Archives for posts with tag: father’s brother’s daughter marriage

i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: stanley kurtz is a really, really smart guy. he’s especially smart when it comes to mating patterns and family types in the middle east/arab world and how those affect the social and political workings of the nations in those regions. which is why i had a little #StanleyKurtzFest to myself on twitter the other day. (^_^) and i thought i’d repeat it here.

kurtz trained as a social anthropologist (at harvard) and did his fieldwork in india, so he knows anthropology. he wrote several articles about mating patterns and things like democracy in the arabized world, some of them back before we got involved in iraq in the early 2000s, so the guy is aware. but EVERYthing he wrote back then still very much applies to iraq today, not to mention to afghanistan, syria, libya, egypt — in other words, the whole arab autumn movement.

i’m going to cut-and-paste some excerpts from his articles here, but i highly recommend clicking through and reading them all! the only aspect kurtz misses is, of course, the biological underpinnings for the behavioral patterns we see in the arab world — which is unfortunate, since the biology is fundamental to it all, but hey — nobody’s perfect! for the biological explanation (which you should hold in your mind the entire time while you’re reading kurtz — which you’re going to do, right? promise?!), you should see steve sailer’s classic Cousin Marriage Conundrum — and any random post on this blog. (~_^)

oh. one other thing that stanley — along with many others — gets wrong is the idea that people let go of their extended families if and when they have some sort of just state in charge that will take care of the rights of the individual. that is, imho, exactly backwards. states that are (more or less) of, by, and for the people only come into existence — can only come into existence — after a population has moved away from the extended family as the basic unit of society. there is evidence that this was the order of events in medieval england, and i’m betting that it will hold for elsewhere as well. more on all that another time.

right. here we go…

“I and My Brother Against My Cousin”
“Is Islam the best way to understand the war on terror? Tribalism may offer a clearer view of our enemies’ motivations.”
Apr 14, 2008

“In the Islamic Near East, however, the term ‘tribe’ has a fairly specific meaning. Middle Eastern tribes think of themselves as giant lineages, traced through the male line, from some eponymous ancestor. Each giant lineage divides into tribal segments, which subdivide into clans, which in turn divide into sub-clans, and so on, down to families, in which cousins may be pitted against cousins or, ultimately, brother against brother. Traditionally existing outside the police powers of the state, Middle Eastern tribes keep order through a complex balance of power between these ever fusing and segmenting ancestral groups.

“The central institution of segmentary tribes is the feud. Security depends on the willingness of every adult male in a given tribal segment to take up arms in its defense. An attack on a lineage-mate must be avenged by the entire group. Likewise, any lineage member is liable to be attacked in revenge for an offense committed by one of his relatives. One result of this system of collective responsibility is that members of Middle Eastern kin groups have a strong interest in policing the behavior of their lineage-mates, since the actions of any one person directly affect the reputation and safety of the entire group.

“Universal male militarization, surprise attacks on apparent innocents based on a principle of collective guilt, and the careful group monitoring and control of personal behavior are just a few implications of a system that accounts for many aspects of Middle Eastern society without requiring any explanatory recourse to Islam. The religion itself is an overlay in partial tension with, and deeply stamped by, the dynamics of tribal life….

“Looking at a political map of the Middle East, we tend to assume government control of the territories lying within all those neatly drawn borders. It is a serious mistake. As Salzman puts it, traditional Middle Eastern states are more like magnets, exerting force on territory near the center, while losing power with distance. The Ottoman Empire (and the British) ruled the tribes loosely, demanding an annual tribute but generally leaving them to govern themselves. To a remarkable extent, this holds true today. While the precise degree of centralized power ebbs and flows, tribes living in what are often quite large territories on national peripheries exist largely free of state power.

“Far from viewing this as a disability, Middle Eastern tribesmen consider life beyond the state as the surest way to avoid dishonorable submission. Statelessness is an essential condition of dignity, equality, and freedom. The traditional relation of the state to the peasant, notes Salzman, ‘is that of the shepherd to his flock: the state fleeces the peasants, making a living off of them, and protects them from other predators, so that they may be fleeced again.’ Salzman asks us to think of traditional states as ‘cliques determined to impose their power for the pleasure of dominance and the profit of extortion.’

