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a203-11f-19-FamilyKinshipDescent - Introduction to Cultural...

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Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: Class 19 Family, kinship, and descent Copyright Bruce Owen 2011 - So, we have seen that gender identity is socially constructed - that leads us naturally to marriage and sex - which then leads us to descent - descent : rules to identify and categorize ancestors and offspring - which leads us to kinship - kinship : rules to categorize and interact with ancestors, offspring, and other relatives (our kin ) - which in turn plays a big role in creating personal identities and structuring marriages and families - remember that “culture is integrated” and “culture can be understood as a system” - each of these parts (identity, gender, marriage, descent, kinship) is profoundly shaped by the others, and affects the others in turn - you can’t really understand any one in isolation - each only makes full sense in the context of all the rest - Marriage, family, and kinship are… socially constructed - meaning: - many forms are possible - nature does not define how marriages and families are set up - cultures develop any of many possible solutions - so the forms of marriage, families, and how we name and handle relations with other kin are variable from one culture to the next - in our culture, we think of (or construct) marriage as being - a personal choice made by two people - mostly having to do with romantic love, sex, and friendship - this reflects our egocentric concept of personhood in general - many, if not most, societies see marriage very differently - as a relationship established between two groups of kin - not just the couple - marriages are often negotiated by the families of the bride and groom - the couple may or may not have much say - often the bride or groom can make suggestions about potential partners that the families take as starting points for negotiation - or can veto suggestions made by their families - in some societies, the families can make arrangements before the bride or groom are even born… like the Ju/’hoansi - the families typically negotiate exchanges of goods and/or labor between the groups - or make choices based on political alliances - or make choices based on how the marriage will affect the social status of the families - the kin groups then have obligations towards each other
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Intro to Cultural Anthro S 2011 / Owen: Family and kinship p. 2 - obligations to raise the children - rights to the labor of one or both spouses and/or the children, etc. - obligation to replace a spouse if he or she dies too soon! - if a wife dies, her relatives may be obliged to provide a replacement wife, typically the deceased wife’s sister - this practice is called the sororate - if a husband dies, his relatives may be obliged to provide a replacement husband, typically the deceased husband’s brother - this is the practice of levirate - these practices can salvage the complex economic, political, and social commitments that were negotiated between the two families - if a man dies right after his wedding binds two families together, it makes sense for
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a203-11f-19-FamilyKinshipDescent - Introduction to Cultural...

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