Grouping by gender age common interest and class
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Grouping by Gender, Age, Common Interest and Class. Chapter 11. What Principles do People Use to Organize Societies?.

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What principles do people use to organize societies
What Principles do People Use to Organize Societies?

  • Besides kinship and marriage, people group themselves by age, common interest, gender, and class or social rank within a society to deal with problems not conveniently handled by marriage, the family and/or household, descent group, or kindred.

Grouping by age
Grouping by Age

  • Age Grade: Categories based on age (usually of the same sex)

    • widely used means of organizing people in societies, including those of Europe and North America.

      • (i.e. infant, boy, girl, young man, young woman, man, woman, senior, elder) –also- (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior in college.)

    • A specific time is often ritually established for moving from a younger to an older age grade.

  • Age Sets—people born around the same time who move through age-grade categories together.

    • (i.e. Generations are Age Sets. The “baby boomer” generation (Age Set) moved through the age grades of: infants, toddlers, young men/women, men/women, seniors, together.)

    • (i.e. everyone born in the year “1990” would be an Age Set too, going through similar age grades as above).

Age grouping tiriki ethnographic example from nyanza province kenya
Age Grouping: TirikiEthnographic Example from Nyanza Province, Kenya

  • Seven named age sets pass through four successive age grades.


    • Google Map link:


  • Each age set embraces a 15-year span and opens to accept new initiates every 105 years.

  • In principle, the system resembles our college classes.

Age grades ethnographic ex from kenya serengeti area
Age GradesEthnographic Ex from Kenya (Serengeti area)

  • Maasai subclans of western Kenya at the opening parade of the elaborate eunoto ceremony, marking the coming of age of morans (warriors). At the end of the ceremony, these men will be in the next age grade— junior adults—ready to marry and start families.

  • Also have a 3-day initiation ceremony into an elderhood age grade: min)

Grouping by gender
Grouping by Gender

  • Separates men and women to varying degrees in different societies.

    • Ex: Division of Labor and spheres (from Ch. 8):

      • Flexible/Integrated

      • Dual Sex

      • Segregated

  • In some societies, they may be together much of the time.

  • In other societies they may spend much time apart, even to the extreme of eating and sleeping separately.

Gender based groups ethnographic example
Gender-based GroupsEthnographic Example

  • Gender issues are symbolically worked out in mythologies and ceremonial dances among the Yawalapiti who live on the Tuatuari River in Brazil’s upper Xingu region

  • Ownership of the sacred trumpets, are guarded by the tribesmen and traditionally women were forbidden to see them.

Grouping by common interest
Grouping by Common Interest

  • Common-interest associations are formed to deal with specific challenges or opportunities.

  • Membership may be voluntary or compulsory.

  • Common-interest associations have been a feature of human societies since the appearance of the first farming villages (i.e. guilds, philosophical schools) several thousand years ago, but they are now linked with rapid social change and urbanization, with many common interest groups now online.

    • They increasingly assume roles formerly played by kinship groups we saw in the previous chapter (i.e. providing the social structure for a culture/sub-culture).

  • What common interest groups do we have in our culture?

Grouping by class and social rank stratification
Grouping by Class and Social Rank Stratification

  • Stratification is the division of society into two or more social classes of people who do not share equally in basic resources, power, or prestige.

  • Such a hierarchical social structure is characteristic of all of the world’s societies having large and similar populations with a central political control.

    • Stratified society: divided into categories of people who do not share equally in resources, influence, or prestige.

    • Egalitarian society: has as many valued positions as persons capable of filling them.

Grouping by class and social rank caste systems
Grouping by Class and Social Rank Caste Systems

  • Caste: A social class in which membership is determined by birth and fixed for life.

  • Children automatically belong to their parents’ caste.

  • Example, India

Dalits, known as “untouchables” in India’s traditional caste system, light 100 “candles of freedom” at the 2004 World Social Forum held in Mumbai.

Are we a stratified society
Are we a stratified society?

  • Homeless men sleeping on sidewalks—one in India, one in the United States.

  • Outcast groups such as India’s untouchables are a common feature of stratified societies.

  • In the United States, 13% of the population is in poverty according to the 2004 U.S. Census. In the United States 70% of wealth is in the hands of 10% of the population.

  • Our stratification may not be as explicit as India’s caste system, but do we have levels and….what are they?

    • We have egalitarian ideals –i.e. The American Dream, but reality is sometimes different….why? Do we have a type of Untouchables who would be barred from holding certain societal positions?

    • Our actions and reactions towards others may hold the answer…

Ways of expressing social class
Ways of Expressing Social Class

What types of Class indicators do we find in U.S. language?

  • Verbal evaluation

    • What people say about other people in their society.

  • Patterns of association

    • Who interacts with whom, how, and in what context.

  • Symbolic indicators

    • Activities and possessions indicative of class position.

  • Differences in life chances

    • High-status people generally live longer and in better health than people of low status.

      But not all societies are stratified or egalitarian, some are open class societies...

Are we an open class society
Are we an open-class society?

  • Open-class societies are those with the easiest social mobility.

  • Degree of mobility is related to education or type of family organization that prevails in a society.

  • Where the extended family is the norm, mobility tends to be severely limited.