Archives for posts with tag: biology and culture

here’s a strange — and sad — set of homicide statistics from sweden (stockholm) in the early 1700s — from manuel eisner’s Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime [pdf - pg. 112]:

“There is one major exception to this pattern [of male preponderance in serious violent crime-h.chick]. In early eighteenth-century Stockholm, women not only accounted for more than 60 percent of property crime offenders but also 45 percent of murder and manslaughter offenders and 41 percent of assault offenders (Andersson 1995). These are probably the highest female participation rates in serious violent crime found anywhere in the world. Scholars examining this phenomenon emphasize a combination of factors including — besides demographic imbalance — a highly specific cultural configuration, which embraced some kind of otherworldly calculus. More particularly, for fear of eternal punishment in hell, suicidal women appear often to have chosen to kill somebody else, usually their offspring, and then suffer the death penalty imposed on them by the judiciary (Jansson 1998). Homicide would bring them to purgatory for a limited period of time, after which they would enter heaven for eternity, which was definitely to be preferred to consignment to eternal hell because of suicide.”


(note: comments do not require an email. galgberget ["gallows hill"] in stockholm.)

from gregory clark’s new book The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility [pgs. 3-10]:

“Most people believe, from their own experience of families, friends, and acquaintances, that we live in a world of slow social mobility. The rich beget the rich, the poor beget the poor. Between the Old Etonian and the slum dweller, between Govan and Richmond Drive, lies a gulf of generations. But a hundred years of research by psychologists, sociologists, and economists seems to suggest that this belief is fictional. Conventional estimates imply that social mobility is rapid and pervasive. The Old Etonian and the slum dweller are cousins.

“Standard estimates suggest high modern intergenerational mobility rates….

“These conclusions from conventional scholarly estimates of social mobility rates, however, sit poorly with popular perceptions of social mobility. People looking back to their own grandparents, or forward to their grandchildren, do not generally see the kind of disconnect in status that these estimates imply. People looking at their siblings or cousins see a much greater correlation in status than is implied by the intergenerational correlations reported above….

“Using surnames to track the rich and poor through many generations in various societies — England, the United States, Sweden, India, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Chile — this book argues that our commonsense intuition of a much slower rate of intergenerational mobility is correct. Surnames turn out to be a surprisingly powerful instrument for measuring social mobility. And they reveal that there is a clear, striking, and consistent social physics of intergenerational mobility that is not reflected in most modern studies of the topic.

“The problem is not with the studies and estimates themselves. What they measure, they measure correctly. The problem arises when we try to use these estimates of mobility rates for individual characteristics to predict what happens over long periods to the general social status of families. Families turn out to have a general social competence or ability that underlies partial measures of status such as income, education, and occupation. These partial measures are linked to this underlying, not directly observed, social competence only with substantial random components. The randomness with which underlying status produces particular observed aspects of status creates the illusion of rapid social mobility using conventional measures.

“Underlying or overall social mobility rates are much lower than those typically estimated by sociologists or economists. The intergenerational correlation in all the societies for which we construct surname estimates — medieval England, modern England, the United States, India, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Chile, and even egalitarian Sweden — is between 0.7 and 0.9, much higher than conventionally estimated. Social status is inherited as strongly as any biological trait, such as height. Figure 1.6 compares conventional estimates of mobility (for income and years of education) with those yielded by surname measures….

greg clark - fig 1.6

“Mobility is consistent across generations. Although it may take ten or fifteen generations, social mobility will eventually erase most echoes of initial advantage or want.

“Counterintuitively, the arrival of free public education in the late nineteenth century and the reduction of nepotism in government, education, and private firms have not increased social mobility. Nor is there any sign that modern economic growth has done so. The expansion of the franchise to ever-larger groups in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries similarly has had no effect. Even the redistributive taxation introduced in the twentieth century in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Sweden seemingly has had no impact. In particular, once we measure generalized social mobility, there is no sign that inequality is linked to social mobility rates. Instead social mobility seems to be a constant, independent of inequality.”

razib suggests, given clark’s thesis of an underlying “general social competence” to which all the other social status factors correlate, that the book should be called the s factor. (~_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. social mobility indicator.)

update 10/17: some extra notes in the comments about the gss data here and here. thanks for the thought-filled comments, guys! (^_^)

bennett and lotus (in America 3.0) have the very right idea that anglo-saxons have been living in absolute nuclear families and behaving very “anglo-saxony” for centuries, but they’ve got, imho, the very wrong idea that if other peoples, non-anglo-saxon peoples, just start living like anglo-saxons in absolute nuclear families, they will — via some sort of cultural osmosis or something — start behaving all anglo-saxony, too. i’m not convinced. where, i would ask, is the evidence for this?

in the comments to one of my previous posts on this subject, i pointed out that, for example, italian american families, most of which have been in the u.s. for multiple generations now, are mostly absolute nuclear families — at least they appear to be on the surface. however, italian americans are really strongly attached to their extended families in ways that anglo-americans simply are not. here’s what i said (or, rather, what i quoted):

from “Community and Identity in Italian American Life” in The Review of Italian American Studies (2000) [pgs. 250-251]:

“Family gatherings…are still part of Italian American life….

