Marriage: Definitions and Variations


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Defines marriage in two ways; focuses on sambandham practice among Nayar; defines the varieties of multiple marriage; looks at functions of marriage

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Marriage: Definitions and Variations

  1. 1. Marriage Definitions and Variations
  2. 2. Defining Marriage: General Issues <ul><li>Defining marriage is not an easy task: some ceremonies are simple, such as among the Trobrianders, who announce the fact in front of the man’s family’ house and that is it. </li></ul><ul><li>In North America, there is usually an extensive ceremony that involves ritual, ring exchange, and usually expensive festivities. </li></ul><ul><li>Among the Nayar, the practice of sambandham stretches the definition even further . Such as it is, the couple doesn’t even live together. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Common Elements of Most Definitons of Marriage <ul><li>There are legal or customary sanctions that reinforce the tie; we have family law </li></ul><ul><li>There are economic aspects; marriage does involve a household economy. </li></ul><ul><li>Social recognition is often required for validation. </li></ul><ul><li>Haviland said it best: mating is biological; marriage is cultural. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Defining Marriage: Notes and Queries Definition <ul><li>Named after a Royal Anthropological Institute newsletter </li></ul><ul><li>The definition is as follows: “A union between a man and a woman such that children born to the woman are recognized legitimate offspring of both parents </li></ul>
  5. 5. Operative Term: Legitimate Offspring <ul><li>Legitimacy is culturally defined. </li></ul><ul><li>It refers to the fact that children born of male-female unions that are culturally approved are allowed full membership in their culture </li></ul><ul><li>That also means that they have a right to inherit and have other rights pertaining to their birth and to their status in society. </li></ul><ul><li>Children of nonlegitimate unions have no such membership or rights </li></ul>
  6. 6. Polygyny and Concubinage: Rights of Offspring <ul><li>Polygyny refers to m arriage of one man to many women. </li></ul><ul><li>These Marriages are “legally” recognized, inasmuch as children of all unions (upper left in Nigeria) have birthrights </li></ul><ul><li>Concubinage/Concubines is different: </li></ul><ul><li>This refers to a union in Imperial China that did not involve full rights; the offspring did not inherit or obtain full rights of their imperial or noble fathers </li></ul><ul><li>Yet, concubine Wu Zetian (left) overthrew the empress and became an empress herself; sometimes poetic justice does occur. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Nayar: An Introduction <ul><li>We mentioned the Nayar of the Malabar Coast, SW India, who comprised the warrior caste in India </li></ul><ul><li>They were organized into matrilineages called taravad. </li></ul><ul><li>Women lived with their brothers: they formed consanguine families , as suggested in this drawing. </li></ul><ul><li>Brother and sister did not mate because of incest tabus. </li></ul><ul><li>Each taravad was linked ceremonially with other taravads through a Tali ceremony </li></ul>
  8. 8. Nayar Sambandham: Tali Ceremony <ul><li>Tali ceremony entailed the initiation of prepubescent girls into womanhood </li></ul><ul><li>Girls “married” to boys from other taravads (left: a taravad residence) </li></ul><ul><li>After the ceremony, each boy put a tali or gold chain around each girl’s neck. </li></ul><ul><li>Each couple was secluded for a few days, and afterward they took a bath for purification </li></ul><ul><li>Afterward, there was no obligation except for a period of woman’s mourning on death of her “husband ” </li></ul>
  9. 9. Sambandham: A Description <ul><li>After the Tali ceremony, the woman now had a right to entertain men at night, after dinner and before breakfast </li></ul><ul><li>This was a formal relationship, and gifts were expected from the man 3 times/year. </li></ul><ul><li>The relationship involved sexual intercourse, and she had children by this means. </li></ul><ul><li>No other obligations were involved. </li></ul><ul><li>Up to 12 liaisons might be ongoing (not during the same night, of course) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Sambandham: Relationship and Child Legitimacy <ul><li>However, there were restrictions whose violation could invalidate the relationship: </li></ul><ul><li>Men had to be outside the woman’s taravad. </li></ul><ul><li>Men had to be Hindus: no Muslims or Christians were allowed </li></ul><ul><li>Men had to be of the warrior or Brahmin caste </li></ul><ul><li>Legitimation involves the following: upon childbirth one man paid the midwife for delivery costs, thereby recognizing legitimacy. </li></ul><ul><li>If no man did so, illegitimacy was suspected </li></ul>
  11. 11. The Nayar Household: Consanguineal Family <ul><li>This meant that the child was reared by the mother and mother’s brother </li></ul><ul><li>This implied two concepts of “father,” namely the </li></ul><ul><li>Genitor: The biological father—in this case the male visitors, and the </li></ul><ul><li>Pater: The social father, who was the woman’s brother and the child’s mother’s brother. </li></ul><ul><li>Brother, sister, and her children comprised the consanguineal family. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Redefining Marriage <ul><li>There are other examples of these variations: </li></ul><ul><li>Nuer: Woman marriage, or marriage between a barren woman and one who was fertile. </li></ul><ul><li>Kwakiutl: Man marriage, often as a way for a lower-class male to climb the hierarchy. </li></ul><ul><li>Haviland offers a updated definition: “The relationship between one or more men (male or female) with one or more women (male or female) who are recognized by society as having claim to the right of sexual access to one another” </li></ul>
