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Studying kinship.

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Gideon Peter Caringal Social Anthropology IB1 - February 2004 Kinship Essay Kinship Essay When studying kinship, it is needless to say that just one type of society can justify for kinship patterns; rather, to be able to identify and understand the differences of kinship systems, one needs to do a cross-cultural comparison. I've decided to compare the system of the Trobriand Islanders of the South Pacific, to the very loose kinship arrangement of the Ju'wasi San of the Kalahari. These two societies have been chosen as they represent different levels of social, cultural, and technological complexities. The Ju'wasi were gatherers and hunters, living in small, mobile groups; the Trobrianders were horticulturists living in villages of up to 400 people. The Trobrianders (Malinowski: early 20th century and Powell: mid 20th century) live in some 80 villages whose populations range from 40 - 400. These villages are further divided into hamlets, and each hamlet consists of a matrilineage, or a dala (a group of men related to each other through the female line, along with their wives and children). A dala is a corporation that controls land. Each dala had its origin in a brother/sister pair who claim a plot of land. ...read more.


There is no formal marriage ceremony; the girl simply overnights at her boyfriend's house. In the morning, if the bride's parents approve of the marriage, the mother will bring in yams for breakfast. Later, the groom's father and maternal uncle begin collecting bridewealth (generally things of high value) to give to the wife's kin and her father. The requirement of bridewealth makes young men dependent on members of their matrilineage. One reason men marry is to obtain yams. To them, yams are not just food but are valuable symbols or objects of wealth and are used as gifts to create and keep relationships among people. The amount and quality of yams stored and displayed by a man are indications of the regard in which his wife's kin holds him, and of his status in the community. For the Ju'wasi, courtship, sex, and marriage are learnt at an early stage in life too. Ju'wasi men usually marry for the first time between the ages of 18-25, when they are able to hunt and work for their wives' parents (brideservice). Marriage is important for a man for a number of reasons: it marks him as an adult, he gains a sex partner, and he gains a mate to provide his food. ...read more.


For the Ju'wasi women (and man), it makes little sense to use motherhood as a way of creating obligations and ties (due to sacrifice and suffering for rearing their children)-children, for the Ju'wasi, don't owe anything to their parents, and therefore there's no need for bridewealth or dowries. The dynamics of the Ju'wasi families are dependent on the need to maintain independence. Moreover, the yams they receive are a kind of payment for the children their wives produce who are members of the wife's and brother-in-law's dala. Again, the distinct differences provide a sense of distinction between kinship patterns. For example, while the Ju'wasi have little wealth to contend for, the links men create with their wives' families are based not on wealth but on labour. Another is the distinction between the Ju'wasi and Trobriand paradigms. The Trobriand follow a strict belief of spiritual conception while the Ju'wasi have to some extent understood the scientific paradigm of conception through sexual intercourse. So in the end, it is needless to say that kinship structure is a defining factor in how societies function. The structure and dynamics of family life clearly show how societies differ from one another both in system and in function. ...read more.

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