“Italian Americans, even the more affluent, remain in inner-city enclaves more than other groups do. When Italian Americans do move, many times two or more generations are involved in the exodus to a new suburban residence. If they do not locate together, Italian American family members find residences within short distances of one another. When upwardly mobile children leave their inner-city parents for the suburbs, they visit them more than any other group. When leaving the extended family, Italian Americans most often move into some modified extended family arrangement characterized by continual economic and social exchanges. Similarly, Italian American middle- and working-class children are more likely to take geographical proximity to the family into account when considering college attendance. Contemporary Italian American youth spread their wings, but not too far.

“Although crude survey data indicate that Italian Americans are increasingly intermarrying, these measures miss the reality that many times it is the non-Italian marriage partner who is drawn into the powerful magnet of the Italian American family. In addition, intermarriage need no diminish the ethnicity of the Italian American partner nor does it mean necessarily that the offspring will not be reared in the Italian American way. Italian Americans are more entrepreneurial than most; family businesses, by definition, provide not only income and independence from outsiders but also keep the family together. Socially mobile Itlaian Americans are willing to sacrifice some career and employment opportunities in order to stay within the orbit of family life.”

and from The Italian American Experience (2000) [pgs. 210-211, 373-374]:

“For a long time, it was believed that this sequence was inevitably moving toward the complete absorption of Italian Americans….

“While intermarriage rates have remained lower than for other groups, exogamy among Italian Americans has greatly increased. Divorce rates, even for the most recent generation, remain very low compared to all other ethnic groups. Italian Americans still maintain a pattern of relatively frequent family contacts, with some studies actually indicating an increase in visiting among relatives for later generations. The strength of family ties has been identified as a deterrent to residential mobility and as a factor in the maintenance of Italian American neighborhoods….

“For Italians, family is an all-consuming ideal as is expressed by Luigi Barzini, among many others. For Italian Americans, ‘families’ usually include grandparents, whose influence on family life can be great….

“*L’ordine della familia*, which connotes precise boundaries, role expectations, and clear values for right and wrong behavior, is taught at a very early age and includes:

“- Always respecting parents and grandparents;
– Placing family needs first, staying physically and psychologically close to other members;
– Not talking about the family to outsiders;
– Sometimes maintaining secrets between family members to maintain personal boundaries; other family members do not need to know everythings, particularly if it will cause harm;
– Showing respect for authority outside of the family, but not trusting it;
– and Working hard, but also enjoying life; livining well is sharing food, music, and companionship with those one loves.”

yeah. just like in every sopranos episode that you ever saw. (~_^) why, then, don’t italian americans behave just like anglo americans? they’ve been in the u.s. a pretty long time now … and they live in absolute nuclear families. ‘sup?

so i thought i’d check the gss (General Social Survey) to see how anglo-saxony italian americans are. unfortunately, the gss numbers for italian americans with all four grandparents born in the u.s. (in other words, being at least third generation or more, which ought to make one really american, right?) are really tiny. dr*t.

so, i decided to look at german and irish americans instead in comparison to english/welsh americans — to see how anglo-saxony those two groups have become (quick answer for those tl:dr folks out there [SPOILER ALERT!]: not very).

before we start, though, t. greer recently pointed out the ever-present problem in these self-reported sort-of surveys and that is that we’re relying on how the respondents “identify” ethnically. how “german” are any of the “german americans” in the gss? who knows? however, the same problem should apply, i would think, across the board here with the self-identified english/welsh, german, and irish americans (i purposefully have NOT used the “just american” category since i want to get at how anglo americans behave), so it should all even out (i hope).

i’ve picked out questions that related to: “civicness” (see previous posts here and here for more on what that is), because the english are VERY civic-minded; “familism” (see here and here), because the english are NOT very familistic; and a couple of ones related to ideas about government and the u.s. that i thought sounded pretty anglo-saxony and that i just found interesting. let’s start with those.

for all of these questions, i’ve shown the results for respondents with all four grandparents born in the u.s. AND for all respondents — just because i can (and i thought it might be interesting to compare). for ethnicity i selected the “COUNTRY OF FAMILY ORIGIN [ETHNIC]” parameter. [click on charts for LARGER view.]

should we “Allow public meeting protesting the government” [PROTEST 1]?:

gss - anglo saxons - allow public meetings protesting government 02

england/wales: n=455 for all/n=244 for 4 grandparents
germany: n=604/n=248
ireland: n=412/n=151

should we “Allow publications protesting the government” [PROTEST 2]?:

gss - anglo saxons - allow publications protesting government 02

same n’s as above.

“How close do you feel to America” [CLSEUSA]?”:

gss - anglo saxons - how close do you feel to america

england/wales: n=262/n=205
germany: n=367/n=242
ireland: n=245/n=170

wtf german americans?!

so on those three questions there’s anywhere from a four to a fourteen point spread between the responses of german and irish americans versus anglo americans, with anglo americans consistently being more pro allowing protests against the government of different sorts and more pro american. i agree, four points is not much of a difference, but fourteen is — and, as you’ll see below, this is a consistent pattern, i.e. that third+ generation anglo americans are more anglo-saxony than either third+ generation german americans or irish americans.

the familism questions (again, see previous posts on familism here and here). for all of these:

england/wales: n=96/n=72
germany: n=150/n=100
ireland: n=106/n=70

“How often does R[espondent] contact uncles or aunts [UNCAUNTS]?”:

gss - anglo saxons - how often contact uncles aunts

“How often does R contact nieces or nephews [NIECENEP]?”:

gss - anglo saxons - how often contact nieces nephews

“How often does R contact cousin [COUSINS]?”:

gss - anglo saxons - how often contact cousins

the differences in the familism scores, then, are not that great. still, with the exception of “how often contact nieces/nephews”, both the german and irish american scores reflect greater familism on their part than on the anglo americans. slightly greater, but greater nevertheless.

