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Marriage and the Family A. Marriage Defined B. The Universality of Marriage C. How Does One Marry? D. Whom Does One Marry? The Universality of Incest Taboo E. How Many Does One Marry?Based on thorough reading of the topic, students should be able to: ● Define marriage. ● Explain the reasons for the universality of marriage. ● Analyze the rules for how one marries in a given society. ● Critique the various restrictions on marriage including the incest taboo, whom one marries, and how many does one marry. ● Show the variation of family and family structure throughout various societies. A. Marriage Defined Marriage is one of the various culture universals. By this, anthropologists mean that it is practice observedby majority of societies all over the world. However, this does not mean that everyone in such societies gets married,nor does it indicate that societies that practice marriage observe the same marriage rites and rituals. How onemarries, whom one marries, and even how many one marries will vary from society to society. The only culturaluniversal about marriage is that no society permits people to marry parents, brothers, or sisters. Marriage is defined a “socially approved sexual and economic union between a man and a woman”. It ispresumed, by the couple and others, to be more or less permanent, and it subsumes reciprocal rights and obligationsbetween the two spouses and their future children.The Nayar “Exception” There is one group of people in the ethnographic literature that did not have marriage, in the sense thatmarriage was defined above. In the 19th century, a caste group in southern India called the Nayar seems to havetreated sex and economic relations between men and women as things separate from marriage. About the time ofpuberty, Nayar girls took ritual husbands. The union was publicly established in a ceremony during which thehusband tied a gold ornament around the neck of his bride. But from that time on, he had no more responsibility forher. Usually, he never saw her again. The bride lived in a large household with her family, where she was visited over the subsequent years byother “husbands.” One might be a passing guest, another a more regular visitor; it did not matter, providingthe “husband” met the caste restrictions and was approved by her kin group. He came at night and left the followingday. If a regular visitor, he was expected to make small gifts of cloth, betel nuts, and hair and bath oil. If the father ofthe child, or one of a group who might be, he was expected to pay the cost of the midwife. But at no one time was heresponsible for the support of the own or her child, nor did he have any say in the upbringing of his biologicalchildren. Rather, her blood relatives retained such responsibilities. Whether or not the Nayar had marriage depends, of course, on how we choose to define marriage.Certainly, Nayar marital unions involved no regular sexual component or economic cooperation, nor did they involveimportant reciprocal rights and obligations. According to our definition, then the Nayar did not have marriage. But theNayar were not a separate society – only a caste group whose men specialized in soldiering. The Nayar situationseems to have been a special response to the problem of extended male absence during military service. In morerecent times, military service ceased to be a common occupation of the Nayars, and stable married relationshipshave become the norm. Because the Nayar were not a separate society, they are not an exception to our statementthat marriage, as we have defined it, has been customary in all societies known to Anthropology.Rare Types of Marriage
In addition to the usual male-female marriages, some societies recognize marriages between persons of thesame biological sex. But such marriages are not typical in any known society and do not fit the usual type ofmarriage. First the unions are not between males and females; second, they are not necessarily sexual unions. Butthese “marriages” are socially approved unions, usually modeled after regular marriages, and they often entailconsiderable number of reciprocal rights and obligations. Sometimes the marriages involved an individual who isconsidered a “woman” or “man” even though “she” or “he” is not that sex biologically.Activity: The following are cultures with “rare” types of marriages. Research on them and share with theclass what you find out about them. Should you come across other “rare” types, you are encouraged topresent your findings in class. a. Berdaches (of Cheyenne Indians) b. Azande marriages (in Azande Africa) c. Nandi (of Kenya, Africa) B. The Universality of Marriage Several explanations have traditionally been offered to explain why all human societies have the custom ofmarriage. Each explanation suggests how marriage solves problems found in all societies: how to share the productsof a gender