“Saddam Hussein comes to mind. Not only was his regime exploitative, it was built around a tribal coalition, at the center of which was Saddam’s Tikriti clan. In the traditional system, says Salzman, states were bereft of any wider sense of civic responsibility or benevolence. Secure in distant mountains or deserts, traditional Middle Eastern tribes (like the Yahi in the hills of California) engaged in predatory raiding against settled peasants. Once a particularly powerful tribe or tribal coalition actually captured a state, they simply routinized their predation under official guise. (Saddam and his Sunni tribal allies fit the bill.) From that perspective, avoiding a life of peasant humiliation and exploitation through membership in an independent tribe begins to look good — endemic violence notwithstanding….”
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“Marriage and the Terror War, Part I”
“Better learn up on your anthropology if you want to understand the war.”
February 15, 2007

“In this first in a series of essays on Muslim cousin-marriage, I want to begin to make the case that Muslim kinship structure is an unexamined key to the war on terror. While the character of Islam itself is unquestionably one of the critical forces driving our global conflict, the nature of Islamic kinship and social structure is at least as important a factor — although this latter cluster of issues has received relatively little attention in public debate. Understanding the role of Middle Eastern kinship and social structure in driving the war not only throws light on the weaknesses of arguments like D’Souza’s, it may also help us devise a new long-term strategy for victory in the war on terror.

“Self-Sealing Society

Think of the culture of the Muslim Middle East as ‘self-sealing.’ Muslim society has a deep-lying bias toward in-group solidarity, the negative face of which manifests itself in a series of powerful mechanisms for preventing, coercing, or punishing those who would break with or undermine the in-group and its customs. This bias toward in-group solidarity serves to shelter Muslim society from interaction with the forces of modernity, and also explains why Muslim immigrants so often fail to assimilate. Of course, no society can function without some sort of ‘in-group solidarity.’ Yet the Muslim world is truly distinctive on this score. When it comes to the core principles of kinship, Muslim practices strengthen and protect the integrity and continuity of the in-group in a way that sets the Middle East apart from every other society in the world. To appreciate this fact, we’ve first got to understand some fundamental things about the nature of kinship.

“For the greater part of human history, nearly every society has been organized into units based on kin ties. Modern life greatly reduces the significance of these ties, since capitalism tends to allocate jobs based on ability (instead of who your father is), while democracies apply laws, and assign benefits, on the principle of equal citizenship (not birth). By contrast, in most traditional societies, a man’s security, health, prosperity, and religious standing all depend, first and foremost, on his relatives. So to understand the kinship structure of a traditional society is to make sense of a good deal of life there. Unfortunately, our contemporary thinned-out notion of kinship has made it tough to recognize just how profoundly societies are shaped by variations in marriage practices. That’s why we’re far more comfortable making sense of the war on terror through the lens of a familiar phenomenon like religion, than in the light of something alien, like cousin marriage….

“All right, let’s say we have a society made up of clans organized by descent through the father. (Imagine a grander version of your own father’s family line, or something like the Hatfields and McCoys.) In any given clan, the men all trace their descent from a common male ancestor. In such a society, a rule or preference for cross-cousin marriage would create a systematic form of exogamy. In other words, if every man in a patrilineal, clan-based society were to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter, every man would be marrying someone from a different clan. (For example, if you were to marry your own mother’s brother’s child, you would be marrying someone from outside of your father’s family line.) Since every man’s mother in our imaginary society is born into a different patriclan than his own, when a man marries the daughter of his mother’s brother (i.e., his cross cousin) he is renewing an alliance with another patriclan (i.e. his mother’s birth clan) by bringing a woman from his mother’s birth clan into his own clan as a wife, just as his father did before him.

“On the other hand, in a society made up of competing patriclans, a rule or preference for parallel-cousin marriage would have exactly the opposite effect. Parallel-cousin marriage would seal each and every clan off from all of the others. If, say, every man in a society made up of patrilineal clans was to marry his father’s brother’s daughter, every man would be married to a descendent of his own birth clan. (For example, if you were to marry your own father’s brother’s child, you would be marrying someone from within your father’s family line.) That would be a very strong form of endogamy, or “marrying in,” which, according to Tylor, would encourage social isolation, cultural stasis, rivalry, and high levels of conflict between clans….

And as we’ve already seen, parallel-cousin marriage [i.e. fbd marriage-h.chick] has an effect precisely the opposite of the alliance-building interchange encouraged by cross-cousin marriage — and praised by Tylor and Levi-Strauss. Instead of encouraging cultural exchange, forging alliances, and mitigating tensions among competing groups, parallel-cousin marriage tends to wall off groups from one another and to encourage conflict between and among them. However strong the urge among anthropologists to identify the cooperative advantages of exogamy as a core characteristic of human nature itself, the hard fact of the matter is that a significant minority of human societies have chosen to organize themselves according to principles quite the opposite of alliance-based exogamy. Care to hazard guess as to exactly where in the world those societies might be?