finally, the civicness questions (again, see previous posts on civicness here and here). for all of these:

england/wales: n=96, n=72
germany: n=150, n=100
ireland: n=106, n=70

“Participated in a charitable organization in past 12 months [GRPCHRTY]“:

gss - anglo saxons - charitable organization

“Participated in activity of a political party [GRPPOL]“:

gss - anglo saxons - political party

“Participated in activity of a political party [GRPUNION]“:

gss - anglo saxons - trade union

“Participated in activity of church in past 12 months [GRPCHURH]“:

gss - anglo saxons - church

“Participated in sports group in past 12 months [GRPSPORT]“:

gss - anglo saxons - sports group

so, again, with the exception of participation in a sports group, the anglo americans score higher than the other two groups on all of the questions. the differences range from just two points to eighteen. in the case of sports, german americans scored just a tad (one point) higher in participation than anglo americans and irish americans four points, but anglo americans are out in front on the other four civic behaviors.

you might be thinking that the not-all-that-great differences in civicness scores between these three groups illustrates that german and irish americans are, in fact, becoming more like anglo americans. (why it should be taking so long is curious though — these are THIRD+ generation groups after all.) however, if we look at the very same questions from the world values survey (2005-2008 wave), we find the SAME pattern!: great britain ahead of germany on all the civicness metrics. (unfortunately, ireland was not included in this wvs wave.) (see also previous post.)

great britain: n=1012-1035
germany: n=2039-2050

note that non-whites are included in these figures. ethnicity was, apparently, not asked in germany, because … well, you know … everybody’s the same, so i didn’t parse out non-whites from the results for britain, either. doesn’t seem to make much difference to the scores — one point here and there — since there are not that many non-whites included in the british survey.

gss - anglo saxons - wvs civicness metrics

as you can see, same patterns again: great britain ahead of germany on all of these civicness measurements. and the differences between the two populations — the (mostly) anglos in britain and the (mostly) germans in germany — are very similar to the differences between the two populations in the u.s. — AFTER THREE+ GENERATIONS of being in the u.s.!:

- charitable organization: u.s.=11%, euro=21%
- political party: u.s.=6%, euro=6%
- trade union: u.s.=5%, euro=8%
- church: u.s.=3%, euro=1%
- sports group: u.s.=1% (higher in germany), euro=5%

i strongly suspect that german americans are not becoming like anglo americans, or if they are, it’s NOT happening very quickly. german americans:anglo americans::germans:anglos. nor do i see any reason to think that other groups like the irish or the italians are becoming anglo-saxons either.

the evidence i’ve presented is not conclusive. obviously. (it’s just a blog post!) Further Research is RequiredTM.

anglo-saxons — or the english of today — have been living in absolute nuclear families for a very long time, but this is more of a symptom of anglo-saxonness than its cause (although there undoubtedly has been feedback between the family type and societal structures). it took the anglo-saxons a looong time to get from being a kindred-based germanic “tribe” to the anglo-saxony individualistic-collectivistic english society that we know today (and have known since about the 1200s-1400s). it’s going to take other societies a similarly looong time to get to the same place — if they will even ever get to exactly the same place — since we are talking about biological processes here including the selection for certain behavioral traits. simply plunking germans — let alone italians (especially southern italians!) — down in absolute nuclear families will NOT turn them into anglos overnight. apparently it won’t even turn them into anglos in three+ generations.

no. anglo-saxons are exceptional. innately so. we should try not to destroy that, since it benefits so many of us.

previously: the anglo-saxons and america 3.0 and the saxons, the anglo-saxons, and america 3.0 and civic societies and civic societies ii and hispanic family values and familism in the u.s. of a.

(note: comments do not require an email. mustachioed bird!)

been reading America 3.0 written by two of the chicago boyz (hey chicago boyz! *waves*). i got interested in the book after reading daniel hannan’s review of it in the telegraph a couple of weeks ago in which he said:

“Their conclusion? That English, later Anglosphere, exceptionalism, is very real. That the rise of our language and culture to their current unprecedented dominance – what one commentator terms ‘Anglobalisation’ – is based on a series of properties that are either unique to the English-speaking peoples, or shared only with a handful of kindred cultures in northwestern Europe. Among these properties are the common law, representative government, Protestantism, dispersed landownership, civil associations separate from the state and – of particular interest to these authors – the unusual nature of the family.

They show that the Anglosphere dispenses with the extended family structures which, in most places, have legal as well as cultural force. In many societies, the peasant family has traditionally been treated as a kind of collective landowner, within which there are reciprocal responsibilities. Children, even in adulthood, have been expected to work on the family plot, receiving board and lodging. Marriages are typically arranged, and daughters-in-law come under the authority of the head of their new household. Even when the law recognises individual autonomy, custom is often slow to follow.

“The Anglosphere scarcely resembles the Eurasian landmass in its family structures. Our notion of the family is limited and nuclear. Most English-speakers in most centuries wanted to set up home on their own, independently, with just their spouse and children – although economic circumstances did not always allow that aspiration to be fulfilled.

