Rules of Descent: How Kin are Reckoned
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Rules of Descent: How Kin are Reckoned

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Describe bilateral and unilineral descent, which in turn is divided into patrilineal, marilineal, and double descent.

Describe bilateral and unilineral descent, which in turn is divided into patrilineal, marilineal, and double descent.

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Rules of Descent: How Kin are Reckoned Rules of Descent: How Kin are Reckoned Presentation Transcript

  • Rules of Descent Bilateral and Unilineal Kinship
  • What is Descent?
    • You are descended from your mother and father by one generation.
    • You are descended from your two grandfathers and two grandmothers by two generations.
    • Of course, there are complexities: divorce, adoptions, and widowhood. But we have to start with the simple assumptions of a perfect world. These issues come later in a more advanced course.
    • When you trace these relationships back, one generation at a time, you have descent, especially when you trace them back to an ancestor.
    • Descent, in short, comprises the rules by which you reckon your kin based on your ancestry.
  • Why Descent?
    • Descent involves biology; we are dealing with biological constants.
    • Descent is the basis of the world’s original form of social organizations; it forms the basis of economics, politics, and much else that involves non-industrial societies.
    • It becomes the framework for organizations that are extensions of the family
    • It also is a means of exclusion; not everyone can be included in a particular descent group
    • Descent divides parts of a large population into groups of manageable size.
    View slide
  • Overview of Descent
    • First, we look at the notations on kinship charts and what the figures and line represent.
    • Second, we look at the system of descent most familiar to us: bilateral descent.
    • Third, we examine the two types of unilineal descent: patrilineal and unilineal
    • Fourth, in learning these rules, we ask you to perform the exercises in Chapter 7 on pp. 72-80 and follow the charts contained in the chapter.
    View slide
  • Principles of Descent: Notation System
    • Figures on the chart represent the following:
    • Triangles: males
    • Circles: females
    • Squares: either sex
    • Lines represent the following:
    • Vertical: generational link
    • Horizontal above figures: sibling link
    • Equal sign or horizontal line below figures: affinal (related through marriage) kin
    • All charts have a central figure called Ego, which in this diagram is male.
  • Principles of Descent: Diagrams
    • Use these and other diagrams to follow the discussion in the next several slides
    • Bilateral: one reckons kin through both sexes equally (top)
    • Unilineal: one reckons kin through the male line only or the female line only
    • Patrilineal: the male line only (lower left)
    • Matrilineal: the female line only (lower right)
  • Bilateral Descent: Description
    • Definition: The reckoning (recognition) of kin through both the male and female sides equally.
    • This means that your father’s relatives are no more important than your mother’s relatives.
    • The cousins through your father’s side are no more important than those on your mother’s side.
    • The term itself reflects this process.
    • Bi -means that you are recognizing two of something
    • - lateral means that you are recognizing kin on your father’s side and your mother’s side.
  • Bilateral Descent Rules: Diagram
    • This diagram reflects the definition of bilateral descent.
    • All the figures on this chart are colored green, indicating affiliation with Ego.
    • Emphasis is on closeness or distance of kin laterally
    • Bilateral reckoning is inclusive
    • Non-kin mechanisms does the exclusion; see the next two panels to see why and how.
  • Exercise in Kinship Reckoning
    • Exercise: Give the first name of all 4 of your grandparents
    • Now mention the first names of all the siblings of all 4 of your grandparents; have you forgotten some of them?
    • Now mention the first name of all 8 of your great grandparents; have you forgotten some of these?
    • Look at how many kin you would have to keep track of: 16 great great grandparents; 64 great great great grandparents; 128 great grandparents four times over.
    • And we’re not counting all their siblings (brothers and sister), their cousins, and their children.
  • Descent is As Social as It Is Biological
    • With that many people, you have to cut down on your potential relatives to manageable size.
    • Biological kin are socially selected in various ways
    • In Anglo-American society, bad memory does the selection.
    • Among the Gilbertese of the South Pacific, which land rights or community seat you choose determines who will be in one bilateral group or another.
    • Other cultures have other means of excluding bilateral kin.
    • As we’ll see in unilineal descent, exclusion is automatic and emphasis is on descent lines, not on sides.