“While the vast majority of societies that practice cousin marriage favor the marriage of cross cousins, the relatively small number of societies that encourage parallel-cousin marriage can be found in the Islamic cultures of North Africa and west and central Asia. Russian anthropologist Andrey Korotayev has shown that, while the region that practices parallel-cousin marriage does not map perfectly onto the Islamic world as a whole, it does (with some exceptions) closely resemble the territory of the eighth-century Islamic Caliphate — the original Islamic empire. So there is one great exception to the claim that human society — and even human nature itself — are built around the principle of extra-familial marriage. Almost every known contemporary case of preferential parallel-cousin marriage is the result of diffusion from a single source: the original Islamic Caliphate. And while parallel-cousin marriage may not be Islamic in any strict or formal sense (in fact, the practice apparently predates Islam in the region), as Korotayev puts it, ‘there seems to be no serious doubt that there is some functional connection between Islam and FBD [father’s brother’s daughter -- i.e., parallel cousin] marriage.’ Sounds like we’d best find out what that ‘functional connection’ is….”
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“Marriage and the Terror War, Part II”
“Protecting the honor of the family; protecting the honor of Islam.”
February 16, 2007

“[O]nce you understand how Muslims construct society as a collection of counterbalanced, sometimes allied, sometimes feuding, closed-off, and self-sufficient family cells, the problem of Muslim cultural persistence begins to make sense. Holy also allows us to appreciate that the Muslim seclusion of women (another critical barrier to modernization and assimilation) is part and parcel of a larger complex of practices, at the center of which is parallel-cousin marriage….

“With all the economic and social diversity in the Middle East, one factor remains constant. Wherever parallel-cousin marriage is practiced, the notion that the honor of the male family-line depends upon the sexual conduct of women is strong. For this reason, a woman’s father’s brother’s son (her parallel cousin) has the right-of-first-refusal in the matter of her marriage. To protect against the possibility of a woman’s shameful marriage (or other dangerous sexual conduct) damaging the honor of the men of her lineage, male relatives have the right to keep her safely within the family line by marrying her off to her parallel cousin.

“As I’ll show in a follow-up piece, all of these kinship mechanisms are much at work in Europe today. Muslim immigrants in Europe use cousin marriage to keep wealth within already tight family lines, and to prevent girls from entering ‘shameful’ marriages with cultural outsiders. All this serves to reinforce family ‘solidarity,’ thereby blocking the assimilation of Muslim immigrants into society at large. We’ve all heard about full-body veiling, the seclusion of women, forced marriage, honor killing, and the like. Europe is struggling with the question of how to handle these practices. What we’ve missed up to now is the sense in which cousin marriage tends to organize and orchestrate all of these controversial practices, thereby serving as the lynch-pin of a broader pattern of resistance to assimilation and modernization. In effect, parallel-cousin marriage in Europe acts as a social ‘sealing mechanism’ to block cultural interchange — just as, over a century ago, Sir Edward Tylor theorized it would….”
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“With Eyes Wide Open”
“Who they are; what we’re getting into.”
February 20, 2002

“The split between the state and society-at-large has a long history in the Middle East. The governments of Mohammad and his immediate successors, the ‘rightly guided Caliphs,’ were successful theocracies. But as Islam’s empire grew, the Caliphs were forced to resort to strategies of authoritarian rule and hereditary recruitment that violated strict Islamic principles of equality and consultation. The result was that the state itself lost legitimacy. Righteous Muslims grew more interested in avoiding the state than in serving it. The image of Mohammad’s just theocracy lived on, and religion was still blended with everyday social practice through the regulations of Islamic law, but for much of Islamic history, the state itself was devalued and delegitimated.

“That was less of a problem before the modern era. The great Islamic empires ruled their subjects lightly taxing and offering military protection, but for the most part depending on tribal ties and kinship (along with Islamic law) to regulate the daily business of life. The rulers stayed out of the day-to-day affairs of the people, and the people liked it that way. The old system allowed Muslim governments to cobble together huge empires out of essentially self-governing populations. Yet under modern conditions, the traditional split between the self-contained world of tribe and kin, on the one hand, and the state on the other, sets up a debilitating struggle between tradition and modernity.