The notion that the limited family underpins Anglosphere exceptionalism – which draws heavily on the work of the French anthropologist and demographer Emmanuel Todd – is intriguing. I see the cultural difference all around me in the European Parliament. In most Continental states, your social life is largely taken up with your extended family: you have an endless stream of weddings and christenings to go to, sometimes of very distant cousins. Britons and Americans, by contrast, expect to leave their parental home in their teens, either to go to university or to work. We make friends away from home, and they become the core of our social life. Indeed, the word ‘friend’ carries more force in English than in many European languages, in which it is bestowed quickly and generously, but often means little more than what we mean by a Facebook friend. When a Spaniard says of someone ‘es muy amigo mío’, he simply means that he gets on with the chap.”

oh, emmanuel todd! i love emmanuel todd!

i disagree with lotus and bennett on two major points.

firstly, that the u.s. is on the verge of an economic/societal upturn that will be even bigger and better than those of the past (thus the title of the book). meh. maybe. i’m not so hopeful as they are, but that’s probably just because i’m a pessimist. i’ll be very happy to be proven wrong!

my other disagreement with the authors is more of an irreconcilable difference [pgs. 25-26, 60-61]:

“What we have found in our research is that our distinctive and exceptional American culture has extremely deep roots, stretching back over a thousand years, long before our own national Founding and our Constitution, long before the the first English settlements in North America….”

yes, definitely. i’d agree with that. but…

“The word ‘culture’ may seem amorphous, something you would know by intuition but cannot necessarily pin down. Even professional anthropologists, whose job it is to study and understand culture, seem to have trouble pinning down exactly what they mean by it. For our purposes, we define culture as the distinctive patterns of behavior within a specified group of people that are transmitted from one generation to the next and are not genetic in origin.

It is very important to understand that culture is not genetic. Adopted children and immigrants may come from entirely different genetic backgrounds, but they adopt artifacts of culture such as language, values, and customs as readily as do biological children of parents within that culture. It is indisputable that the culture we describe in this book can be and has been adopted by people of every possible ethnic background….”

well, no … not exactly.

“[T]he strictly racial explanation for the Germanic roots of English liberty is simply and demonstrably incorrect. We now know more about human biology and genetics than did the writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We know for a fact that there is no genetic basis for the English way of life. There is nothing special in the DNA of any English ‘race’ that especially suits them for liberty….

“The historical record as it now stands, based on documents, archeology, and genetic evidence, shows that *the foundations of English liberty were not genetic or racial, but cultural, institutional, legal, and political*.”

oh, no, no, no, no, no!

i’m actually not interested in debating this in this post, but, in response to these passages, i will just ask my one, favorite, hopefully irritating question: where does culture come from?

i do want to nitpick a small-ish point with lotus and bennett, though. their main argument is that the anglo-saxon absolute nuclear family goes way, waaaay back — pretty much to, or nearly to, the time of the settlement of the anglo-saxons in england — and, thanks to that, both england and america have been characterized by all sorts of neat things like: individualism, a love of liberty, nonegalitarianism, competitiveness, an enterprising spirit, mobility, voluntarism, middle-class values, an instrumental view of government, and suburbia (a spacious home and backyard for each and every nuclear family).

i generally agree with that assessment, although, as you know, i’d throw mating patterns into the mix there — especially that the mating patterns of the angles and saxons and other germanic tribes probably affected their family types, the general pattern being: the closer the mating types, the larger the families (think: the arabs with their father’s brother’s daughter marriage and their huge clans/tribes), while the more distant the mating types, the smaller the families (think: well, think the english with their avoidance of close cousin marriage for ca. 1000-1200 years and their absolute nuclear families). and, of course, i’d toss evolution and genetic differences between populations in there, too.

lotus and bennett, amongst other points, say of the saxons that settled in england that [pg. 75]:

“- They were free people. They were independent minded, individually and in their tribal organization….
- They owned property individually, not communally, and not as families. Adult children and parents had separate and individual rights, not collective rights as a family.
- They traced their lineages through both the male and female line. This prevented clans or extended families from forming and becoming exclusive, as happens when lineage is traced solely through the male line. As a result extended families or clans did not have collective legal rights, or any recognized political role.”

yes. but this is a slight oversimplification of the situation. no, the pre-christian germanics didn’t have strong clans, but they did have kindreds which were, in fact, very important in many cases when legal issues arose, in particular in the instance of wergeld payment and collection, i.e. compensation for when a member of a kindred was injured or killed. the members of a person’s kindred in germanic society — and this includes anglo-saxon society in early medieval england — were obliged to undertake a feud if wergeld payments were not met — by the guilty party’s kindred. in other words, two whole kindreds were involved whenever someone was injured or killed by another person.

this was a sort of clannishness-lite, then — actual clans did not exist in pre-christian germanic society, but kindreds did. and these extended families were very important in early anglo-saxon society, even though people may have regularly resided in nuclear family units. according to lorraine lancaster, this didn’t change until after ca. 1000 a.d., four- to six-hundred years after the anglo-saxons arrived in england, when wergeld began to be paid/collected by a person’s friends or fellow guild members rather than extended family members [pgs. 373, 375 - see also this post]:

“Phillpotts has effectively demonstrated the weakness of Anglo-Saxon kin groups compared with certain related systems on the continent….

