FINAL ESSAY - Anthropology 101.006 Question 3 One of the...

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Anthropology 101.006 Question 3 One of the most essential things that every person must have in order to live a happy and successful life is kinship. But what exactly is kinship? While most would answer by saying that kinship is based on genetics alone, many people do not realize that they are, in fact, involved with many different kinship groups, because “kinship and biology don’t always converge.” (Kottak 2011: 446) After examining the kinship systems in Guests of the Sheik and In Search of Respect , there are clear differences in the roles of family members, ideas of marriage, respect levels, and the social construction of families in El Nahra and Harlem. However, it is often questioned whether these differences are based on the social world that the characters live in or the particular individuals that they interact with on a daily basis. I believe that peoples’ actions are a direct result of their cultural influence, as shown in both novels. Additionally, the authors immersed themselves in a new cultural setting, using their past experiences to examine the family structures in El Nahra and Harlem, and essentially entering the kinship groups of their key consultants by forming close relationships with them. While Fernea and Bourgois’ past experiences shaped the novels, we must consider that their ethnographies would likely change if their life experiences were different. In Guests of the Sheik, the values of family and marriage are extremely different than those in Harlem. In El Nahra’s agricultural society, inheritance of property and wealth is based on family lineage, ensuring that status in society is associated with family. During marriage, the wife must marry within her status, and the father of the bride must approve the husband prior to the wedding. Marriage is considered very holy and the couple has children shortly after the marriage and lives near their relatives. When Selma and Kulthum asked Beeja where her mother was, Beeja stated that in El Nahra “to be alone without any of one’s womenfolk was clearly the
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greatest disaster which could befall any girl,” (Fernea 1965: 36) which demonstrates the close relationships between family members and proves the importance of family in their lives. Additionally, the typical family in El Nahra supported polygamy and held a patriarchal model: the man was the leader of the household, and while he had to support many wives and children, the husband always had a deep respect for his family. For example, Abdulla, the sheik’s older brother had married both Bassoul and Khariya. Kariya stated, “When Bassoul gets money for a new abayah, he [Abdulla] asks me whether I need one. And he divides his nights equally between us.” (Fernea 1965: 170) To the average American, this treatment may not be considered respectful, but in El Nahra, this type of respect is extremely important to a family structure and is prevalent in many households. In El Nahra, family plays an extremely important role in customs,
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This note was uploaded on 02/17/2011 for the course ANTHRCUL 101 taught by Professor Kirsch during the Fall '08 term at University of Michigan.

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FINAL ESSAY - Anthropology 101.006 Question 3 One of the...

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