Anthropology Essay Exam - 1 Nirali Patel February 22, 2010...

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1Nirali PatelIntroduction to Cultural AnthropologyFebruary 22, 2010Recitation Section: Mondays at 11:00Trial Marriages: !Kung vs. United StatesThe !Kung have an institution called a “trial marriage.” A trial marriage “involves asimulated marriage situation—a rehearsal for the real thing—in which a couple lives together,often for a set length of time, before making a real commitment” (Wallechinsky and Wallace).Usually, if the couple wishes to separate after the trial marriage, it is easy for them to do sowithout a feeling of failure or bad conscience. Dissolving a committed marriage is far moredifficult. If the prospective bride has a child or is pregnant at the end of the trial period, marriagemay be obligatory in some cultures. Margaret Mead, the noted anthropologist, suggests a two-stage marriage. “The first stage, individual marriage, would involve a commitment between twopeople, who would agree not to have children. Easy to dissolve, individual marriage would lastas long as both spouses wanted it to. The second stage, parental marriage, based on the intent tohave children, would involve far more; the couple would have to show that they could support achild, would go through a formal ceremony, and would be expected to stay together for life”(Wallechinsky and Wallace).Trial marriage compares to some social relationships in modern day United States. Trialmarriage best compares to a couple in an out-of-wedlock relationship living together. Marriage isfalling out of fashion. “Once the most popular living arrangement for couples, marriage is beingoverlooked by a growing number attracted to cohabitation” (Cohabitation: Trial Marriage orLack of Commitment?). Many couples are selecting a substitute or “trial alternative” to marriage.As a result, marriage is becoming more like buying a car—people want a “test drive” before they
2sign the dotted line. The reasons for choosing a “trial marriage” are varied. Some people feel it isnot the right time for marriage while others think living together is the best insurance againstdivorce. Cohabiting has become a norm in modern United States. “The number of marriagespreceded by cohabitation rose from about 10 percent in 1965 to over 50 percent by 1994”(Cohabitation: Trial Marriage or Lack of Commitment?).In the book,Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Women, by Marjorie Shostak, Nisaexplains how a woman can marry more than once in her lifetime; a !Kung girl is actually marriedseveral times before she stays with one man. These are trial marriage; the women are too youngto want the marriage and usually are the ones to end it. “If a girl is determined that she will neverfeel any affection for her husband she can insist on ending the marriage... Most !Kungexperience one long-term marriage, although most are also married more than once. Dissolutionof marriages by divorce is quite common. It usually occurs during the first few years of a

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Term
Spring
Professor
Sanabria

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