“During the period they ['friends'] gained continued importance as oath-helpers. After the end of the tenth century, it was even permissible for a feud to be prosecuted or wergild claimed by a man’s associates or guild-brothers. If murder was done *within* the guild, kinsmen again played a part….”

so, yes, the importance of the nuclear family does have its roots in germanic and anglo-saxon society, but the extended family in the form of the bilateral kindred was also a very significant element of germanic societies — until quite late in some regions of europe. the importance of the germanic kindred waned over the course of the early medieval period, very much so in england, i think thanks to The Outbreeding Project undertaken by northwest europeans beginning in the early medieval period. (see mating patterns in europe series below ↓ in left-hand column.)

previously: kinship in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society ii and medieval germanic kindreds … and the ditmarsians and emmanuel todd’s absolute nuclear family and “l’explication de l’idéologie”

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krsna slava is a traditional serbian (although it seems that there are similar traditions elsewhere in the balkans) celebration of a family’s particular patron saint — and by “family” here i mean an extended, patrilineal family — a celebration by a man and his wife and their sons and their families (if they have any) plus any unmarried daughters. a wife would celebrate the slava with her husband and his family of their patron saint, not the one which she grew up with (although if a woman was the last in her line, her slava might be celebrated in the household, too). the tradition goes right back to at least the medieval period — the earliest known record of slava celebrations is from 1018 a.d. [pg. 68] — although it probably has pre-christian roots.

the krsna slava qualifies as “clannish” as far as i am concerned (even though the serbs might not — surprisingly — be the most clannish of the balkan populations — more on that some other time). the slava is a way of distinguishing one extended family from another — each family has its own patron saint and own slava day (the saint’s feast day, i think) — and there’s some evidence/suggestions that the slava tradition ties back into the days when the serbs (and other balkan populations) were organized more into clans or tribes and not just extended families.

from Serbia [pgs. 42-43]:

“There are many facets of Orthodox religious practice that are central to Serbian culture even for individuals who are not especially religious. One of the most important of these is the custom of celebrating *slava*, a practice which may also be encountered in Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Croatia, although it is most commonly associated with the Serbs. *Slava*, which might be best translated as meaning ‘praise’ or ‘glory’, is the celebration of a patron saint. Each family celebrates its own saint, who is considered to be its protector. A particular *slava* is inherited from father to son and the occasion brings families together as each household, in sharing the same *slava*, is obliged to celebrate the event together. In special cases, such as migration abroad, family members may stage the event separately but as a rule it takes place under one roof, that of the family patriarch.

“During a *slava* the family home is open to anyone who wishes to drop by. It is considered untraditional to actually invite guests outside the family, but visitors are welcomed if they come of their own free will. To be turned away from a Serbian home during a *slava* is unheard of as this would bring disgrace to the household. The Krsna *slava* ritual involves the breaking of bread and the lighting of a candle by a priest. A prayer is said over the *koljivo* — ground cooked wheat — the third of the three ingredients central to the *slava* ceremony (the Serbs have a thing about the number three). Incense is burned and everyone present is blessed with holy water before the priest blesses and cuts the bread in the sign of the cross. The bread is then rotated by the family patriarch, his godfather and the priest before everyone assembled sits down for a meal. Of the various saints’ days, the most commonly celebrated are those of St. Nicholas (Nikolijdan) on 19 December, St. George (Durdevan) on 6 May, St. John the Baptist (Jovanjdan) on 20 January and St. Archangel Michael (Arandelovdan) on 21 November.

The custom of *slava* is believed to date back to the late 9th century when the Serbs were first Christianised. It is thought that each of the Serb tribes adopted its collective saint protector around this time and this is borne out by *slava* variations according to geographical regions. Another commonly held belief, which does not necessarily contradict this, is that the custom of *slava* is a remnant from pre-Christian paganism and that *slava* was a syncretic adaptation in which the qualities of the old Serbian gods found sustenance in the personalities of the new Christian saints. Occasionally, a new *slava* is adopted when it is believed that a particular saint has facilitated deliverances from an afflication such as an illness, in response to prayer.”

interestingly, though:

“As well as individuals and families, various communities such as villages, cities, organisations, political parties, institutions and professions, can have their own *slava*. Belgrade’s *slava* is on Ascension Day, which takes place on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter each year.”

middling inbreeders/outbreeders, the serbs? more in-betweeners? dunno.

james hedman (of the nsa?! (~_^) ) commented the other day:

“The tribes of Arabia were at the time of Mohammed by and large polytheistic pagans, each tribe having its own specific deities to nature, such as oases, trees, and weather.”

quite so. from Islam: A Guide for Jews and Christians [pgs. 41-42]:

“The inhabitants of Arabia assuredly had a religious tradition before Islam, and although we are not particularly well informed about it, it appears to have been quite complex, as we would expect to discover in societies that were splintered into tribes and clans of widely varying sizes, some sedentary and some nomadic, with a number of the latter ranging seasonally over enormously broad terrains.

“The inhabitants of the Hajaz worshiped the way they lived: the small settled populations visited fixed shrines in oases, whereas the Bedouin carried their gods with them. The objects worshiped were principally stones, trees, and heavenly bodies, or rather, the gods thought to reside in them, or possibly — and here we begin to enter a world we do not fully understand — represented by them. Reasonably clear is that in the more recent Arabian past sacred stones were increasingly being shaped into human likenesses, rough or fine, perhaps, it has been surmised, because of the extension of Hellenistic styles into the peninsula.

