anthropology of gender 10 march 2009 gender household and kinship l.
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Family: a group of people linked by socially recognized kin ties into more or less intimate bonds. These socially recognized ties derive from bilateral, matrilineal or patrilineal ways of understanding descent, depending on the society, as well as the affinal and fictive kin who may be included, again according to cultural norms.
Household: a domestic group that may or may not be related by kinship and that usually shares living space, including perhaps a kitchen and certain budgetary items such as food and rent.
While households are usually family-based, we usually distinguish between the two such that the family is considered to be a kin and affective group, while household is understood in more economic terms.
  • NOTE: neither is a unit, in the sense of a homogeneous entity with common purpose. Rather, both families and households are groups whose members may well have conflicting interests.
Brettell and Sargent (2009: 350) note that “Collier and Yanagisako have argued that gender and kinship are mutually constructed and should be brought together in one analytic field.” Do you agree? Discuss with reference to the readings.
cable beyond the pattern of heaven gender kinship and the family in china
Cable: “Beyond the ‘pattern of heaven’: Gender, kinship and the family in China
  • There is more diversity in Chinese kinship structures than is usually recognized.
  • Traditional stereotypes of Han Chinese kinship involved a very patriarchal system based on Confucionism and patrilineality, with ancestor worship of patrilineal kin.
  • - describes all that this entailed for women
  • Presents challenges to this view by Wolf (uterine families) and Stafford (yang: the need to care for both parents)
cable continued
Cable, continued
  • Also points out that changes since the 1949 revolution have improved the position of women:
    • laws about the equality of women, banning concubinism, banning child marriage, etc.
    • replacement of lineage association by party associations
    • one child policy

- effects: some improvement for daughters, tempered by changes in strictness of the law and new reproductive technologies

      • - children more demanding
      • - care of aging parents put in doubt
  • Also draws attention to the kin patterns of 55 non-Han ethnic groups (8% of population, 100 million people)
  • - some offer significant levels of equality, e.g. Dai, Lahu and Mosuo
Hicks-Bartlett: “Between a rock and a hard place: The labyrinth of working and parenting in a poor community”
  • Studies the ways in which women use kin ties to be able to manage work and child care, in the context of a very poor, dangerous and geographically marginal suburb.
  • Calls attention to the multiple challenges women face, from trying to protect children, keep jobs, fulfill demands of reciprocity from kin, difficulty of transportation, arranging child care, caring for sick children (frequent given poor living conditions), few opportunities to get education or training.
  • Help from kin is the best option in the circumstances, but is it the best option? How could the society achieve the best option?
prior matrifocality power and gender relations in jamaica
Prior: “Matrifocality, power and gender relations in Jamaica”
  • Women as childbearers and care-givers form the focal point of a matrifocal kin system.
  • Childbearing establishes adulthood in this society.
  • Similar to Meadow View, these are poor people with complex interconnected ties, although the emphasis here is more on the central mother-child and mother-child’s father relation, than on any other mutually beneficial relations with kin.
  • Also similar to Meadow View, men are seen to have important, if transient, roles in offering gifts, money, sex.
prior continued
Prior, continued
  • Women are supposed to provide sex and domestic labour.
  • When either partner does not fulfill his or her expected role there may be a violent confrontation.
  • While women are often on the losing end of the violence, they do defend themselves.
  • So, who does have more power in this situation?
di leonardo the female world of cards and holidays women families and the work of kinship
Di Leonardo: “The female world of cards and holidays: Women, families and the work of kinship”
  • Italian Americans live in nuclear families but maintain kin ties.
  • Women do the work of keeping track of kin, maintaining contact, organizing family events.
  • Women’s knowledge of the family, their own and their husband’s, is more detailed than men’s.
  • Men are more articulate on workplace themes, although younger professional women are also articulate about work.
di leonardo continued
Di Leonardo, continued
  • Men are expected to provide income. This is a society in which individuals get paid employment, rather than being based on shared access to resources by a family.
  • Performing kin work can involve power relations among women: therefore not simply maintaining ties of affection, but providing for identity? status?
  • What will happen as women continue to get identity from work? Will no one work at maintaining the family? Will long term and more extended families become obsolete?
saheri s choice
Saheri’s Choice:
  • A patrilineal society in which dowry is often given at the marriage of girls outside the lineage.
  • Marriages create ties between lineages, which can have important economic advantages for the two families.
  • Wives reside patrilocally, which takes them away from the support of their family, especially their female kin.
  • Instead, in-laws may not be supportive.
  • Personal affection for an alternative partner is not expected to outweigh family interests in creating useful and appropriate alliances.
  • Women have few opportunities for economic autonomy.
  • Harassment makes having a supportive family important.
  • Why was Saheri able to convince her family not to go ahead with the arranged marriage? Does this reflect a trend that bodes well for other women from this district?
  • Next; course website