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PURDUE / Anthropology / ANTH 10000 / What is the difference between kinship and descent?

What is the difference between kinship and descent?

What is the difference between kinship and descent?


School: Purdue University
Department: Anthropology
Course: Being Human: Introduction to Anthropology
Professor: Richard blanton
Term: Spring 2016
Tags: Anthropology and Purdue
Cost: 25
Name: Lecture 03/23/2016 - 03/29/2016
Description: Kinship and the Reckoning of Descent, all three lectures included
Uploaded: 03/27/2016
6 Pages 174 Views 3 Unlocks

Lecture 03/23/2016

What is the difference between kinship and descent?

Kinship and the Reckoning of Descent

- Notions of kinship and descent specify a person’s obligations and privileges to those others who  are related to them though birth and marriage


Diagraming Conventions of kinship systems  

In many foraging and industrial societies, the nuclear family is  

How does the sudanese kin terminology system differ from the other kinship terminology systems?

emphasizes (family mobility is important)

- The devolution of wealth (inheritances) occurs primary

within the nuclear family (parents to children)

- Collateral kin are recognized, but have little importance

for inheritances or other domestic activities

Nuclear family systems and “descriptive kinship terminologies

- Here, strong distinction is made between lineal and  

collateral kin as indicated by separate kinship terms If you want to learn more check out What is the meaning of buffer paring?

- Terms for parent, children and brother/sister are  

distinct from terms for collaterals (e.g. aunt/uncle and cousin  


Nuclear systems and “bilateral descent reckoning” and the  

What is the child of a brother and sister called?


∙ Each person traces descent equally from both mother’s and father’s side of the family ∙ Kindred (each person has a unique set of kin – a kindred) 

A kindred is not a cohesive cooperative group

- Each person has a unique network of consanguineal and affinal kin

- To “mobilize” one’s kindred to realize some shared goal is unlikely (persons have obligations to  multiple other kin)

Mid-range societies Don't forget about the age old question of How was domestic violence viewed in the past?

(Not foragers or modern industrialized)

∙ Tend more toward agrarian economy

∙ Family mobility is not as important

∙ Control of localized resources my require corporate groups (i.e property-holding groups) when  property rights are not protected by law, and it is not possible to create a business, charitab;e  organization, etc., through a legal process We also discuss several other topics like How does the electromagnetic spectrum work?

Unilineal descent

- Make use kinship and descent reckoning from ancestors to create a cohesive social group larger  than nuclear family

- Trace descent through:

o Males (“patrilineal” descent)

o Females (“matrilineal” descent)

o (in bilateral descent and the kindred, descent is traced through both males and females)

Matrilineal Descent

- A person is a member of a group that traces descent through females (a “matrilineage”) - This fact shapes many aspects of one’s life including residence, shared ownership and work, and  inheritances (the matrilineage is a corporate group i.e. property owning group)

Matrilineage Members:

∙ Ego (male or female), mother, mother’s sisters, mother’s sister’s children (but can be expanded  to include more generations)

∙ Ego’s father is not a member of ego’s matrilineage (he is a member of his mother’s matrilineage)

Patrilineal Descent

- A “patrilineage” (a corporate group) would include

o Ego (male of female), father, father’s brothers, father’s brother’s children o (but can be expanded to include more generations)

o (mother is not a member of ego’s patrilineage – she is a member of her father’s  patrilineage) Don't forget about the age old question of What is the meaning of accountable?

Patrilineal Members:

∙ Ego (male or female), father, father’s brothers, father’s brother’s children (but can be expanded  to include more generations)

∙ Ego’s mother is not a member of ego’s patrilineage (she is a member of her father’s  patrilineage)

Unilineal Descent

- Many “middle range” societies (more complex than  foragers but not highly complex states) feature systems  of unilineal descent

- 68% of ethnographically known societies have unilineal  descent groups  

- (and of these, tracing descent through males is three  times more common than though females) If you want to learn more check out How do you write the second derivative?

Nuclear family emphasis

- Bilateral (or “bilineal”) descent

- The “kindred”

- And “descriptive” kin terminology (separate terms for  lineal and collateral kin)

Unilineal Descent Groups Don't forget about the age old question of Does dipole dipole interactions affect solubility?