“However the devotees thought of it, Arabian cultus was highly volatile, the deities often sharing characteristics, being harmonized into families, or passing now into the possession of this tribe and now of that. There is a distinctly tribal notion to the Arabs’ worship of the gods. On the basis of the South Arabian evidence, with which the more meager Arab tradition concurs, each tribe or tribal confederation had a divine patron whose cult gave the group a focus for its solidarity. In a practice that points directly to what was occurring at Mecca, each of these ‘federal deities’ was the ‘lord’ of a shrine that served as the federation’s cult center.”

i feel that the krsna slava of the serbs is just a half step away from the tribal gods of the arabs, and both of them are clearly related to household deities. all of these “clan gods” serve to both unite extended families/clans/tribes AND to distinguish them from all the other extended families/clans/tribes out there.

the best sort of “clan god” worship, imho, has got to be the veneration of the dead. have some shrines in your house to your ancestors — maybe exhume them every now and again just to say hello. how more uniting can THAT be to actually remember, on a regular basis, (former) members of your actual family/clan? it’s very direct. i like that!

i kinda/sorta recognize the family patron saint thing from my own semi-clannish background. traditionally, individuals often had “favorite” saints, and it was not uncommon for kids to adopt their parents’ favorite saints, although, afaik, there were no hard-and-fast rules about this. and there were no party days on the saints’ days (d*rn!). my mother adopted my grandfather’s (her father’s) favorite saint, and i am actually named after that saint. my gradmother’s favorite saint was st. martin de porres:


granny was always so daring! (~_^)

previously: mating patterns in medieval eastern europe

(note: comments do not require an email. family shrine – japan.)

anybody else getting a little bored with europe and europeans? yeah, i thought so. here’s a little diversion! (i will return to the mating patterns of europeans shortly.)

the arabs. and by “the arabs” i mean the ones on the arabian peninsula. even more specifically, i mean to contrast the arabs living in the hejaz on the west coast with the arabs from the najd in the interior. for a very long time, the hejazi arabs have been quite comopolitan and internationally-oriented, whereas the najdi arabs were mostly camel-herding nomads or settled in and around desert oases. the balance of power between the two shifted beginning in the 1700-1800s when the al saud clan — from the najd region — gained control of the region, and, most importantly, when they eventually acquired de facto control of the nation’s oil. tells us that the saudi arabians today inbreed a LOT: 50%+ of all marriages are consanguineous (between second cousins or closer). there is variation within the country though.

from Consanguinity among the Saudi Arabian population (1995) [click on table for LARGER view] …

consanguinity among the saudi arabian peninsula - table 02

… the total consanguinity rate in what the authors refer to as the “north western province” (i think this must be some former provincial designation), which is basically the hejaz region, was 67.7% in 1995. the “central province” — the northern part of the najd region — had a consanguineous marriage rate of 60.8% — so lower than the hejaz region.

i don’t think that this was always the case, that consanguineous marriage was more common in the hejaz region than in the najd region. in fact, i think that the hejazis have adopted cousin marriage more and more over the course of the last couple of centuries thanks to a process of “najdification” that, presumably, the entire country has been undergoing since the al saud clan came to prominence. (also, perhaps many najdis have moved to places in the hejaz region like mecca.)

from Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for an Arabian Identity (2004) [pgs. 77-81]:

Of key interest here is the introduction of what may be called the ‘tribalisation’ of marriage relations amongst the Hijazis. In contrast to past practices of marriage with non-Arab Muslims, marriages now take place within the Hijazi cultural group. The definition of what constitutes a Hijazi for marriage purposes has become more strict….

One implication of ‘tribalisation’, however, is that it draws the cultural form of association that sets the standards for the Hijazis from Najdi life. The emphasis placed on lineage, purity and related ideas confirms the superiority of a particular conception of what a social group should be: a tribe….

“For members of the Hijazi *’awa’il*, establishing and dissolving contemporary marriage relationships is now regulated by several sets of rules and considerations, most of which are relatively recent in origin…. All of these changes are best understood in light of the contrast between the period prior to and that following the Hijaz’s political unification under Saudi rule….

“In the period before Saudi political unification the rules governing marriage derived from largely religious sources, reflecting a very different relation between state and society to that which exists in the present. All contemporary marriage rules are closely related to these earlier ones, either as refinements or entailing new but subordinate principles.

“At the most general level, the Quran is broadly permissive of potential marriage partners: ‘Oh! Mankind! We have created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most pious of you.’ There are, however, some qualifications to this open-ended approach. The first is that Islam permits marital ties between Muslim men and non-Muslim women, provided the latter are ‘people of the book’, *ahl al kitab*, i.e. Jews or Christians. The Quran tells male Muslims that, ‘lawful for you are the chaste women from among those who have been given the book’. Muslim women, on the other hand, are absolutely prohibited from marrying non-Muslims. A Muslim woman’s marriage to a non-Muslim is considered to entail illegal intercourse and thus produces illegitimate offspring who are prohibited from inheriting the father’s wealth….

