Tracing backwards Who are we? Where do we come from? The two questions are inextricably intertwined in our minds. Somehow, who we are seems to be dependent in considerable on our ancestry.
Ancestry can be looked upon in two ways: Objective point of view from science: For example, the origins of the human species as understood by paleoanthropologists Subjective point of view within culture: How do ordinary individuals (not scientists) trace backwards
People everywhere have given thought and come up with beliefs about their origins, and these beliefs involve a notion of kinship -- for example, descent from Adam and Eve.
What we find in culture after culture is a tracing forward in time from an original ancestor (though not every culture does this), and also tracing backward in time from the present to ancestors (possibly universal, but how far back the tracing goes varies widely). How is that tracing done? The answer to the first question is:
1. Kinship: Much of the reckoning about the past, about ancestry by ordinary individuals is done through kinship, so we want to take a closer look at kinship as part of culture and nature. kinship, n. 1. Connection by blood, marriage, or adoption; family relationship.
Kinship diagram symbols D male o female parent-child } husband-wife or sibling
Elementary Nuclear Family o D o D Ego
Alphabetical Kinship Symbols M mother F father S son D daughter C child B brother Z sister H husband W wife
Elementary Nuclear Family o ∆ M F o ∆ Ego B
The diagrams can be extended indefinitely to produce complex genealogical relations. Extended Family Relations o D o D o o D D M F o o o D D D Ego B
Important In the anthropological study of kinship, the extended family relations are NOT called by the same terms as those used in English (i.e., not as "uncle", "aunt," "grandfather," etc. They are called by combinations of the elementary relations (i.e, as "mother's brother," "father's sister," "mother's mother." We'll find out why in a minute.
Extended kinship relations can also be described in terms of the elementary alphabetic symbols. MOTHER'S BROTHER MB MOTHER'S BROTHER'S DAUGHTER MBD MOTHER'S SISTER'S HUSBAND MZH MOTHER'S MOTHER'S FATHER MMF
Extended Family Relations o D o D o o D D M F MZ MZH MB MBW o o o D D D Ego B
Extended Family Relations o D MF MM o D o o D D M F MZ MZH MB MBW o o o D D D Ego MZD MZS B MBS MBD
Okay, so why do we use this system of diagramming and combination to represent kinship relations, rather than using the English terms like "uncle," "aunt," and "grandmother." Answer: because the English terms carve up the system of kin in CULTURE-SPECIFIC ways. Other cultures carve it up differently. Example: ENGLISH IROQUOIS "mother" = M "mother" = M, MZ, FBW "aunt" = MZ, FZ, MBW, FZW "aunt" = FZ, MBW
Iroquois Type Kinship Terminology - Mother's Side "father" o D MF MM "uncle" "aunt" o "mother" D o o D D M F MZ MZH MB MBW o o o D D D Ego MZD MZS B MBS MBD "cousin" "brother and sister"
What are we tracing: A key question for us: When people trace their ancestry, to determine who they are, are they interested in the genetic material that has been been passed or the cultural material? Your own experience: What determines who you are: your biology or your culture? How many wonder whether their “parents” are their “real” parents?
2. Roles Role = a bundle of rights, duties, expectations: • Right = what you can demand of others; • Duty = what you must do in relation to others; • Expectations = how you should be. Status = position within a structure of positions Recruitment = method for selecting who occupies what status. • Examples of roles: • surgeon • policeman • professor • quarterback • President of the U.S.
• Concept of the “role” in acting. • Roles or parts are related to other roles & parts. • Learning a part (social transmission). • Script (where does the script come from?). • Kinship -- in what measure do we learn the roles the way an actor does? In what measure are they given by biology?
Kinship relations are kinds of roles. We have to study the relations to understand (1) what rights, duties, and expectations make up that relation; but also (2) how do individuals who play the roles come to occupy that position (i.e., what is the "principle of recruitment to the status.")
Kinship relations are kinds of roles. We have to study the relations to understand (1) what rights, duties, and expectations make up that relation; but also (2) how do individuals who play the roles come to occupy that position (i.e., what is the "principle of recruitment to the status.") Thus, when we study the role of "husband" in American culture, we have to ask what kinds of rights, duties, and obligations attach to the position of "husband." We also have to ask: How does one come to be a "husband"?
What are some of the rights and duties of a "husband" in contemporary U.S. culture?
What are some of the rights and duties of a "husband" in contemporary U.S. culture? • Right to have sex with his wife (sometime); • Right to expect that his wife will not have sex with other men (or women) while she is his wife; • Duty not to have sex with other women (or men) while he is married; Etc.
How does one get to be a "husband": Man must have the consent of the women to whom he is to play the role of husband; Man and woman must undergo a ceremony ("marriage”) performed by an appropriate authority (e.g., a justice of the peace). Etc.