  • Bilateral Descent: A Close-Up Diagram
    • If you look at EGO, he has two parents, a male and a female
    • He is linked to other relatives through both parents—regardless of sex.
    • For example, Cousin No. 22 is no more or less a cousin than Cousin No. 26.
    • Aunt No. 3 is no less an aunt than Aunt. No. 9
    • That’s why we say that bilateral reckoning is inclusive.
    • Everyone on this chart is kin
    • We’ll compare this chart with a unilineal chart later
  • Unilineal Descent: Explanation
    • Unilineal descent is very different from bilateral descent.
    • First, only one sex or the other is involved, not both.
    • In patrilineal descent, males only determine who will be a member of a descent group and who will not.
    • In matrilineal descent, females only determine who will be a member of a descent group and who will not.
    • In the next slide, look how members are recruited in both cases.
  • Descent Rules: Unilineal
    • To repeat, unilineal descent is a rule of affiliation with a group of kin with descent links to the ancestor through one sex only
    • Patrilineal : Only male kin are reckoned, in a line of fathers and sons.
    • Matrilineal: Only female kin are reckoned, in a line of mothers and daughters.
    • Emphasis is on line of kin of the same sex, not on the father’s or the mother’s side. See next slide for an exercise that may clarify..
  • Patrilineal Descent: Exercise Part I
    • Copy blank chart from p. 70 of Cultural Anthropology: A Concise Introduction and get a blue pen, pencil, or marker.
    • Use surname with P, for Patrilineal; the surname used as the book’s example is Petrosian
    • Name by number those persons
    • Whose surname (last name) is Petrosian at birth;
    • Who retain the surname Petrosian after marriage; and
    • Who pass the surname Petrosian on to the children.
    • Using your blue pen, mark the figures that match this description. Go to next slide for answer.
  • Patrilineal Descent: Exercise Part II
    • If you marked the figures with the following numbers, you’re correct: 1, 7, 19, 41, 9, 23, 45, 25 (EGO), and 47.
    • What do they all have in common?
    • (1) Each represents the son of a man; this would be true of 1 if we showed his father. (We have to stop somewhere.)
    • (2) Each figure is part of a line of males.
    • Error I: If you missed one, go to the instructions of the previous panel.
    • Error II: If you marked one that doesn’t belong, explain to yourself why that figure doesn’t fit.
    • Look at the diagram on p. 75 of the book to compare your results with the book’s. We’ll get to the half shaded figures in a moment.
  • Patrilineal Descent: Exercise Part III
    • Now go back to the chart and shade the figure on its left side those who are:
    • Born with the surname of Petrosian.
    • Who give up the surname Petrosian for another surname when married.
    • Who do not pass the surname Petrosian down to their children.
    • See answer next panel
  • Patrilineal Descent: Exercise Part IV
    • If you left-shaded the figures with the following numbers, you are correct: 6, 22, 42, 28, 46, and 48 (Ego’s daughter).
    • Error I: Again go back to the instructions if you left a correct figure out.
    • Error II: If you left-marked a figure that doesn’t belong, explain to yourself why that figure doesn’t fit.
    • Compare your results with the chart on p. 75. What do all these left-marked figures have in common? (There are two features.)
  • Patrilineal Descent: Exercise Part V
    • Now go back to our chart and right-shade those figures that are
    • Born without the surname Petrosian;
    • Obtain the surname Petrosian upon marriage; and
    • Pass the name Petrosian down to their children
    • Again, see answer next panel
  • Patrilineal Descent: Exercise Part VI
    • If you right-shaded the figures with the following numbers, you are correct: 2, 8, 20, 10, 24, and 26 (Ego’s wife).
    • Error I: Again go back to the instructions if you left a correct figure out.
    • Error II: If you right-marked an incorrect figure, explain to yourself why that figure doesn’t fit
    • Compare your results with the chart on p. 75. What do those right-marked figures have in common?
  • Patrilineal Descent: Exercise, Part VII, Or Making It Personal
    • Repeat the same exercise, this time using the surname of your own.
    • Use another chart with same format and a blue pen, marker, or pencil.