“The meltdown in the Middle East has been fueled by massive population growth and a flood of rural immigrants into cities like Cairo and Istanbul. Governments have been hard pressed to provide the new urban immigrants with municipal services, much less jobs. That’s where those kin networks come in. In European history, even in rural areas, extended kinship ties grew progressively less important, until the collapse of feudalism and the rise of cities created a society of truly modern individuals. The new European society was ruled by powerful centralized governments, and bureaucracies that applied the law equally to all. But unlike the urban masses of Europe, the rural migrants powering the Middle East’s urban population explosion have brought their traditional kinship networks with them. Those networks offer support to the common man where weak Middle Eastern governments cannot — while also making it impossible for a modern political and economic system to take root. Family connections get you food when neither government nor the economy can provide it. But the corruption fueled by the family ethos sabotages the government’s distribution plans, undercuts the government’s legitimacy, and blocks the path to societal liberalization….

In short, the entire kinship system and its associated economic apparatus constitutes almost a society within a society, the massive holdings of which aren’t even counted toward Egypt’s GNP. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that the modern Egyptian government and economy are virtual alien implants, floating lightly on the surface of a still remarkably traditional society, even in a big city like Cairo. Yet people still expect the government to deliver cheap foodstuffs and other staples. It’s the government food subsidies that enable parents to squirrel away money for their children’s marriages — alliances that cement social connections that bring the security, opportunity, and prosperity that the government cannot deliver. That’s why threats to the food subsidies bring riots….”
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“Veil of Fears”
“Why they veil; why we should leave it alone.”
December 15, 2001

“The conflict between modernity and the traditional Muslim view of women is one of the most important causes of this war. The tiresome claim of the leftist academy that poverty causes terrorism misses the point. So far from being poor, Muslim fundamentalists tend to come from a relatively wealthy modernizing class. The terrorists and their supporters are generally newly urbanized, college-educated professionals from intact families with rural backgrounds. They are a rising but frustrated cohort, shut out of power by a more entrenched and Westernized elite. True, the new fundamentalists often find themselves stymied by the weak economies of Muslim countries, but as a class they are relatively well off. Like many revolutions, the Muslim fundamentalist movement has been spurred by increased income, education, and expectations. But it is the clash between traditional Middle Eastern family life and modernity that has decisively pushed so many toward fundamentalism. And women are at the center of the problem….

“The Taliban’s code of womanly behavior was intentionally directed toward the cities. The aim was to ‘purify’ those areas of Afghanistan that had been ‘corrupted’ by modernization. But the Taliban never bothered to enforce its rules in traditional areas. Actually, in most Afghan villages, women rarely wear the burka. That’s because villages in Afghanistan are organized into kin-oriented areas, and the veil needs wearing only when a woman is among men from outside of her kin group. A rural woman puts on a burka for travel, especially to cities. Yet just by exiting her home, a woman in a modern city inevitably mixes with men who are not her kin. That’s why the Taliban prohibited the modernized women of Kabul from so much as stepping onto the street without a male relative. So the real problem with the veil in Afghanistan was the Taliban’s attempt to impose the traditional system of veiling on a modernizing city. Yet, remarkable as it may seem, many modernizing urban women throughout the Middle East have freely accepted at least a portion of the Taliban’s reasoning. These educated women have actually taken up the veil — and along with it, Muslim fundamentalism. To see why, it is necessary to understand what makes traditional Muslim women veil in the first place.

Life in the Muslim Middle East has long revolved around family and tribe. In fact, that’s what a tribe is — your family in its most extended form. For much of Middle Eastern history, tribal networks of kin functioned as governments in miniature. In the absence of state power, it was the kin group that protected an individual from attack, secured his wealth, and performed a thousand other functions. No one could flourish whose kin group was not strong, respected, and unified.

“In the modern Middle East, networks of kin are still the foundation of wealth, security, and personal happiness. That, in a sense, is the problem. As we’ve seen in Afghanistan, loyalty to kin and tribe cuts against the authority of the state. And the corrupt dictatorships that rule much of the Muslim Middle East often function themselves more like self-interested kin groups than as rulers who take the interests of the nation as a whole as their own. That, in turn, gives the populace little reason to turn from the proven support of kin and tribe, and trust instead in the state.

“So from earliest youth, a Middle Eastern Muslim learns that his welfare and happiness are bound up in the strength and reputation of his family. If, for example, a child shows a special aptitude in school, his siblings might willingly sacrifice their personal chances for advancement simply to support his education. Yet once that child becomes a professional, his income will help to support his siblings, while his prestige will enhance their marriage prospects.