IMPORTANT: roles are part of culture. They are socially learned, socially transmitted. Because they are part of culture, we might expect them to change over time. We can also expect to find differences in the roles between different societies. When we find a role in another culture that resembles one in our own (e.g., "husband"), we have to be careful not to project onto the characteristics of the role in our own culture, and, instead, attempt to understand its own characteristics. For example, how does one get to be a "husband" in that culture? What rights and duties does a "husband" have in that culture?
Example of variability in the "husband" role: Tallensi people of northern Ghana in Africa. Unlike the contemporary American role of "husband," it is not the duty of Tallensi husband to confine his sexual relations to one wife. On the contrary, it is right of a man to have more than one wife. This is called POLYGYNY. The man has a right to sexual access to each of them. Classic study of the Tallensi done by the British anthropologist Meyer Fortes and published in 1949 called The Web of Kinship among the Tallensi.
o o o o D 3 4 2 1 Ego o o o o
“In Islam, the regulations concerning polygyny limit the number of wives a man can have while making him responsible for all of the women involved.” “ ... Marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (a captive) that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.” (Qur'an 4:3) Islamic polygyny?
POLYANDRY If polygyny is a rule permitting one man to marry several wives at the same time, there is another rule (polyandry) found in some cultures around the world in which a woman may marry more than one man at the same time. There are even some cultures in which group marriage is permitted, i.e., two or more women married simultaneously to two or more men. Rules permitting or requiring multiple spouses are grouped under the term polygamy.
Important point: rights, duties, and expectations are not just a matter of what the individuals immediately involved in a role believe or practice. They are what the broader society understands as the norm, that is, as the way people ought to be behave in a particular role.
For this reason, societies often develop ways of publicly acknowledging a role. Marriage ceremonies are an example of this, in which appropriate authorities establish and recognize the existence of a husband-wife relationship. Graduation ceremonies acknowledge the conferral of academic degrees. Inauguration ceremonies take place to install a new president. And so forth. Society has a stake in establishing and maintaining roles.
3. Is the family a natural unit? We have have been talking about tracing backwards in this lecture from a subjective point of view. What are people tracing when they trace their ancestry? Answer = social relations, which are constructed in accord with roles, which are in turned culturally learned. Let’s turn now to the comparative study of subjective cultural points of view. We begin to get something like an objective demonstration.
Is the family a natural unit? Why are we interested in these questions about kinship roles in a course about biology, language, and culture? • Kinship is the key nodal institution between biology and culture. • Human's reproduce sexually. • Kinship is in part about biological reproduction.
However, it is important to distinguish the family as an institution constituted by culturally-prescribed roles, and the family as a biological unit. The culturally consituted family is not necessarily identical to the biological family.
Are male and female two different beings? A key aspect of the ability of humans, like other animals, to adapt biologically is sexual reproduction, in which the genetic material from two different organisms comes together to produce a new one. In the living world, sexual reproduction does not always mean that there are two distinct organisms (gonochoric (animals); dioecious (plants)), a male and a female, carrying distinctive sets of chromosomes, that come together.
Some sea anemones, for example, are hermaphrodites, carrying both the male and the female reproductive parts. A number of fishes are also either simultaneous hermaphrodites (like anemones) or sequential hermaphrodites (changing their sex over time). Mollies are an example of sequential hermaphrodites.
However, most animals, like humans, have the distinct sex organs on different organisms.
So it seems natural to find an analogy between the genetic processes involved in human reproduction and the social units referred to as "families." Biological reproduction: genes Social reproduction: family o ∆ o
Thesis: the family exists as a social unit for the purposes of transmitting culture, not just biological reproduction.
Observation: the family is not necessary for biological reproduction. This can be seen among non-human primates most closely related to humans. Among chimpanzees, we find strong mother-child bonds, but apparently no father-child bonds. This goes along with the apparent absence of regular husband-wife type relations. Some evidence for occasional consortships, in which a female goes off with a particular male for several days to weeks, but sex during estrus is generally described as "frenzied," with multiple males mating with a single female.
Gene flow and social reproduction in chimps and bonobos D D D D D D o o D
Question 1: Are humans biologically programmed to live in families (involving the presence of a husband/father figure), although chimps and bonobos are not? Or is the human family a cultural invention (like the wheel or control over fire) that is socially learned and socially transmitted?
The specific form of the family cannot be biologically determined, since the form is so highly variable from culture to culture, as we have seen: monogamy vs. polygyny vs. polyandry vs. group marriage; also wide variability in rights, duties, expectations.
Comparative evidence indicates that, in the vast majority of cultures, there is something resembling the roles of "father" and "husband." However, even where there is an ideal of families with father/husbands, many families may be matrifocal (i.e., with only mother and children).
Tentative conclusion: the family appears to be a cultural invention that is socially learned and socially transmitted. We may well ask why so many cultures have employed this cultural construct. Must it have some adaptive significance?
Question 2: Even if the family is a cultural invention, might it serve the purpose of supplying greater certainty to males of their own paternity, and, hence, more reason for them to participate in the socialization of the young?