    • If you are female, used your family or maiden name, not your married one.
    • Compare the results of the chart for your name with that of Petrosian; are there any differences? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Lessons From This Exercise
    • We reckon our kin bilaterally; under law, rules of inheritance absent a will assigns property equally to sons and daughters; cousins are reckoned the same, regardless of whose side of the family they are born into, BUT
    • Our surnaming system is patrilineal.
    • It goes down the male line: father to son to son.
    • The daughters acquire their name from their fathers, but they do not pass it down to their own children nor do they keep it (usually) when married.
  • Patrilineal and Bilateral Descent Compared: Affiliation
    • Bilateral descent is shown to the left; patrilineal descent is shown to the right.
    • Observe that the women as well as the men are included in bilateral descent; both pass their affiliation to their children
    • Observe also that women born into the group are included in patrilineal descent, but unlike the men, they do not pass their affiliation to their children.
  • Patrilineal and Bilateral Descent Compared: Affiliation by Line Versus Side
    • Again, bilateral descent is shown to the left; patrilineal descent is shown to the right.
    • Also note that the men in patrilineal descent form an unbroken line from father to son only; sex matters.
    • Descent is lineal —in other words, line of descent is stressed.
    • In bilateral descent, women and men pass their descent down to their children equally; sex doesn’t matter.
    • That means that everyone on the mother and father’s side is included; the laterality of descent is emphasized.
  • Matrilineal Descent
    • There are also cultures in the world in which descent is passed down from mother to daughter and to the daughter’s daughter.
    • This is a complete reversal of sex roles; women, not men, determine the affiliation.
    • Affiliation is centered around a line of females, not males.
    • Repeat the exercise, now emphasizing descent through females
    • The next exercise repeats the one on patrilineal descent—but for matrilineal descent.
  • Matrilineal Descent: Exercise, Part I
    • Copy the chart on p. 71 with female ego shaded (No. 26); use red pen, pencil, or marker
    • Use surname starting with M for Matrilineal; in the book I use Miller.
    • Name by number those persons
    • Who have the surname Miller at birth
    • Who retain the surname upon marriage
    • Who pass the surname on to the children
  • Matrilineal Descent: Exercise Part II
    • If you marked the figures with the following numbers, you’re correct: 4, 10, 26 (Ego), 48. 28, 28, 50, 12, 32, and 54
    • What do they all have in common?
    • (1) Each represents the daughter of a woman; this would be true of 4 if we showed her mother. (We have to stop somewhere.)
    • (2) Each figure is part of a line of females.
    • Error I: If you missed one, go to the instructions of the previous panel.
    • Error II: If you marked one that doesn’t belong, explain to yourself why that figure doesn’t fit.
    • Look at the diagram on p. 77 of the book to compare your results with the book’s. We’ll get to the half shaded figures in a moment.
  • Matrilineal Descent: Exercise Part III
    • Now go back to the chart and shade the figure on its left side those who are:
    • Born with the surname of Miller.
    • Who give up the surname Miller for another surname when married.
    • Who do not pass the surname Miller down to their children.
    • See answer next panel
  • Matrilineal Descent: Exercise Part IV
    • If you left-shaded the figures with the following numbers, you are correct: 13, 23, 47 (Ego’s son), 49, 29, and 53.
    • Error I: Again go back to the instructions if you left a correct figure out.
    • Error II: If you left-marked a figure that doesn’t belong, explain to yourself why that figure doesn’t fit.
    • Compare your results with the chart on p. 77. What do all these left-marked figures have in common? (There are two features.)
  • Matrilineal Descent: Exercise Part V
    • Now go back to our chart and right-shade those figures that are
    • Born without the surname Miller;
    • Obtain the surname Miller upon marriage; and
    • Pass the name Miller down to their children
    • Again, see answer next panel
  • Matrilineal Descent: Exercise Part VI
    • If you right-shaded the figures with the following numbers, you are correct: 3, 9, 25 (Ego’s husband). 27, and 31 (Note: the full shade is a typo; it should be right-shaded).
    • Error I: Again go back to the instructions if you left a correct figure out.
