kinship and descent - Ameeta Singh Tiwana

 Whom would you go to if you needed help?
*  Monetary, fixing your house, settle a
dispute with your neighbor?
 Specialized personnel or
 Relative = Kin
Kinship Defined
 Consanguineal kin or blood relatives
 Affinal kin or relatives by marriage
 Fictive kin
*  Socially recognized members of the family
  Adopted
individuals, milk brothers and sisters
  Long term family friends, godparent - godchild
*  What kin terms do we use for them?
*  Do we expect the same as we do from our
actual kin?
Function of Kinship
 Kinship forms the basis for
*  Ascribing status and role and defining behavior
*  social organization
*  Social grouping
  Production,
inheritance, marriage etc.
*  The single most important factor contributing to social
 If not Kinship what forms the basis for social
organization in the US?
 How are they different from Kin groups?
Importance of kinship
 Scottish Folk Rhyme
  Adam
Smith was disowned by all his kith
  But he was supported through thick and thin by all
his Kin
 Arabic saying
  I
against my brother;my brother and I against my
cousins; I, my brother and my cousins against the
 Why has kinship become so unimportant?
  When
president’s son is appointed vice president?
 Why is nepotism unacceptable?
*  Using family ties as the basis for handing down
favors usually desirable jobs
Using Kinship Diagrams
Descent Rules
 Descent
*  rules which determine which set of kin to
affiliate with
*  leads to formation of social groups
 Unilineal Descent
  about
60% of societies
  Patrilineal, Matrilineal
 Nonunilineal Descent
  Ambilineal,
Double descent, Bilateral
Unilineal Descent
 Patrilineal Descent (~45%)
*  An individual belongs to the descent group of
the father
*  all siblings and children of only the males
belong to the descent group
  this
does not mean they are any less attached to their
*  Traditional China, Yanomamo, Nuer, India,
The Patrilineal Descent System
Unilineal Descent
 Matrilineal (~15%)
*  trace descent through the female line
*  complimentary to patrilineal descent
*  not a matriarchy, men still have power and
authority (mother’s brother)
*  property and political office passed to his
sister’s son
  ceremonial
and ritual roles performed by men
*  Trobrianders, Navajo, Cherokee, Iroquois, Zuni
The Matrilineal Descent System
Unilineal Descent Groups
 Lineages
*  Unilineal descent group approx. 10 generations
*  trace descent to a common ancestor through
known genealogical links
  patrilineages,
*  Lineages are corporate groups
Descent Groups
 Clans
*  10 or more generations deep
*  descended from a common ancestor but are
unable to trace descent through known
genealogical links
  Patriclans
and Matriclans
 When clans and lineages found together, clans are made
up of a number of different lineages
*  Not corporate functioning groups or residential
units, associated with totems
Functions of Unilineal Descent
 Defines membership, shapes a person’s identity
 Regulate marriage
*  Kin must approve, provide and share bride wealth
 Regulate property
*  Group allocates pieces of land and livestock
 Maintain social order
*  Lineage is accountable for crime
*  Compensation or revenge
 Firm base of security and protection
NonUnilineal (Cognatic) Descent
~ 40% of world’s societies
 Double descent or Bilineal
*  individual belongs to both mother’s and
father’s group (movable and immovable
property passes down different lines)
*  5% of world’s societies
*  Yako of Nigeria
NonUnilineal Descent
 Ambilineal
*  can affiliate with either the father’s or mother’s
kin (can change through life)
*  greater flexibility, weaker groups loyalties,
cohesiveness and impact on lives of its
 Bilateral Descent
*  individual related equally to mother’s and
father’s kin
*  Collection of bilateral kin
*  not a group in its true sense, but a network of
interlocking social relations
*  Kindred is ego oriented rather than ancestor
*  No two individual’s
(except siblings)
have the same kindred, overlapping kindred
*  not a corporate group - no joint ownership, not
economic and residential units
Eskimo System
 In approx 1/10 of the world’s societies
 Major features
*  Emphasizes the nuclear family by using separate terms
that are not used outside
*  Beyond the family many other relatives are lumped
*  Is associated with bilateral descent
*  Found in societies where economic conditions favor
independent nuclear families e.g U.S and food
collecting societies
Hawaiian System
 In approx 1/3 of the societies
 Major features
*  Uses a single term for all relatives of the same
sex and generation (collateral kin same term)
*  In the egos’s generation the only distinction is
based one based on sex
*  Uses the least number of terms, is associated
with ambilineal descent
Iroquois System
 Emphasizes the importance of unilineal
descent groups by distinguishing members
of one’s own lineage from others
*  F and FB called by the same term but not MB;
Mother and MZ called by the same term but not
*  Parallel cousins given the same terms as
siblings but not cross cousins
Omaha System
 Particularly emphasizes patrilineal descent
*  F and FB called by the same term; Mother and
MZ called by the same term
*  Equivalent terms used for parallel cousins and
*  On the mother’s side of the family there is
merger of generations
  All
men regardless of age and generation in mothers
partilineage are mothers brothers
  Mothers lineage si less important
Crow System
 Concentrating on matrilineal rather than
patrilineal descent
 Mirror image of Omaha system
*  Mother’s side of the family, which is the
important descent group, generational
distinction are recognized
Sudanese System
 Is the most descriptive (particularistic)
*  Makes the maximum number of terminological
  Ego
has eight different types of first cousins
  Associated with patrilineal descent
  Found in societies that have considerable differences
in wealth, occupation and social status
Classification of Kin
 Kinship classification
*  the most important regulator of behavior
*  Ascribes status and role, outlines rights and
*  Six basic kinship classification systems
Phratries and Moieties
 Phratries
*  Composed of two or more clans
*  Significant social, political and religious groups
  Found
in traditional Aztec society
 Moieties
*  Societies are divided into 2 moieties
  Large
exogamous units
  Seneca Indians