Where Do Our Relatives Come from and Why Do
How Do Human Beings Organize
What Is Friendship?
What Is Kinship?
What Is the Role of Descent in Kinship?
What Role Do Lineages Play in Descent?
The Logic of Lineage Relationships
What Are Patrilineages?
What Are Matrilineages?
Matrilineality, Electoral Politics,
and the Art of the Neutral Partisan
What Are Kinship Terminologies?
What Criteria Are Used for Making
What Is Adoption?
Adoption in Highland Ecuador
What Is the Relation Between Adoption and Child
Circulation in the Andes?
How Flexible Can Relatedness Be?
Negotiation of Kin Ties among the
European American Kinship and New
Assisted Reproduction in Israel
Compadrazgo in Latin America
and the Creation of New Relatives
What Is Marriage/
Toward a Definition of
Woman Marriage and Ghost Marriage
among the Nuer
Why Is Marriage A Social Process?
Patterns of Residence after Marriage
Single and Plural Spouses
What Is the Connection between Marriage and
What Is a Family?
What Is the Nuclear Family?
What Is the Polygynous Family?
Extended and Joint Families
How Are Families Transformed over Time?
Divorce and Remarriage
How Does International Migration
Affect the Family
Families by Choice
The Flexibility of Marriage
Love, Marriage, and
HIV/AIDS in Nigeria
- Human life
is group life; we depend on one another to survive. All societies invent forms
of relatedness to organize this interdependence. People in all societies
recognize that they are connected to certain other people in a variety of ways
and that they are not connected to some people at all. Anthropologists have
traditionally paid closest attention to those formal systems of relatedness
called kinship systems. But anthropologists also draw attention to other forms
of relatedness, like friendship, that may provide ways of counterbalancing
relations with kin. It is important to remember that all forms of relatedness are
always embedded in and shaped by politics, economics, and worldviews.
- To recognize
the varied forms that institutions of human relatedness can take is to
acknowledge fundamental openness in the organization of human interdependence.
New shared experiences offer raw material for the invention of new forms of
common identity. Anthropologists now argue that all communitieseven face-to-face
communitieslarger than a single individual are contingent, “imagined”
communities. That is, all human communities are social, cultural, and
historical constructions. They are the joint outcome of shared habitual
practices and of symbolic images of common identity promulgated by group
members with an interest in making a particular imagined identity endure.
are relatively “unofficial” bonds of relatedness that are personal, affective,
and, to a varying extent from society to society, a matter of choice.
Nevertheless, in some societies, friendships may be so important that they are formalized
like marriages. Depending on the society, friendships may be developed to strengthen
kin ties or to subvert kin ties, because friendship is understood as the
precise opposite of formal kin ties. This illustrates the ways in which people
everywhere struggle to find ways to preserve certain ties of relatedness without
being dominated by them.
- The system
of social relations that is based on prototypical procreative relationships is
called kinship. Kinship principles are based on but not reducible to the
universal human experiences of mating, birth, and nurturance. Kinship systems
help societies maintain social order without central government. Although femalemale
duality is basic to kinship, many societies have developed supernumerary sexes or
- Patterns of
descent in kinship systems are selective. Matrilineal societies emphasize that women
bear children and trace descent through women. Patrilineal societies emphasize
that men impregnate women and trace descent through men. Adoption pays
attention to relationships based on nurturance, whether or not they are also
based on mating and birth.
links members of different generations with one another. Bilateral descent
results in the formation of groups called kindreds that include all relatives
from both parents’ families. Unilineal descent results in the formation of
groups called lineages that trace descent through either the mother or the
father. Unlike kindreds, lineages are corporate groups. Lineages control
important property, such as land, that collectively belongs to their members.
The language of lineage is the idiom of political discussion, and lineage
relationships are of political significance.
terminologies pay attention to certain attributes of people that are then used
to define different classes of kin. The attributes most often recognized
include, from most to least common, generation, gender, affinity, collaterality,
bifurcation, relative age, and the gender of the linking relative.
Anthropologists recognize six basic terminological systems according to their
patterns of classifying cousins. In recent years, however, anthropologists have
become skeptical of the value of these idealized models, because they are
highly formalized and do not capture the full range of people’s actual
prescribing certain kinds of marriage, lineages establish long-term alliances
with one another. Two major types of prescriptive marriage patterns in
unilineal societies are a father’s sister’s daughter marriage system (which
sets up a pattern of direct exchange marriage) and a mother’s brother’s
daughter marriage system (which sets up a pattern of asymmetrical exchange marriage).
kinship statuses can be converted into ascribed statuses by means of adoption.
In Zumbagua, Ecuador, most adults have several kinds of parents and several
kinds of children, some adopted and some not. Zumbaguan adoptions are based on
nurturancein this case, the feeding by the adoptive parent of the adopted
- From the
complexities of Ju/’hoansi kinship negotiations to the unique features of
compadrazgo in Latin America to the dilemmas created by new reproductive technologies
and organ transplantation, anthropologists have shown clearly that kinship is a
form of relatedness, a cultural construction that cannot be reduced to biology.
- Marriage is a social process
that transforms the status of a man and woman, stipulates the degree of sexual
access the married partners may have to each other, establishes the legitimacy
of children born to the wife, and creates relationships between the kin of the
wife and the kin of the husband.
- Woman marriage and ghost
marriage highlight several defining features of marriage and also demonstrate
that the roles of husband and father may not be dependent on the gender of the
person who fills the role.
- There are four major patterns
of postmarital residence: neolocal, patrilocal, matrilocal, and avunculocal.
- A person may be married to only
one person at a time (monogamy) or to several (polygamy). Polygamy can be
further subdivided into polygyny, in which a man is married to two or more
wives, and polyandry, in which a woman is married to two or more husbands.
- The study of polyandry reveals
the separation of a woman’s sexuality and her reproductive capacity, something
not found in monogamous or polygynous societies. There are three main forms of
polyandry: fraternal polyandry, associated polyandry, and secondary marriage.
- Bridewealth is a payment of
symbolically important goods by the husband’s lineage to the wife’s lineage.
Anthropologists see this as compensation to the wife’s family for the loss of
her productive and reproductive capacities. A woman’s bridewealth payment may
enable her brother to pay bridewealth to get a wife.
- Dowry is typically a transfer
of family wealth from parents to their daughter at the time of her marriage.
Dowries are often considered the wife’s contribution to the establishment of a new
- In some cultures, the most
important relationships a man and a woman have are with their opposite-sex
siblings. Adult brothers and sisters may see one another often and jointly
control lineage affairs.
- Different family structures
produce different internal patterns and tensions. There are three basic family
types: nuclear, extended, and joint. Families may change from one type to
another over time and with the birth, growth, and marriage of children.
- Most human societies permit
marriages to end by divorce, although it is not always easy. In most societies,
childlessness is grounds for divorce. Sometimes nagging, quarreling, adultery, cruelty,
and stinginess are causes. In some societies, only men may initiate a divorce.
In very few societies is divorce impossible.
- Families have developed
ingenious ways of keeping together, even when some members live abroad for
extended periods. Gays and lesbians in North America have created families by
choice, based on nurturance, which they believe are as enduring as families
based on marriage and birth.
- Marriage rules are subject to
negotiation, even when they appear rigid. This is illustrated by Iteso
marriage. The Iteso depend on women from the outside to perpetuate their
patrilineages, and the women express their ironic awareness of this fact
through ritualized laughter at marriage.