“In addition to religion, considerations of the nature of wider family life have been most influential in regulating marriage. Here the promotion and defence of patrilineal group status is of central significance. Family status is related to the *’ird* (honour) of its male members, which is defended by ensuring the chastity of female dependants. The idea of *’ird* is a key reason why marriage based on overt love has traditionally been considered *’ayb* (shameful): admitting love implies a clandestine pre-marital relationship. Indeed, the idea that marriage should be based on an emotional bond between husband and wife conflicts with the primacy of maintaining well-integrated families; it implies putting one’s personal interests and needs above the extended family’s wellbeing. In this, Hijazis conform to general Arabian attitudes but, as ever, the Hijazi preoccupation with family creates a specific distrust of bonds based on emotion or sentiment….

Accounts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries clearly show that these rules did indeed regulate Hijazi marriages. For instance, being Muslim, regardless of other origins, provided a sufficiently strong basis on which to build marriages. Mecca was a melting pot for the Islamic world, so mixed marriages were common. Marriage made a significant contribution to the heterogeneous and cosmopolitan nature of Hijazi society.

By contrast, Najdi marriage was, and remains within the same lineage, with bonds among the tribal families usually reinforced by patrilineal parallel-cousin marriages. There is, however, an important distinction between *khadiri* (non-tribal, i.e. ‘non-pure’ Najdi), and *gabili* (tribal ‘pure-blooded’ Najdi). Strict patrilinearity allowed *gabili* men to marry outsiders, such as Egyptian, Moroccan or Lebanese women, but their female relatives have never married outside the tribe. In principle, then, men from the Hijaz would not have been able to marry into a pure-blooded Najdi family, while women would, although Hijazi women were not, as a rule, given in marriage to Najdi families, nor were they asked. In this intricate system of social boundaries expressed through marriage practices, Hijazis — both men and women — married from the Asir tribal region more easily than from the tribal Najd….

“Among elite Najdi men polygamy has also been more prominent.”

so it sounds as though the najdi arabs have had a longer history of closer inbreeding than the hejazi arabs.

if we go even further back, there are more hints that the hejazis may have been comparative outbreeders, as far as arabs go anyway. from Close Relationships: Incest and Inbreeding in Classical Arabic Literature (2005) [pgs. 78-81]:

“Much has been written on the extent to which Islam changed or confirmed the existing customs in pre-Islamic Arabia. Data on these customs are scanty…. As for the forbidden degrees of marriage, early Muslim authorities explain that the main differences between pre-Islamic and Islamic customs concerned the marriage of stepmothers and sons, and being married to two sisters simultaneously. Muhammad ibn al-Saib al-Kalbi (d.146/763) praises the Arabs in the Jahiliyya, the period of ‘ignorance’, for anticipating the Qur’anic prohibitions:

“‘The Arabs, in the time of their Ignorance, held things for forbidden that the Qur’an was to declare forbidden. They did not marry daughters or mothers, nor sisters or aunts from the mother’s side or the father’s side. The worst thing they used to do was to be married to two sisters at the same time, or to succeed one’s deceased father as husband to his wife. They used to call someone who did this *dayzan*….

“‘(…) If a man died, leaving a wife, or divorced his wife, his eldest son would stand up and throw his cloak over her if he wanted her. If he did not want her, one of his brothers would marry her, with a new brideprice.’

“Ibn Habib (d. 245/860), who has a nearly identical passage, adds that ‘Islam has separated men from the wives of their fathers; they are numerous’….

“Ibn Habib also states that the Arabs used to marry two sisters….”

not too much about marrying cousins there, but there’s this…

Against the tendency of presenting the pre-Islamic Arabs as being very close to Islam already, others restrict this virtuous behaviour to the inhabitants of Mecca, contrasting them with the Bedouins, as did Yaqut in the passage quoted above….

and that passage from yaqut [pg. 60]:

“In his ‘Kitab al-Arab’ (‘Book of the Arabs’), devoted to the virtues of the Arabs, Ibn Qutayba praises especially Quaysh, the Prophet’s tribe, for preserving something of the old Abrahamic religion, inherited through Abraham/Ibrahim’s son Ismael/Imail; these remnants included ‘circucision, ritual ablution, repudiation of women, manumission of slaves, and the prohibition of marriage with forbidden family members, through kinship, milk relationship, or affinity by marriage’. Yaqut (d. 626/1229) rephrases the same idea: the pre-Islamic Meccans:

‘were not like the uncouth Bedouins. They used to circumcise their sons, to perform the Hajj at the Kaaba; … they shunned marriages with a daughter, a daughter’s daughter, a sister, and a sister’s daughter, because of their sense of jealous honour and in order to keep aloof from the Magians.’”

in other words, perhaps the pre-islamic hejazi were not at all like the pre-islamic najdis (bedouins) … and, perhaps, the hejazi — the population from whence mohammed hailed — didn’t inbreed so much [pg. 81]:

