residence. Household, on the other hand, refers to a group of people who share a resi— dence, in particular a hearth. Family and household in Javanese society Javanese people are the largest ethnic group in Indonesia. They inhabit the central and eastern regions of the island of Java, the most populous island in Indonesia. The majority live in village communities and engage in wet-rice agriculture, though in the mountainous interior they cultivate manioc in dry fields. They have a distinct language and culture, and the majority adhere to a non—puritan kind of Islam. The basic unit of Javanese society is the nuclear family. When a woman and man marry, a nuclear family is created, and it expands when their children (natural and/ or adopted) are added to it (see Fig— ure 4.1). Marriage in Java is, in the majority of cases, monogamous, but polygyny (where a husband is shared by two or more wives) is permit— ted and, although rare, carries prestige. In the Javanese marriage an emphasis is placed on the establishment of a new, autonomous unit. Therefore, a married couple normally set up their household away from either of the parents’ households. This practice is called neolocal (post- marital) residence. In general, two married couples seldom share the same house in Javanese society. Due to economic or other reasons, how- ever, a young couple may delay establishing their own independent household by living in either of the parents’ houses for a while. When they live with the husband’s parents and share a living with them, the practice is called virilocal residence, while the practice of living with the wife's parents is called uxorilocal residence. Preference for neolocal resi- dence in Javanese society results in the popular occurrence of nuclear- family households. The nuclear»family household is not only the most frequently observed form of domestic organisation, but also the ideal form in Javanese society. Basic social structures and family systems 45 Male Marriage Filiation tie Sibling tie Figure 4.1 The nuclearfamily Most marriages are arranged by parents. They start to seek a suitable marriage partner for their daughter soon after her first menstruation Although the age of marriage for girls appears to be gradually risin it is reported that in the 19505 most Javanese girls were married by the E, e of 16 or 17. Very few women remained unmarried in traditional Javaéiese society. Universality of marriage also applied to Javanese men, though boys usually waited until they could support themselves economically. In the process of finding an appropriate marriage partner pa rents take the Wishes of their children into account. This is important: because the child’s acceptance of the parents’ choice of a marriage partner is inter- plrdeted as acceptance of their future responsibility towards the parents in 0 age. In Javanese society a marriage partner ideally is chosen from a family of a comparable rank or class and of the same religious background as inequality in status and a different religious orientation are thought to produce constant friction. There are very few kinship prohibitions in se- lecting a marriage partner, and step-siblings may marry. This suggests that the Javanese marriage encourages an endoqamous tendenc En- dogmny means that one is prescribed to marry someone from one’znown group. (A group may be defined in terms of kinship, territory or other criteria.) Exogamy, on the other hand, prescribes that a marriage partner should come from outside one’s own group. In Java, exogmnous unions occur in the urban areas where people with different backgrounds and affiliations are likely to meet. Upper-class people, however, are in favour of cndogmnous marriages, as they Wish to retain their status wealth and tradition within their own group. I Children are very much desired by Javanese people. A childless couple therefore, may ask a relative to lend them one of their children temporarily or permanently. It is felt better to lend or borrow a child between female 46 Part ll: Traditions relatives, and the mother's sister is thought to be the most satisfactory and popular candidate. Although movement of children between relatives is quite common, formal adoption (i.e. formal relinquishment of all claims on the child by the natural parents through legal procedures) is rarely contracted. This is interpreted as a safeguard for the parents so that they can expect support from the child in their old age. Both men and women work in the rice fields, but there is a traditionally practised division of labour by gender. Wet-rice agriculture requires the constant supply and control of water. Men engage in digging and cleaning irrigation ditches, repairing the water supply system, making terraces and ploughing the field with or without the use of an animal. Women prepare the seedbeds, transplant seedlings from the seedbeds to the rice fields, and weed and keep an eye on the fields. Women harvest rice by hand with a small knife, thresh the grain, and winnow it by tossing it in the air. A clear division of labour also exists in the Javanese household. Do- mestic work is all performed by the wife. This includes going to market, preparing meals, washing and ironing, sewing children’s clothes and the care of children, as well as the financial management of the household. Javanese men are reported to be emotionally as well as practically de- pendent on women. Most Javanese men give all or a greater proportion of their earnings to their wives to manage, and ask for spending