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Family, Kinship and Descent

by: Carina Sauter

Family, Kinship and Descent ANTH 1102

Carina Sauter
GPA 3.79

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These notes discuss the many types and varying forms of family, kinship and descent throughout the US and all over the world.
Introduction to Anthropology
Dr. Birch
Class Notes
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Carina Sauter on Tuesday April 12, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ANTH 1102 at University of Georgia taught by Dr. Birch in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 32 views. For similar materials see Introduction to Anthropology in anthropology, evolution, sphr at University of Georgia.

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Date Created: 04/12/16
Family, Kinship, and Descent • Family o Nuclear family: father, mother and their children o New definition of family: § Single parent § Divorced parent(s) § Remarried parent with new extended family § Extended family with aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. § Adopted/foster families o Changes in our economy and society changes/effects residence patterns since 1970 – more flexible • Kinship systems o Kinship systems: the system by which people in a society reckon their relations o Kinship charts: how anthropologists record kinship systems § You: Ego § Lineal kin: are either the direct ancestors or descendants of a particular Ego • blood § Collateral kin are composed of Ego’s siblings and their descendants and the siblings his/her lineal kin of ascending generations and their descendants as well (side branches of of the main trunk that links a person to his ancestry and progeny) • One step removed blood § Affinal kin: are related by marriage • Marriage • Lewis Henry Morgan o One of the initial evolutionary anthropologists o Liked to code and categorize societies and relationships o Believed there were 6 different types of kinship o Performed the first survey of kinship terminologies around the world o He was a lawyer (laws, rules, codes, unbendable) and was obsessed with defining class and kinship § Thought relationships could be defined by codes § In the Victorian time period, relationships were extremely important to inheritance and class • Malinowski o “The average anthropologist has his doubts whether the effort needed to master the bastard algebra of kinship is really worth while. He feels that, after all, kinship is a matter of flesh and blood, the result of sexual passion, and maternal affection, of long intimate daily life, and of a host of personal intimate interests” o cannot be reduced to formulas, symbols and equation • Families o Family of orientation: family one is born into o Family of procreation: family one establishes and reproduces in o Also important units of cultural production and reproduction – parents teach children their culture § Biological units and cultural units § Skills, traits, cultural knowledge • Families vs Descent groups o Descent groups: groups of people based on demonstration belief in common ancestry § Real or fictitious § Rights, duties, and obligations associated with both families and descent groups § Most societies have both and obligations to one may conflict with obligations to the other o Unilineal descent: descent is traced through on parent only § Patrilineal descent: males and females belong to their father’s kin group • Not considered to be related to mother’s side § Matrilineal descent: males and females belong to their mother’s kin group • Not considered to be related to father’s side • Mother’s brother is more of a role model than father o Cognatic descent: descent is traced through mother’s and father’ lineages to a certain degree § Can be highly variable and related to inheritance, property rights, etc. § Bilateral descent: (double descent) every biological relative is a socially recognized ancestor or family member § Bilineal descent: individuals trace descent through matrilineal and patrilineal groups, resulting in unique combinations for sets of siblings • Ex. Yako, Nigeria o System is important in transferring wealth from generation to generation o Livestock and money (portable) = matrilineal o Trees and land (fixed) = patrilineal • Residence Patterns: o Matrilocality: couples reside with the woman’s family (regionally or within household) o Patrilocality: couples reside with the man’s family (regionally or within household) o Neolocality: family establishes a new residence unrelated to the location of either’s kin group • Descent groups among non-industrial food producers o Common ancestors can be real or mythical o An enduring social institution o Some descent groups have more (ascribed) status than others o Assigned at birth, different statuses; some ancient, some affiliated with mythical groups • Lineages and clans o Lineages: demonstrated descent – can directly trace descent back to a common ancestor o Clans: stipulated descent – say they descent from a common ancestor – do not actually trace genealogical links • Creek and Seminole clan symbols • Cherokee Clan Symbols • Northwest coast totem poles o Lineages o Figures represent the mythological origins of lineage • Marriage Rules: o Endogamy: marriage is only allowed within a particular social group o Exogamy: marriage is only allowed outside of a particular social group (often one’s own) § Descent groups are frequently exogamous – members must seek mates outside of their own descent groups o Marriage: a union between two individuals such that the children born to one are recognized as the legitimate offspring of both partners o Monogamy: one man marries to one woman § Serial monogamy: marriage to multiple spouses, but only one at a time • Incest and Exogamy o Exogamy: seeking a mate outside of one’s kin group § Congers social benefits by linking people into wider social networks o Incest: forbidden sexual relations with a close relative § Incest taboos exist in all human societies but vary in rules and application § Ex. Royal brother and sister marriages in Ancient Egypt • Hatsheput and Thutmose II • Polygamy (Plural Marriages) o Polygamy: marriage to more than one spouse at a time o Polygyny: several wives share the same husband o Polyandry: several husbands share the same wife § Fraternal polyandry: several brothers have the same wife • Marriage and Economics o Dowry: a predetermined agreement to transfer wealth or to perform labor for one’s in laws o Bride Price: the reverse of a dowry – involved the groom giving things of high value to the bride’s father


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