In general, as far as may be ascertained, inbreeding was not very common in pre-Islamic times. It is difficult to obtain precise information. The genealogies of tribes and clans in the pre-Islamic and early Islamic periods, though very detailed, are notoriously unreliable, loaded as they are with politics and sentiments; an alliance between tribes was often cemented by fabricating a common ancestor. Moreover, the genealogies normally present the male lines only and give very little information on females. Among the exceptions are the lineages of the Prophet Muhammad and other prominent early Muslims. Thus Ibn Habib gives Muhammad’s ancestors in the all-female line, going back seven generations. Similar but shorter matrilinear lines are given for Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, and al-Hasan. Only two lines are given in full in these lineages: the all-male and the all-female, out of the theoretical maximum of 128 (2 to the 7th) lines of ascendants that go with a full picture of seven generations in Muhammad’s case. Therefore it is hazardous to draw any firm conclusions. Yet the general picture that emerges from this admittedly limited sample is clear: there may have been ‘irregularities’ by Islamic standards, such as the above-mentioned stepmother-marriages, but the spouses are not closely related and even first-cousin unions, often assumed to be dominant in Arab society, are almost absent as far as can be observed. In the Prophet’s lineage, one finds that his great-grandmother Umm Habib and her husband Abd al-Uzza had a great-grandfather (Qusayy) in common; Uthman’s maternal great-great-grandmother Sakhra bint Abd ibn Imran married her first cousin Amr ibn Aidh ibn Imran.”

perhaps mohammed — who invented a fairly (fairly) universalistic religion — came from a comparatively not-so-inbred population [i.e. the hejazi arabs - mohammed's tribe, the quraysh tribe, was from mecca]. -?- dunno. difficult to tell, but it’s an interesting question, i think.

previously: inbreeding and the ancient hebrews (and the arabs) and father’s brother’s daughter’s marriage

(note: comments do not require an email. tl;dr.)

on west africans and their (on average) greater amounts of fast-twitch muscles:

Peering Under the Hood of Africa’s Runners

“…The differences don’t stop with body shape; there is also evidence of a difference in the types of muscle fibers that predominate. Scientists have divided skeletal muscles into two basic groups depending on their contractile speed: type I, or slow-twitch muscles, and type II, fast-twitch muscles. There are two kinds of the latter: type IIa, intermediate between fast and slow; and type IIb, which are superfast-twitch. Endurance runners tend to have mostly type I fibers, which have denser capillary networks and are packed with more mitochondria. Sprinters, on the other hand, have mostly type II fibers, which hold lots of sugar as well as enzymes that burn fuel in the absence of oxygen. In the 1980s, Claude Bouchard’s team at Quebec’s Laval University took needle biopsies from the thigh muscles of white French Canadian and black West African students. They found that the Africans averaged significantly more fast-twitch muscle fibers — 67.5% — than the French Canadians, who averaged 59%….”

i am totally going with my own personal theory for why west africans have more fast-twitch muscles, and that is because of sexual selection.

for how long have various west african populations been showing off their skillz — like this! — on the dance floor?:


yup. sexual selection. that’s my theory (with a small “t”), and i’m sticking with it!

(note: comments do not require an email. rude comments WILL get you banned.)

on the recommendations of jayman and benjamin (thanks, guys!), i’m reading colin woodard‘s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, and, so far, it is terrific!

except for this paragraph which appears in the introduction:

“Finally, I’d like to underscore the fact that becoming a member of a nation usually has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with culture. One doesn’t *inherit* a national identity the way one gets hair, skin, or eye color; one *acquires* it in childhood or, with great effort, through voluntary assimilation later in life. Even the ‘blood’ nations of Europe support this assertion. A member of the (very nationalistic) Hungarian nation might be descended from Austrian Germans, Russian Jews, Serbs, Croats, Slovaks, or any combination thereof, but if he speaks Hungarian and embraces Hungarian-ness, he’s regarded as being just as Hungarian as any ‘pure-blooded’ Magyar descendant of King Árpád. In a similar vein, nobody would deny French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Frenchness, even though his father was a Hungarian noble and his maternal grandfather a Greek-born Sephardic Jew. The same is true of the North American nations: if you talk like a Midlander, act like a Midlander, and think like a Midlander, you’re probably a Midlander, regardless of whether your parents or grandparents came from the Deep South, Italy, or Eritrea.”


what does woodard base his assertion upon? nothing. no references backing up what he says whatsoever (just a couple of little anecdotal news stories). his “a nation usually has nothing to do with genetics” statement just hangs there in midair like … something just hanging there in midair.

what do i base my “poppycock” reaction on? actual biological evidence:

european populations - genetics

nations — as in nasci (to “be born”) — exist as real, biologically based populations — with fuzzy edges, of course, because it’s biology that we’re talking about. that doesn’t make them any the less identifiable as populations (see map above). and different nations have their own, innate characteristics. those that are closer to each other are more alike to one another, of course, because it’s easier to swap genes if you’re neighbors (especially in the past — nowadays, with modern transportation, almost anything goes — theoretically anyway).

the population of the united states is, obviously, much more tumbled up than old world ones, but oddly people keeping spotting the fact that there are different regional cultures across the u.s. — different nations as woodard puts it. this isn’t (wholly) down to “culture.” and, despite all the ethnic/racial mixing in the country, this is probably very much down to biology — and woodard, unbeknowst to himself, explains how this can be:

“Our continent’s famed mobility — and the transportation and communications technology that foster it — has been reinforcing, not dissolving, the differences between the nations. As journalist Bill Bishop and sociologist Robert Cushing demonstrated in The Big Sort (2008), since 1976 Americans have been relocating to communities where people share their values and worldview<…. As Americans sort themselves into like-minded communities, they’re also sorting themselves into like-minded nations.

americans (and immigrants to the u.s.) have been getting up and moving to areas of the country where they can find people like themselves. so american “cultural” regions — woodard’s nations — have persisted. thanks to self-sorting.

apart from that one paragraph, American Nations is really terrific! i, too, recommend it. (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. one of my favorite nations!)


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