PhD scholar Anthropology
What is Kinship?
• The bond of blood or marriage which binds people together in group.
• According to the Dictionary of Anthropology, kinship system includes
socially recognized relationships based on supposed as well as actual
genealogical ties. These relationships are the result of social interaction
and recognized by society.
Types of kinship:-
• Affinal Kinship (marital relationships)
Relationships based upon marriage or cohabitation.
• Consanguineous kinship (blood relations)
connections between people that are traced by blood.
. Lineal kins:- direct decedents
. Siblings:- brothers, sisters
. Collateral kins:- related through indirect relationship e.g. father’s brother
Why is kinship important to people
• Status in society( Decent, Lineage)
• Whom to marry.
Why is it of interest to us (anthropologists)
• Kinship is important in understanding how societies are
organized and how they worked.
• Kinship also has political and economic aspects.
Kin types and Kin terms
• Kin terms are the labels given in a
particular culture to different kinds of
• Biological kin type refers to the degree of
actual genealogical relatedness.
• Tracing of kinship relationships through parentage .
• Identify ancestry.
• Assign people to social categories, groups, and roles on the basis
of inherited status.
• People trace ancestry through either the mother’s or father’s line,
but not both.
• About 60 % of kinship systems are unilineal.
• In many societies descent groups assume important corporate
functions such as land holding.
• Most prevalent.
• Established by tracing descent exclusively
through males from a founding ancestor.
• Both men and women are included but only
male links are utilized to include successive
• Tends towards male dominated power-
• Among 45% of all cultures.
• The worlds most strongly patrilineal
systems are found in east Asia, South Asia,
and Middle East (see Everyday
Anthropology on page 188)
• Established by tracing only through female ancestor.
• A man’s children are not included in his matrilineal group but his sisters are,
this makes him important as an uncle.
• Property is inherited through female line.
• Matrilineal descent exists in about 15 % of all cultures.
• Mostly found among foragers and in agricultural and horticulturalist
e.g. Trobriand Islanders, khasi tribe.
• Found in many native North
American groups, Central Africa,
Southeast Asia and Pacific,
Australia, Eastern and Southern
India, Northern Bangladesh etc.
• The Minangkabou of Indonesia are
the largest matrilineal group in the
world.(Culturoma on Page 190)
• Traces kinship from both parents equally.
• Found in about one-third of the worlds cultures(Murdock 1965).
• Treat relatives on one side just like on the other- symmetrical.
• “aunt” applies to father’s sister and mother’s sister without distinguishing which
side. e.g. Toda of Southern India and Northern America.
• Does not function as a group except at weddings and funerals.
• Little generation depth.
• No leader.
• People choose the descent group that to belong to.
• Since each generation can choose which parent to trace decent
through, a family line may be patrilineal in one generation and
matrilineal in the next.
• E.g. when a man marries a women from a politically or
economically more important family, he may agree to let his
children identify with their mother’s family line to enhance their
prospects and standing with the society.
•Marriage :- A socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract
between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them.
• Two rules of marriage:-
1. Endogamy:- the social rule which states that a partner must be selected
from person’s own social group.
2. Exogamy:- the rule which proclaims that a partner must be chosen from a
group different from one’s own.
Anthropologists frequently use diagrams to illustrate kinship relationships to make
them more understandable.
= deceased female
= deceased male
= female ego
= male ego
= unknown gender
Relationship kin abbreviations
= married to
= is cohabiting
= divorced from
= adopted female
= adopted male
= descended from
= sibling of
Mo = mother
Fa = father
Br = brother
Z = sister
H = husband
W = wife
Da = daughter
So = son
Co = cousin
• We will try to trace our kinship by making a
genealogy, up to our grand parents.
• B.R. Indrani, 2016, Anthropology, the study of man, S.Chand India.
• C.R. Ember, M. Ember, P.N. Peregrine,2015, Anthropology, Pearson
• D.N.Majumdar, T.N.Madan,2017, An introduction to social
anthropology, Mayur paperbacks India.
• Family and Kinship, ppt by Jomar Joseph Cioco.
• Kinship, marriage and the household, ppt by Rizel Malanday.