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interpreting kinship through marriage

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1 interpreting kinship through marriage
Alliance theory and Levi-Strauss

2 INTRODUCTION Anthropologists distinguish between descriptive systems of kinship terminology and classifactory systems: Descriptive systems are ones in which lineal and collateral relatives are distinguished. Classificatory systems are ones in which lineal and collateral relatives are NOT distinguished. The distinction between them is not a NATURAL one; no terminological system can be described as a system of classifying relatives ‘naturally’. Lineal relatives are those in a direct line of descent; collateral relatives are ‘off to one side’, e.g. FB=F, MZ=M, FBS=B; MZD=Z.

3 Descent Theory and the Classification of Cousins
However, within many classificatory systems, descent theory cannot explain why there might be a distinction between parallel cousins and cross-cousins. For example, the Dravidian kinship system: Here there is a difference posed between parallel and cross relatives. For example, a FBC and MZC would all be given the same kin term, while FZC and MBC would be differentiated. However, since these are patrilineal descent groups, there is a problem including MZC within the same kin term. Why does this happen? Cannot be explained by descent. But it can be explained through STRUCTURAL MARRIAGE RULES: I.E. RULES OF ALLIANCE.

4 Basic Features of Alliance Theory:
It holds that the basic principle of kinship is the incest taboo: i.e. the near-universal rule that one marries outside of a close category of relatives. In tribal societies, this is expressed at the level of the lineage or clan in the rule of exogamy. The function of this rule is to establish marriage ties BETWEEN lineages and so knit the society together. Most basic form is symmetrical alliance, in which two lineages, groups of ineages or moieties exchange women between them. Levi-Strauss also referred to this as restricted exchange and saw it as disharmonious because only two groups were united in marriage alliances. Basic monad was two kinship groups exchanging women. A different form was asymmetrical alliances, in which wife-giving lineages,wife-taking lineages and others are distinguished and marriages are arranged such that theoretically all lineages can be related to each other in a kind of chain. This Levi-Strauss also termed harmonious exchange. Found in highland south and southeast Asia.

5 An Example of Symmetrical Exchange: The Kareira of Australia
Four section system, two sections subdivided into two more by generation. Karimera and Burung are in a fa son relationship; so are Palyeri and Banaka. Both exchange wives between themselves; i.e. Karimera and Palyeri will exchange women and so will the Burung and Banaka. Entire universe is divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’, those who you cannot marry and those who you can and should. Children of a Karimera man and Palyeri woman will be Burung; children of a Burung man and Banaka woman will be Karimera. Vice-versa if we consider women, since this is a patrilineal society. Other Australian societies are in 8 section systems, in which each of the two are further subdivided. One only has to know one’s father’s lineage in order to know one’s own lineage and who is marriageable.

6 An Example of Asymmetrical Exchange: The Purum of Assam
In Asymmetrical exchange, the lineages can either be ranked or unranked. The Purum are unranked. The Kachin have ranked lineages. The crucial rule in such systems is that a lineage that gives wives to yours cannot also take wives from yours. All lineages are therefore divided into: Wife-giving lineages. Wife-receiving or wife-taking lineages. One’s own lineage. Other lineages with whom marriages have not been contracted. Marriages are with the classificatory mother’s brother’s daughter. Hence women characteristically move in one direction, goods and bride-service move in the opposite direction. (See diagram on board). Can result in marriage in a circle. Women from inappropriate lineages are often adopted into the appropriate lineage. This typically is associated with a dualistic symbolic worldview.

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