division of labor; how to care for infants, who are dependent for a long time; and how to minimize sexualcompetition. The comparative study of other animals, some of which have something like marriage, may help toevaluate these explanations. ● Gender Division of LaborMales and females in every society known to anthropology perform different economic activities. As long as thereis gender division of labor by gender, society has to have some mechanism by which women and men share theproducts of their labor. ● Prolonged Infant DependencyHumans exhibit the longest period of infant dependency of any primate. The child’s prolonged dependency placesthe greatest burden on the mother, who is the main child tender in most societies. The burden of prolonged child careby human females may limit the kinds of work they can do. They may need the help of a man to do certain types ofwork, such as hunting, that are incompatible with childcare. ● Sexual CompetitionUnlike most female primates, the human female may engage in intercourse at any time throughout the year. Somescholars have suggested that more or less continuous female sexuality may have created a serious problem– considerable sexual competition between males and females. It is argued that society had to prevent suchcompetition in order to survive, that it had to develop some way of minimizing the rivalry among males for females inorder to reduce the chance of lethal and destructive conflict. ● Other Mammals and Birds: Postpartum Requirements None of the theories mentioned above explains convincingly why marriage is the only or the best solution toa particular problem. Evidence from other animals shows that like humans, animals have some sort of stable female-male mating. Most species of birds, and some mammals such as wolves and beavers, have “marriage”. One factor inanimal “bonding” may help explain human marriage. Animal species in which females can simultaneously feedthemselves and their babies after birth (postpartum) tend not to have stable matings; species in which femalescannot feed themselves after birth tend to have stable matings. Among the typical bird species, a mother would havedifficulty feeding herself and her babies simultaneously. Because the young cannot fly for a while and must beprotected in a nest, the mother risks losing them to other animals if she goes off to obtain food. But if she has a malebonded to her, he can bring back food or take a turn watching the nest. When humans began to depend on certainkinds of food-getting that could be dangerous (such as hunting), mothers could not engage in such work with their
infants along. C. How Does One Marry Societies vary remarkably on marking the onset of marriage. Some of the ways societies mark marriageinclude: a. Elaborate rites and rituals b. Economic transactions before, during or even after the onset of the marriagesElaborate Rites and Rituals Many societies have ceremonies marking the beginning of marriage. But others, such as the Taramuit Inuit,The Trobriand Islanders of the South Pacific, and the Kwoma of New Guinea, use different social signals to indicatethat a marriage has taken place.Research: Find out how the societies mentioned above mark the onset of marriage. How do they compare tothe rites and rituals of your own society?Economic Aspects of Marriage “It’s not man that marries maid, but field marries field, vineyard marries vineyard, and cattle marry cattle.”This German saying seems to indicate the economic considerations in marriage. Such transactions include: a. Bride price or bride wealth – gift of money or goods from the room or his kin is given to the bride and her family. Bride price occurs all over the world but is most common in Oceania and in Africa. Payment can be made in different currencies; livestock and food are two of the most common. The Subanon of the Philippines is reported to have the most expensive bride price. Check the link (litera1no4.tripod.com/subanon_frame.html.)This practice is most likely to occur in societies where they practice horticulture, which lack stratification, where women contribute a lot to primary subsistence activities, and where males dominate decision-making in the household. Displaying the Tafuliae shell money for a bride-price in North Malaita. b. Bride Service- requires that the groom work for the bride’s family, sometimes before the marriage begins, sometimes after. An example of a society which practices this is the Eskimos of North Alaska. Native North and South Americans were also likely to practice bride service, particularly if they were egalitarian food collectors. c. Exchange of females- the exchange of as sister or a female relative is exchanged for the bride. Examples of societies which practice this include the Tiv of West Africa and the Yanomamo of Brazil. These societies are horticultural, egalitarian, and to have a relatively high contribution of women to primary subsistence activities.