  13. 13. Functions of Marriage/Nuclear Family <ul><li>George Peter Murdock’s Social Structure argues the following: Nuclear families (upper left) are embedded in larger family units, such as extended families (lower left) or polygynous families </li></ul><ul><li>There are universal functions of nuclear families: </li></ul><ul><li>Sexual gratification </li></ul><ul><li>Gender division of labor </li></ul><ul><li>Reproduction </li></ul><ul><li>Enculturation </li></ul>
  14. 14. Sexual Gratification <ul><li>Sexual behavior allowed through a legitimate channel—namely, that marriage does the following: It diminishes sexual competition, and lessens disruption through jealousy </li></ul><ul><li>A problem with this explanation is that sexual behavior often occurs outside wedlock, and how about multiple marriages? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Gender Division of Labor <ul><li>Gender-assigned labor, Murdock argues, relieve spouse of a block of tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Jobs are assigned according to males for their strength in doing heavier and dangerous tasks (above). </li></ul><ul><li>Women handle domestic tasks, including child care—jobs that can be interrupted to attend to the child. </li></ul><ul><li>This Erigbaatgsa woman of Amazonia planting a garden is one example </li></ul>
  16. 16. Drawbacks of Explanation <ul><li>Women are often active outside home, such as long-distance trade; women do most of the open-air markets </li></ul><ul><li>Women also perform strenuous tasks (left: Yanomamo women bringing in loads) </li></ul><ul><li>They perform dangerous tasks as well, (e.g. this Atga woman hunting in the Philippine mountains). </li></ul><ul><li>Navajo women were the first sheep herders—and they are matrilineal and matrilocal </li></ul>
  17. 17. Reproduction <ul><li>Both sexes required for reproduction </li></ul><ul><li>Assumption that Murdock makes is that the genitor and pater roles are exercised by the same man </li></ul><ul><li>There are exceptions; we have seen the separation of genitor from pater roles among the Nayar. </li></ul><ul><li>Mother’s brother performs pater role in many matrilineal societies; the Trobriand Islanders, who practice avunculocal residence, are one example. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Nurturance and Enculturation <ul><li>Family has primary role of child rearing, according to Murdock </li></ul><ul><li>Usually mother provides nurturance for the dependent infant. </li></ul><ul><li>Robin Fox argues that the primary bond is mother-child, with or without family. </li></ul><ul><li>Beyond this, enculturation may occur within other institutions </li></ul><ul><li>East Africa: Boys are reared within the age grade, age set system. </li></ul><ul><li>In New Guinea, boys are reared in men’s houses </li></ul><ul><li>Trobriand Islands: Mother’s brother rears the boy. </li></ul><ul><li>Then there are the consanguineal families </li></ul>
  19. 19. Types of Marriage: A Typology <ul><li>Main types of marriage are the following: </li></ul><ul><li>Monogamy : One man marries one woman </li></ul><ul><li>Serial monogamy: multiple partners in lifetime but never at the same time </li></ul><ul><li>Polygamy: Multiple marriages </li></ul><ul><li>Polygyny: One man marries two or more women </li></ul><ul><li>Polyandry: One woman marries two or more men </li></ul><ul><li>Group Marriage (Polygynandry): More than one man, marries more than one woman—this type is rare and doesn’t last long. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Polygyny <ul><li>This is found among societies with intensive female labor: horticulturists, pastoralists (top) </li></ul><ul><li>Extra hands are always welcome, mitigating co-wife jealousy. </li></ul><ul><li>This is often found in societies with wealthy men </li></ul><ul><li>It is often a potential source of division between the sons of co-wives; notice the “fault lines” between sons of different co-wives (bottom diagram) </li></ul><ul><li>Large herds are usually reduced by such division </li></ul>
  21. 21. Sororal Polygyny: A Mitigating Factor <ul><li>Sometimes sororal polygyny, or marriage in which sisters from the family of orientation (of their birth) allow some stability. </li></ul><ul><li>Sibling familiarity breeds (some) harmony, because each woman knows at least one other from birth. </li></ul><ul><li>Tension between sisters who are co-wives is minimal compared to co-wives who are nonsisters </li></ul>
  22. 22. Polyandry <ul><li>Found in fewer than a dozen societies, including Tibet (upper left), Nepal, and northern India </li></ul><ul><li>Fraternal polyandry is practiced in Tibet, involving marriage of one woman to two or more men who are brothers to each other </li></ul><ul><li>There is only one child bearer, (lower left) so there is no division between the men. </li></ul><ul><li>In mountainous regions, arable land is scarce, so it helps to maintain land as one parcel </li></ul><ul><li>Polyandry also controls population growth </li></ul>
  23. 23. Same-Sex Marriage <ul><li>Woman marriage (Nuer and Nandi) is a classic ethnographic example </li></ul><ul><li>Both societies are pastoralists in East Africa </li></ul><ul><li>Mothers with no sons has no one to inherit man’s property; being barren is looked upon poorly throughout Africa and often leads to divorce </li></ul><ul><li>The barren woman “marries” a young woman: the second woman provides male heirs the barren or sonless woman lacks. </li></ul><ul><li>The first woman becomes the “female” husband/father, and actually enhances her status—as a “man” </li></ul>
  24. 24. Conclusion of Marriage <ul><li>We have looked at definitions of marriage </li></ul><ul><li>We have seen the possible variations of marriage. </li></ul><ul><li>Sambandham stretches the concept </li></ul><ul><li>There are multiple marriages </li></ul><ul><li>There are same-sex marriage </li></ul><ul><li>How do they influence family and household structure? This is next. </li></ul>