money. This pattern is endorsed by a common belief that women are endowed with thrift and foresight. Few men can actually manage and run the household satisfactorily by themselves. The above indicates that the Java— nese wife has an equal or even dominant voice in decision'making in the household. in family relationships, an emphasis is placed on maternal connection (Le. a woman maintains a close relationship with her family). Male relatives, on the other hand, tend to avoid each other. Thus a father and his grown-up son and adult brothers are not very close. Divorce is quite prevalent in Javanese society, with nearly half the marriages ending in divorce. There are several reasons why divorce is so common in Javanese society. It carries no stigma, whereas spinsterhood does. As it is embarrassing for Javanese parents to have an unmarried daughter who is old enough to be married, such parents arrange a trial marriage for her in order to remove the stigma of spinsterhood. This kind of marriage is likely to end in divorce, but at least the woman was initiated and has become freer than before. Divorce is also quite easy to obtain. There are two more important reasons for the prevalence of divorce. Firstly, Javanese women are not economically dependent on men. Women control the household finances, and participate in cultivation, disposal of produce and financial transactions. Most occupations are also open to Javanese women. A woman can own property (rice field, house, jewellery, etc.) in her own name and can dispose of any of it as she sees Basic social structures and family systems 47 :pipropgate. Legally, Javanese Women and men are given equal rights to m e: inhorn either of their parents, although Islamic law allows twice as uc errtance for a man as for a woman. Secondly, Javanese women main . . . . _ the tam firm ties w1th parents and Sisters. Therefore, in case of divorce y can easrly go to one of their houses and mobilis I Ellie nuclear-family household is the basic unit of an thwo types of family, family of orientation (family Iry‘as _ om) and family ofprocreation (family which 4 2a)rr;:'ligr¢:)b::es quhbasri‘tintfrroups in the life of the Javanese (see Figure . . ese 0 es of family havema‘or obl' ti one another and they can ex ' ] xga OHS towards , pect maxrmum care and su f other. Beyond these the si ‘ ' ' Pport mm eaCh . , gmficance of kinship ties is ver limit ' u a - n ‘ Egiiefsocrlety. Rlightsland obligations towards kin beyonill these tw: arm y are ess c early defined and less str l ' result considerable individualva ' ' ong y sancnoned. AS a , nations are observed It' f thi that theJavanese villa ' ' ' - 15 or sreason ge rs sometimes described as ’100 l ’ anthropologists Des ' ' ’ seysmcmred by . prte this loose structure’ there e ' t ' ' conception of kindred (a network of e ‘ I ' ms 5 a definite . o-orientated, bilaterall l relatives) among the Javanese A g ’ ' y re ated . . person s kindred consists f b h consangumeal (blood) relations and affirm! (' ' ' 0 0t - . _ rn-law) relations and ' various kinds of aid and assistance wh prov‘des ‘ ‘ en needed — for exa l l ' and hospitality assistance at a c' ' ' ( mp e, Odgmg . , rrcumcrsion ceremon d Javanese Villagers are also or ' y an so forth. ‘ g . gamsed on the basis of re id ‘ l ‘ ‘ Maintaining a good relationsh' ' S enha proumfiy' . 1p wrth one's neighbours is ve im _ ort because neighbours are the ones who provide assistancey at time:an emergency and for tasks which require hel from - . . _ 0th . ' ' the prrncrple regulating these neighbourly rglationsthZfs Reelproaty IS e their support. the Javanese village, into which one [ego] one [ego] creates by 4—— Family of orientation 4—— Family of procreation E = Ego (reference point) Figure 4.2 Family of orientation and family of procreation 48 Part ll: Traditions Family and lineage in Minangkabau society The highlands of western—central Sumatra are the homeland of the Minangkabau people, the fourth largest ethnic group in Indonesia. Minangkabau people live in village communities, engage in paddy-rice; agriculture, and practise Islam. The Mmangkabau Village conststs 0 various levels and units of matrilineal groupings. At the highest and largest level, there exists a matrilineal clan (a group of related lineages which share a common unknown female ancestor); at the next level 15 a matrilineal lineage (a consanguineal kin group whose members can trace their descent through females to a female ancestor» and below. them there are matrilineal sub-lineages. People of a matrilmeal sub'lmeage llve together in one house (rumah adat) which forms the ba51c econorruc unit ' kabau socie . 0f lt‘d/ifizlrlgkabau peoplZ’s daily life is centred around the rumah adat (adat house) which is commonly known as a long house because of its shape (see Figure 4.3). The adat house consists of two parts. The front half of the house is an open area used for dining, lounging and entertaining, hold- ing ceremonies and meetings, and sleeping quarters for chlldren and oc- casional guests. The back half of the house is partltioned off mto small compartments called bilik. The size of a bilik is about 3 metres by 4 me— tres. These small cubicles are reserved as sleeping quarters for the. female members of the adat house, especially for married women and their small children and Women of marriageable age. The house could quite large; the largest standing adat house is reported to have twenty blllk, but a nor— mal adat house has about seven. Figure 4.3 Plan of an adat house In