The Yanomamo of Brazil practice exchange of females, while the Andaman Islanders practice gift exchange between families of couples about to be married. d. Gift Exchange – involves the exchange of gifts of about equal value by the two kin groups about to be linked by marriage. Among the Andaman Islanders, respective sets of parents whose children will marry send gifts of food and other objects to each other through a third party. This arrangement continues until the marriage is completed and the two kin groups are united. e. Dowry – a substantial transfer of goods or money from the bride’s family to the bride. A family has to have wealth to give a dowry, but because the goods go to the bride, no wealth comes back to the family that gave the dowry. Payment of dowries was common in medieval and Renaissance Europe, where the size of the dowry often determined the desirability of the daughter. The practice is still being observed by families in certain parts of eastern Europe and in sections of southern Italy, where land is often a major item provided by the bride’s family. f. Indirect dowry – payments to the bride that originate from the groom’s family. The goods are first given to the brie’s father, who passes most, if not all of the gifts, to the bride. This is practiced by the Basseri of southern Iran, where the groom’s father assumes the expense of setting up the couple’s new house. The pictures above show a dowry ceremony. The bride’s family waits for the arrival of the groom and his family. Guests are often entertained by songs and dances. Some of the items the bride and her family received. The groom with part of his gift. D. Whom Does One Marry? The Universality of Incest Taboo Incest taboo, the rigid regulation on marriage and found in all cultures, prohibits sexual intercourse ormarriage between some categories of kin. The most universal aspect of incest taboo is the prohibition of sexualintercourse or marriage between mother and son, father and daughter, and brother and sister. No society in recenttimes has permitted either sexual intercourse or marriage between those pairs. A few societies in the past, however,did permit incest, mostly within the royal and aristocratic families, though generally it was forbidden to the rest of thepopulation. For example, the Incan and the Hawaiian royal families allowed marriage within the family. Probably thebest known example of incest involved Cleopatra of Egypt. It seems clear that the Egyptian royalty indulged in father-daughter and brother-sister marriages. Cleopatra
was married to two of her younger brothers at different times. The reasons seem to have been partly religious – amember of the family of the pharaoh, who was considered a god, could not marry any “ordinary” human – and partlyeconomic, for marriage within the family kept the royal property undivided. But despite these exceptions, the fact remains that no culture we know of today permits or accepts incestwithin the nuclear family. Several explanations attempt to explain why. 1. Childhood Familiarity Theory - suggested by Edward Westermarck, argued that persons who have been closely associated with each other since earliest childhood, such as siblings, are not sexually attracted to each other and therefore would avoid each other in marriage. 2. Family Disruption Theory - associated with Bronislaw Malinowski, suggests that sexual competition among family members would create so much tension that the family could not function as an effective unit. Because the family must function effectively for it to survive, society has to curtail competition within the family. The familial incest taboo is thus imposed to keep the family intact. 3. Cooperation Theory – was proposed early on by Edward B. Tylor , and elaborated later by Leslie Ward and Claude Levi-Strauss. It emphasizes the value of the incest taboo in promoting cooperation among family groups and thus helping communities to survive. As Tylor saw it, certain operations necessary for the welfare of the community can be accomplished only by large numbers of people working together. 4. Inbreeding Theory – focuses on the potentially damaging consequences of inbreeding, or marrying within the family. People within the same family are likely to carry the same harmful genes. Inbreeding then will tend to produce offspring who are more likely to die early of genetic disorders than are the offspring of unrelated spouses. Whom Do We Marry? It is misleading to conclude that societies all over the world marry for love. The majority of marriages simplydo not occur in so free and coincidental a way in any society. In addition to the incest taboo, societies often haverules restricting marriage with other persons, as well as preferences about which other persons are the mostdesirable mates. 1. Arranged Marriages – when marriages are handled (negotiated) by the immediate families or by go- betweens. 2. Exogamy and Endogamy - the rule of exogamy means marriage partners often must be chosen from outside one’s own kin group or community; while endogamy obliges a person to marry within some group. 3. Cousin Marriages A. Cross-cousins – siblings of the opposite sex; that is, a person’s cross-cousins are father’s sisters’ children and mother’s brothers’ children. This is a practice among Chippewa Indians. B. Parallel cousins – are children of siblings of the same sex: father’s brothers’ children and mother’s sisters’ children. The Kurds, who are mostly Sunni Muslims prefer to marry father’s brothers’ daughters. 4. Levirate and Sororate A. Levirate – a custom whereby a man is obliged to marry his brother’s widow, such as for instance among the Chukchee of Siberia. B. Sororate – obliges a woman to marry her deceased sister’s husband. E. How Many Do We Marry? Monogamy - marriage involving one man and one woman Polygamy – multiple marriages a. Polygyny – marriage of one man to a number of females
b. Polyandry – marriage of one female to many menFour Possible Forms of MarriageForm of Marriage males femalesMonogamy =Polygamy Polygyny = + Polyandry + =Group marriages + = +Polygynya. Sororal polygy – a man is married to two or more sistersb. Non sororal polygyny - co-wives are not sistersPolyandrya. Fraternal polyandry – husbands are brothersb. Non fraternal polyandry – husbands are not brothers