But not everything in the book. The concepts which... underlined here are excluded you do not need to...

Kinship, Ch. 8, Miller
 You have to learn some basic terminology.
But not everything in the book. The concepts which are
underlined here are excluded you do not need to know
Why study kinship?
 1.Relationships based on kinship are the core of a culture's social
 2. Societies vary in their kinship systems.
Why study kinship?
 3. The kinds and sizes of groups formed using kinship principles, the norms
attached to kin roles and the way people categorize their relatives are diverse.
Sex, marriage and kin
 Marriage organizes sexuality and the production of future generations.
 Descent systems organize inheritance of property.
 Residence and family patterns are related to economic interdependence.
They are expressed in kinship terminology.
Kin terminology
 “Blood” ties: Consanguinity
 (e.g. sister)
 Ties through marriage: Affinity
 (e.g. aunt’s husband)
 Kinship is a social relationship formed either through blood ties or through
 Kinship entails
 – rights,
 – obligations,
 – affection and
 – childcare.
What is kinship?
 Sense of being related to another person(s)
 Set by rules (sometimes laws)
 Often taken for granted as being “natural” rather than cultural
 Cultures define “blood” relative differently
 Kinship is (Miller)
 mainly based on
 descent
 sharing
 marriage
How kinship varies by culture
 Some cultures place importance on one side of the family in preference to the
 Behavior toward relatives that members of one culture regard as normal are
absent in other cultures.
 Societies differ in how they classify the domain of relatives.
Cultural construction of kinship
 As children grow up in a community, they socially learn the logic by which their
culture classifies “relatives”.
 Categories of kinship do not simply reflect biological/genetic relationships.
The KEY Questions
 How do cultures define kinship through descent?
 How do cultures define kinship through sharing?
 How do cultures define
kinship through marriage?
Kinship Characteristics
Kinship Relationships
Descent groups
 Members share descent from a common ancestor through a series of parentchild links.
 Descent establishes kin group membership through the male or female line.
Functions of descent groups
 Provide aid and security to their members.
 Repositories of religious tradition, with group solidarity enhanced by worship of
a common ancestor.
Forms of descent
 Unilineal
– Patrilineal - male line
– Matrilineal - female line
 Cognatic - either male or female line
 Bilateral/bilineal - both male and female lines (less common than unilineal
descent systems)
Unilineal descent
 Unilineal descent establishes kin group membership exclusively through the
male or female line (i.e.some very close “blood relatives” are excluded from
your kin group).
Unilineal descent
 Basis of kinship in 60% of world’s cultures
 Most associated with pastoralism, horticulture and agricultural systems
 Reminder tip:
 Uni : One
 Lineal : Line, something which follows
Patrilineal Descent
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.
 Sources of tension in patrilineal descent groups
 The requirement for younger men to defer to older men.
 Requirement for women to defer to men, as well as to the women of a
household they marry into.
Matrilineal Descent
Matrilileal descent
 Descent is traced through the female line.
 Does not confer public authority on women, but women have more say in
decision making than in patrilineal societies.
 Common in societies where women perform much of the productive work.
 Sources of Tension in Matrilineal Descent Groups
 Husband’s authority lies not in his own household but in that of his sister.
 Unsatisfactory marriages may be ended easily, resulting in higher divorce
rates than patrilineal societies.
Bilineal Descent
 Descent is traced equally from both parents
 Married couples live away from their parents
 Inheritance is allocated equally between siblings
 Dominant in foraging and industrial cultures
Kinship through Sharing
 Basic residence patterns
 Patrilocal
 Matrilocal
 Ambilocal
 Neolocal
 Avunculocal
 Cultures define marriage differently
– different genders
– more than two people involved
– legitimacy of children
– involvement of sexual relations
– rules of exclusion
Marriage in other words is
 a public contract that creates an economic partnership, confers sexual rights,
defines the social identity of offspring and creates an alliance between kin
 Marriage is universal (exceptions e.g. Nayars of India).
Family is
 a group composed of a woman and her dependent children, with at least one
adult man joined through marriage or blood relationship.
 In most societies, families constitute households or households are built
around families.
Function of family
 Nurturance of children.
 Economic cooperation.
 Provide child with models from whom they can learn gender appropriate roles.
Types of family
 Extended family and households contain more than one adult married couple.
(settled agriculture and owning property).
 Nuclear family consists of a married couple and their children.
Nuclear versus extended family
 Compared to nuclear family extended family establishes wider base for child
 establishes larger pool of resources that can be shared
 helps care for elders
 creates tensions among co-resident wives
Nuclear versus extended families
 Extended families - decisions are made by an older individual whose views
may not coincide with those of the younger family members.
Nuclear families - husbands and wives must work out their own solutions to
the problems of living together and having children.
Forms of marriage
 Isogamy
 Polgyny
 Polyandry
 Monogamy
 Hypergyny (What are they? See the book)
Polygamy/plural marriages
Polygamy is illegal in North America, but North Americans do practice serial
monogamy, through multiple marriages and divorces.
 Even in cultures that approve of polygamy, monogamy still tends to be the
norm, largely because most populations tend to have equal sex ratios.
 Polygyny (gyny  female, remember "gynecologist". )one man several
 Polygyny is more common than polyandry because, where sex ratios are not
equal, there tend to be more women than men.
 Polyandry (andro  male, remember "androcentric") one woman several men
 (Quite rare practice)
 Polygamous families - potential conflict among spouses of the individual to
whom they are married.
 Polyandrous families - older husbands are apt to dominate the younger ones.
Serial monogamy
 Serial monogamy = multiple marriages and divorces.
 Incest is sexual relations with a closer relative.
 Incest taboo:
 prohibition of sexual relations between certain categories of relatives.
Incest taboo
 is universal.
What constitute incest varies from culture to culture.
Explaining the taboo
 ·
Instinctive horror
 ·
Family disruption (attempt)
 ·
Childhood Familiarity (contempt)
 ·
Prevention of Inbreeding (biological degeneration)
 ·
"Marry out or die out"
The more accepted argument
 the taboo originated to ensure exogamy (practice of marrying out).
 the adaptive social results of exogamy, e.g. alliance formation, not only
biological degeneration.
 Marrying outside of the group (kin, social, ethnic, religious, economic)
 (Endogamy can be seen as functioning to express and maintain social
difference, particularly in stratified societies).
 Political & economic alliances, affiliation continues
 (e.g. European monarchies, lower social classes)
 In-marrying , marrying within one's own group (kin, social, ethnic, religious,
 Maintains social distance specially in stratified societies (caste, class, race).
 Consolidation of wealth and status
 (e.g. Hawaii, Egypt royal families, elite social classes, most religious groups).
 Endogamy and exogamy may operate in a single society, but do not apply to
the same social unit.