Minangkabau society, marriage is not an individual affair between two persons. Various people, including mamak (maternal uncle), mother, father and other relatives, participate in the process of selectmg a suitable Basic social structures and family systems 49 marriage partner. Proposals can be made from either the bride's or the groom’s side, depending on the region. The most desirable marriage is between maternal cross—cousins (cousins whose connecting parents are sister and brother) — for example, a man marries his mamak's daughter (see Figure 4.4). In Minangkabau society, cross-cousins do not belong to the same lineage where parallel cousins on the maternal side are members of the same lineage, and thus a marriage between them is proscribed (lineage cxogamy). A marriage which is not accepted by the relatives of a woman is likely to face difficulties later. Figure 4.4 Maternal cross—cousin marriage Traditionally the Minangkabau woman does not leave her adat house upon marriage, nor does her husband. Both of them continue to stay in their adat houses after marriage (duolocal residence). The husband visits his wife at night, and leaves her house in the morning. This assumes that both houses exist in close proximity and hence encourages village en~ dogamy. As mentioned above, however, the marriage partner must come from another lineage, violation being severely punished by expulsion from the village community. The husband remains a regular and hon- oured guest in his wife’s house, but he continues to belong to his adat house after marriage, and it is to this that his primary allegiance and re- sponsibilities are directed. Therefore, the husband’s position in his wife's house is rather marginal. A newly born infant of the couple automatically becomes a member of the mother’s adat house. The husband/father's economic and domestic responsibility towards his wife and children is minimal, except for gift giving on ceremonial occasions such as circumcision of his sons and marriage of his children. The wife and children’s living is provided by their ruin! house, and the mamak is responsible for the conduct and welfare of his sisters and their children (kemmmkan), and the harmony in the house. The most senior mamak in the house assumes the position of the house-head. 50 Part II: Traditions Minangkabau women do much of the agricultural work, and arebalso involved in home industries such as cloth and mat weavmg and em :05- dering Many also sell agricultural produce and crafttprioduocti: iplzrger - ban centre 0 o s 1' la e market, and some even travel to an or i . _ ' mgrket Women participate extenswely in househoéd d§c1sion millfilgfi ' I .tof the day-to- ay ec15ions, Senior women of the house make mos ' d th 19 ' ' ‘ lending and borrowmg, an e sa include matters regarding land use, d I th ded- ' handicrafts. Men are consulte in e of agricultural produce and - . b t ior ' ' ' ' d lineage matters, u sen sions involvm religious ceremonies an . women’s opinigns often prevail, though they do not necessarily lead the discussion. . ' - Divorce and separation are frequent in Minangkabau society. Mlost eo 1e marry more than once. When divorce or death of a Wife / mot er Eccfrs her children remain in the mother's adat house, and reggflar per- ” d the children cease to e main— sonal contacts between the father an _ . I tained, but the father (or more strictly speaking, his adat house) cfpnttiriifis to give ceremonial gifts to them. Minangkabau women can e ec iv u); support and care for their children for a long period Without afny t111p from their husbands, because the woman’s adat house prOVides or em, and women are the owners of property. Men in Minangkabau society own no property, but they mafnage ant: expand it for their sisters and their sisters' children. There are our to obtain access to cultivated land, which is the most valued proper y in Minangkabau society: 1 by inheritance; 2 by money; 3 by labour; and 4 by gift. Ancestral land is transmitted through the female line and cogsidere: inalienable. Both newly purchased landand land newly openedt‘ y a (misfits becomes the ancestral property sf his lineagegtgiécaause ace etween a ma , . gifdfvgfslgaghearielizlh::aaizldired by his OWn effort goes to his sislters’ Cl“: dren (kemmmkmi). If a man wishes to give what he has persona y ragga” to his children, he may arrange it through gift. This arraggemen , “Siva ever, involves the agreement of all parties concerned an an expe fealf/ien in Minangkabau society do not really have a hOLIISC or a placae (8): their own. Small boys (after the age of 6 or 7) begin to s eep 11:}: lirOyan house attached to a village mosque where they learn to relcfite :n is di- at night. They continue to sleep there until they marry. a the mat vorced, or widowed, he again lives in the prayer house. Even in WhiCh house of his origin, dayrto-day affairs are carried out by women, Basic social structures and family systems 51 further reinforces his marginality. This lack of roots of the Minangkabau man intensifies in the case of a mnmak who occupies no position such as the house—head or lineage elder. This marginality of men in Minangkabau society is one of the factors that has facilitated them to migrate or com- mute to other parts of Indonesia for educational and /or commercial pur— suits. The economic opportunities available to men have changed the traditional pattern of marriage, and created a trend towards uxorilocality and neolocnlity in recent ti...
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