    • Error II: If you right-marked an incorrect figure, explain to yourself why that figure doesn’t fit
    • Compare your results with the chart on p. 77. What do those right-marked figures have in common?
  • Matrilineal and Bilateral Descent Compared: Affiliation
    • Again, bilateral descent is shown to the left; but now, matrilineal descent is shown to the right.
    • Observe that the women as well as the men are included in bilateral descent; both pass their affiliation to their children
    • Observe also that men born into the group are included in matrilineal descent, but unlike the women, they do not pass their affiliation to their children.
  • Matrilineal and Bilateral Descent Compared: Affiliation
    • Again, bilateral descent is shown to the left and matrilineal descent is shown to the right.
    • Also note that the women in matrilineal descent form an unbroken line from mother to daughter only; sex matters.
    • Descent is lineal —in other words, line of descent is stressed.
    • In bilateral descent, women and men pass their descent down to their children equally; sex doesn’t determine affiliation.
    • That means that everyone on the mother and father’s side is included; the laterality of descent is emphasized.
  • Principles of Unilineal Descent Restated
    • Kin not directly descended through one sex from ancestor are excluded
    • Those with females in line of patrilineal descent are excluded
    • Those with males in line of matrilineal descent are excluded
    • Who’s left?
    • Patrilineal kin: an unbroken line of males
    • Matrilineal kin: an unbroken line of females.
  • Double Descent
    • A few cultures in the world reckon their kin through both patrilineal and matrilineal descent.
    • If you consider that we have a patrilineal naming system in a bilateral society, this should not appear to be so strange.
    • But double descent is not the same as bilateral descent; it is a combination of both unilineal systems.
  • Double (Unilineal) Descent
    • Definition: The coexistence of patrilineal and matrilineal descent in the same culture.
    • Patrilineal descent exists for some purposes
    • Matrilineal descent exists for other purposes.
    • Compare the bilateral diagram on p. 73 of the text with double descent diagram on p. 79.
    • Are some people excluded on p. 79 who would not be excluded on p. 73? A partial answer is on the next panel.
  • Double Descent: The Case of the Yakö
    • Yakö of SE Nigeria show that some people are indeed excluded.
    • Living in a dense community called Umor, the Yakö combined cultivation with cattle herding
    • They had a system of property divided between the sexes
    • Male property comprised land, trees, houses, and cattle.
    • Female property included household items, coins.
    • They also had a unique system of inheritance
    • All immovable property was inherited patrilineally
    • All moveable property was inherited matrilineally
    • This leaves us a riddle; see next slide.
  • A Riddle: Who Has the Cow, Man? (Sorry, Bart)
    • Here is the riddle:
    • By definition of patrilineal inheritance, immoveable male property is inherited by sons from their fathers: land, houses, orchards.
    • Female property which is moveable. is inherited by daughters from their mothers: household goods, fruits from the orchards.
    • Yet cattle, which is male property. is moveable
    • Therefore it is inherited matrilineally
    • Question: from the herdsman (No. 13 on the diagram on p. 79 or on p. 77), who inherits the cattle?
    • Hint: The heir has to be consanguineal kin.
  • Give Up?
    • The cattle go from the mother’s brother (Bo. 13) to sister’s son (No. 29, or No. 23 or No. 25)
    • This relationship is known as the avunculate, the relationship between mother’s brother.
    • It recurs in other societies; this is well-known in The Trobriand Islanders, for example
    • A Kanguru legend involves this relationship.
    • If you’re interested, check it out on www.unis.org/class/anthro/Rabbit_and_Hyena.htm
  • Importance of Descent
    • Bilateral descent: allows flexibility of kin reckoning; you can actually select whom to associate with in some societies
    • Unilineal descent entails automatic inclusion and exclusion of kin based on sex of linking relative
    • Both types form the basis of economic rights and obligations, of political affiliation and alliances, and even ancestral worship.
  • Coming Up Next
    • The roots of kinship, namely sex and gender, is next—and they are two different concepts.
    • Marriage, including its definition and varied functions
    • Family types that arise from marriage, including multiple marriages and postmarital residence
    • Larger kin units and groups that are extensions of the family.
    • How marriages form political alliances
    • Kinship terminology: what it reflects