descent group

Chapter 21
Kinship & Descent
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What Is Kinship?
 What Are Descent Groups?
 What Functions Do Kin-ordered
Groups Serve?
What are Kinship & Descent
As all human groups meet and overcome
obstacles such as the regulations of sexual
practices, child rearing, subsistence, and
the overall care of the household, ways to
deal with these human challenges must be
Everyone in a group will have certain
responsibilities and play a particular role.
We will examine these roles and
responsibilities through kinship and descent
Kinship is a network of relatives
within which individuals possess
certain mutual rights and obligations.
 To better organize kinship lines is
through the usage of descent groups.
Descent Groups
A descent group is any kin-ordered social
group with a membership in the direct line of
descent from a real (historical) or fictional
common ancestor.
Members share descent from a common
ancestor through a series of parent-child links.
Common way to organize a society along
kinship lines.
Provides members with a wider social network
to better conquer daily needs like food, water,
and shelter.
Descent Groups
There are a variety of ways that descent
can be traced according to the particular
culture in which it is found. Which is most
likely a North American descent pattern?
Unilineal descent
Descent that establishes group membership
through either the mother’s or the father’s
Matrilineal descent
Descent traced exclusively through the
female line to establish group membership.
Descent Groups
Patrilineal descent
 Descent traced exclusively through the male line to
establish group membership.
Ambilineal descent
 A person has the option to affiliate themselves with
either their mother or father’s descent group.
Double descent
 Rare system when both patrilineal and matrilineal
descent is recognized at the same time.
Bilateral descent
 When descent derives from both the mother and
fathers families equally.
Unilineal Descent Groups
Two major forms of unilineal descent groups are the
lineage and the clan.
 Lineage
• A unilineal kinship group descended from a
common ancestor or founder who lived four to six
generations ago, and in which relationships
among members can be stated genealogically.
 Clan
• An extended unilineal kinship group, often
consisting of several lineages, whose members
claim common descent from a remote ancestor,
usually legendary or mythological. Identification
might be reinforced by Totems.
Patrilineal Descent Groups
Male members trace their descent
from a common male ancestor.
 A female belongs to the same descent
group as her father and his brother.
 Authority over the children lies with
the father or his elder brother.
Patrilineal Descent Diagram
Matrilineal Descent Groups
Descent is traced through the female
 Women do not hold public authority,
rather they share it with men.
Although they do hold considerable
power in decision making than in
patrilineal societies.
 Common in horticultural societies
where women perform much of the
productive work.
Tracing Matrilineal Descent
Lineage Exogamy
Characteristic of all lineages is exogamy.
As previously defined one must marry
outside of a particular group.
Since marriage is between two lineages and
not just two individuals:
 Lineage members must find their
marriage partners in other lineages.
 This curbs competition for desirable
spouses within the group and promotes
group solidarity.
Lineage to Clan
If the kinship group’s membership
becomes too large to be manageable
or too much work for the lineage;s
resources to support the group may
 This is known as fission- the splitting
of a descent group into two or more
new descent groups.
The belief that people are related to
particular animals, plants, or natural
objects by virtue of descent from
common ancestral spirits.
 Although the word stems from the
Native American Ojibwa, totemism is
found in many areas of the world.
Organizational Hierarchies
This diagram shows how lineages, clans,
phratries, and moieties form an
organizational hierarchy. Each moiety is
subdivided into phratries, each phratry is
subdivided into clans, and each clan is
subdivided into lineages.
Phratries and Moieties
Apart from lineages and clans there are two
other ways to organize groups. These are
known as Phratries and Moieties.
A unilineal descent group composed of two
or more clans that claim to be of common
ancestry. If only two such groups exist, each
is a moiety.
Each group that results from a division of a
society into two halves on the basis of
Bilateral Kinship
Descent groups are not common to all
societies. Bilateral kinship similar to
bilateral descent groups establish that
everyone is equally related in their blood
Considering the size of this family then
one much define the close relatives or
the kindred- an individuals close blood
relatives on the maternal and paternal
sides of their family.
A small circle of paternal and maternal
 A kindred is never the same for any
two persons except siblings.
 EGO is the central person from whom
the degree of each relationship is
The Kindred
Kinship Terminologies
The Hawaiian system
 The Eskimo system
 The Iroquois system
 Least found worldwide
Omaha system
 Crow system
 Sudanese system
 Kariera system
 Aranda system
Eskimo System
Eskimo System: Kinship reckoning in
which the nuclear family is
emphasized by specifically identifying
the mother, father, brother, sister,
while lumping together all other
relatives into broad categories such
as uncle, aunt, and cousin. May also
be referred too as lineal system.
Eskimo System
Notice and locate EGO’S father and mothers are distinguished from EGO’S aunts
and uncles, and siblings from cousins.
Hawaiian System
Hawaiian System: Kinship reckoning
in which all relatives of the same sex
and generation are referred to by the
same term. May also be called the
generational system.
 This system reflects the absence of
strong unilineal descent. Both mother
and father’s members are viewed
Hawaiian System
Notice that men numbers 2 and 6 are called by the same term as father (3) by
EGO. The women numbers 1 and 5 are called by the same term as mother (4).
All cousins of EGO’S own generation 7-16 are considered brothers (B) and
sisters (Z)
Iroquois System
Iroquois system: Kinship terminology
wherein a father and father’s brother are
given a single term, as are a mother and
mother’s sister, but a father’s sister and
mother’s brother are given separate
Parallel cousins are classified with
brothers and sisters, while cross cousins
are classified separately, but (unlike
Crow and Omaha kinship) not equated
with relatives of some other generation.
Iroquois System
EGO’S fathers brother (2) is called by the same term as father (3); the mothers
sister (5) is called by the same term as the mother 94) but the people
numbered 1 and 6 are each referred to by a distinct term. Those people
numbered 9-14 are all considered siblings, but 7, 8, 15 and 16 are cousins.