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Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret A. Simons, and Marybeth Timmermann

Here exchange was delayed and indirect but held out greater possibilities in terms of the scale and number of groups involved.

There, he argued, the same principles of exchange and reciprocity were present but were implicit and hidden rather than explicit. In fact, he never completed this work but instead went on to a monumental study of myth. This was not just a matter of whether consanguineal or affinal relations had logical priority.

There was a fundamental difference between the analytical projects in which each of these groups of anthropologists were engaged. A common criticism of both descent theory and alliance theory was that they had a strong tendency to view kinship in normative terms, ignoring the variations of gender and of different social actors and omitting the experiential and emotional sides of kinship. The fundamental importance of treating marriage as an exchange between groups eventually became a more or less uncontroversial tenet within anthropology. Particularly in New Guinea , Indonesia, and South America—regions where it was difficult to discern descent groups operating in the manner described by the classic models—exchange seemed to be the principle that unlocked a new way of understanding social life.

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What Is The Structure Of Kinship?

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Load Previous Page. Read More on This Topic. Restricted exchange structures are generally quite uncommon.

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The second form of exchange within elementary structures is called generalised exchange, meaning that a man can only marry either his MBD matrilateral cross-cousin marriage or his FZD patrilateral cross-cousin marriage. This involves an asymmetric exchange between at least three groups. Matrilateral cross-cousin marriage arrangements where the marriage of the parents is repeated by successive generations are very common in parts of Asia e.

Levi-Strauss considered generalised exchange to be superior to restricted exchange because it allows the integration of indefinite numbers of groups. These tribal societies are made up of multiple moieties which often split up, thus rendering them comparatively unstable. Generalised exchange is more integrative but contains an implicit hierarchy, for instance amongst the Kachin where wife-givers are superior to wife-takers. Consequently, the last wife-taking group in the chain is significantly inferior to the first wife-giving group to which it is supposed to give its wives.

Elementary Structures Of Kinship by Levi-Strauss, Claude

These status inequalities can destabilise the entire system or can at least lead to an accumulation of wives and in the case of the Kachin also of bridewealth at one end of the chain. From a structural perspective, matrilateral cross-cousin marriage is superior to its patrilateral counterpart; the latter has less potential to produce social cohesion since its exchange cycles are shorter the direction of wife exchange is reversed in each successive generation. Levi-Strauss' theory is supported by fact that patrilateral cross-cousin marriage is in fact the rarest of three types.

However, matrilateral generalised exchange poses a risk, as group A depends on being given a woman from a group that it has not itself given a woman to, meaning that there is a less immediate obligation to reciprocate compared to a restricted exchange system. The risk created by such a delayed return is obviously lowest in restricted exchange systems.

Levi-Strauss proposed a third structure between elementary and complex structures, called the semi-complex structure, or the Crow-Omaha system. Semi-complex structures contain so many negative marriage rules that they effectively come close to prescribing marriage to certain parties, thus somewhat resembling elementary structures.

Elementary structures

These structures are found amongst societies such as the Crow and Omaha native Indians in North America. In Levi-Strauss' order of things, the basic building block of kinship is not just the nuclear family, as in structural-functionalism, but the so-called kinship atom: the nuclear family together with the wife's brother.

This "mother's brother" from the perspective of the wife-seeking son plays a crucial role in alliance theory, as he is the one who ultimately decides whom his daughter will marry. Moreover, it is not just the nuclear family as such but alliances between families that matter in regard to the creation of social structures, reflecting the typical structuralist argument that the position of an element in the structure is more significant than the element itself.

Descent theory and alliance theory therefore look at two different sides of the same coin: the former emphasising bonds of consanguinity kinship by blood , the latter stressing bonds of affinity kinship by law or choice. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Part of a series on the Anthropology of kinship Basic concepts.

The Elementary Structures of Kinship

Case studies. Chambri Mosuo.


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Major theorists. Morgan Stephen O. Murray Michelle Rosaldo David M. Schneider Marilyn Strathern. Related articles. Social Bonding and Nurture Kinship. Outline History. Archaeological Biological Cultural Linguistic Social. Social Cultural. Research framework. Key concepts. Key theories. Actor—network theory Alliance theory Cross-cultural studies Cultural materialism Culture theory Diffusionism Feminism Historical particularism Boasian anthropology Functionalism Interpretive Performance studies Political economy Practice theory Structuralism Post-structuralism Systems theory.

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