- Ego’s most significant social ties are to all  

persons descended from a common ancestor

traces either through males or females

- To reflect there extra-family ties beyond lineal  kin, lineal terms are extended to collateral kin  (“classificatory kinship terminology”)

Classificatory Kinship terminology  

(Unlike descriptive kin terminology)

- Classificatory: lineal terms are used for collaterals who are member of the same descent group - Typically: Fa’s Bro is called by the same term as Fa

- Fa’s Bro’s children are addressed as Bro and Si

“Parallel Cousins”

- Parallel cousins (e.g. father’s brother’s children and mother’s sister’s children) - Why: in patrilineal descent, Fa’s Bro’s Children are the same unilineal descent group as ego - In matrilineal descent, Mo’s Si’s children are the same unilineal descent group as ego

“Cross Cousins”

- Cross cousins: father’s sister’s children and mother’s brother’s children

- In patrilineal descent, Fa’s Si marries into her husband’s descent group; their children are  member of her husband’s descent group and are as a result cross cousins

- In matrilineal descent, Mo’s Bro’s children are members of his wife’s matrilineage (this “cross  cousins”)

Marriageable Cousins?

- In systems of unilineal descent, “parallel cousins” (father’s brother’s children or mother’s sister’s  children, are addressed as “brother” or “sister” and therefore are not marriageable) - However, the “cross cousins” might be marriageable (father’s sister’s children, mother’s  brother’s children) – they are addressed with “cousin” terms

Lineage Households

E.g. Iroquois “Long-House” (matrilineal descent)

- in societies with matrilineal descent, a boy’s major “father figure” (i.e. the man who is most  concerned to teach a boy and discipline him, etc.) is mother’s brother

- a boy’s relationship with his father is affectionate, but father does not belong to the boy’s  descent group

Patrilineal Descent and Women’s Status

- women’s status is lower in patrilineal societies (but relatively higher in matrilineal cases) - a married couple’s estate is not theirs – it is owned by husband’s or wife’s descent group - In patrilineal descent, If husband predeceases wife, the family’s wealth goes to his brothers,  leaving wife with no property

Advantages or Disadvantages in Shared Property Ownership by Kin Groups?

- According to economic theory the descent group is a barrier to economic development (with  shared property rights, there is less motivation to invest or innovate)

- It is true that shared ownership can lead to disputes over business decisions - Example: small South Asian businesses in the U.S. (mostly hotels)

o Credit can be obtained from kin and with no collateral

o Repayments is as convenient, depending on success (with bank lean, any missed  payments will lead to default and loss of the business)

Ethic Groups and Their Subdivisions Based on Unilineal Descent

- Members of clan recognized their ultimate common shared ancestry, but reside in  geographically diverse locations (“phratry” is sometimes used for multiple descent-group  segments)

- Ethnic or tribal group – all persons who trace their ancestry to a founding person/couple or a  totem (from a tribal origin myth)

Lineage and clan Organized into larger Social Groups

- Moiety reflects the duality of the original split between founder’s children (or some similar  account of a dual division of society)

- Clans will belong to one or the other moiety (moiety isn’t always found, but is common) Unilineal Descent and Person’s Identity

- A person’s identity is layered or “nested”:

o Self

o Nuclear family

o Lineage

o Clan

o Moiety segment

o Ethnicity (tribal membership)

o Nation state

Why Unilineal Organizations?

Costs and Benefits


- A descent group is able to provide services through the tribal leadership when there is no state  or when a weak state is unable to provide adequate guarantees of individual security, property rights, or adjudicative services


- Social differentiation is ascripted, not based on achievement (a privileged “clan aristocracy”), so  governance may be indifferent or inefficient and not accountable to the clan members - Ethnic identity may be counter to the principles of democratic society  

The Interesting Case of the Moiety  

- Many mid-range societies and other kinds of human social groups feature moiety (dual)  organization

- Often a moiety serves to allocate positions of authority equally between two groups (for  example, alternating key positions between the two segments)

- The “friendly competition” between segments may be a motivating force


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