“The ‘family’ to which a Muslim Middle Easterner is loyal, however, is not like our family. It is a ‘patrilineage’ — a group of brothers and other male relatives, descended from a line of men that can ultimately be traced back to the founder of a particular tribe. Traditionally, lineage brothers will live near one another and will share the family’s property. This willingness of a ‘band of brothers’ to pool their labor and wealth is the key to the strength of the lineage.

“But the centrality of men to the Muslim kinship system sets up a problem. The women who marry into a lineage pose a serious threat to the unity of the band of brothers. If a husband’s tie to his wife should become more important than his solidarity with his brothers, the couple might take their share of the property and leave the larger group, thus weakening the strength of the lineage.

“There is a solution to this problem, however — a solution that marks out the kinship system of the Muslim Middle East as unique in the world. In the Middle East, the preferred form of marriage is between a man and his cousin (his father’s brother’s daughter). Cousin marriage solves the problem of lineage solidarity. If, instead of marrying a woman from a strange lineage, a man marries his cousin, then his wife will not be an alien, but a trusted member of his own kin group. Not only will this reduce a man’s likelihood of being pulled away from his brothers by his wife, a woman of the lineage is less likely to be divorced by her husband, and more likely to be protected by her own extended kin in case of a rupture in the marriage. Somewhere around a third of all marriages in the Muslim Middle East are between members of the same lineage, and in some places the figure can reach as high as 80 percent. It is this system of ‘patrilateral parallel cousin marriage’ [fbd marriage-h.chick] that explains the persistence of veiling, even in the face of modernity.

By veiling, women are shielded from the possibility of a dishonoring premarital affair. But above all, when Muslim women veil, they are saving themselves for marriage to the men of their own kin group. In an important sense, this need to protect family honor and preserve oneself for an advantageous marriage to a man of the lineage is a key to the rise of Islamic revivalism….”
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“After the War”
Winter 2003

“[I]f we do decide to try to impose democracy on Iraq, it will be far harder than proponents of democratization recognize. It will entail long, unremitting U.S. effort….

“The democratizers’ model for transforming Iraq is America’s post–World War II occupation of Japan….

“Efforts to democratize a country require more than modern liberal ideas; they require a class of people who embrace those ideas and make them effective. Had a sophisticated modern bureaucratic class not been on hand to accept and implement democratic reforms, the American occupation of Japan would not have succeeded. To be sure, excessive bureaucracy can suffocate democratic liberty, but modern bureaucracies are generally democratizing forces. They embody intrinsically modern, democratic ideas — that the government office is distinct from the individual who holds it, for example, and that rules apply to all with equal force. They blow apart traditional social relations — relations that are often powerful barriers to democratic reform—by centralizing authority and power in a national government.

“Japan’s relatively modern bureaucratic class was in place even before the Meiji Restoration. Many former samurai, displaced by history from their traditional military role, had moved into administrative positions. No egalitarians, these men possessed a profound sense of superiority and entitlement, based on a conviction that they had transcended the petty selfishness of the ordinary man to devote themselves to a higher good. In the administrative realm, their elite spirit of nobility and sacrifice took the form of an ethic of detachment, incorruptibility, and public-spiritedness — ideal virtues for modern bureaucratic elites. Once Meiji Japan began to copy Western bureaucratic and meritocratic models, the samurai, with their background in government service, fit right in and helped make those models work in their new Japanese setting, especially since these men had come under the influence of the liberty and popular-rights movement, whose leaders were displaced samurai like themselves.

“The distinctive samurai ethic of public service put an enduring stamp on the Japanese democracy that emerged from the American occupation. To this day, many scholars describe Japan as a ‘bureaucratic polity,’ with government bureaucrats running the country, the political parties, and the industries too.

Nothing comparable to Japan’s liberal intellectual tradition and modern, public-spirited bureaucratic class exists in Iraq or in any Arab country. The influence of fundamentalist Islam in the Arab world reflects a culture deeply inhospitable to democratic and liberal principles. In a perceptive recent National Interest article, Adam Garfinkle explains that, whereas democracies take as bedrock assumptions that political authority lies with society, that the majority rules, and that citizens are equal before the law, Arab societies vest political authority in the Qur’an, rest decision-making on consensus, and understand law and authority as essentially hierarchical. They lack such essential cultural preconditions for democracy as the idea of a loyal opposition or the rule of law or the separation of church and state. No surprise, given their nonmodern political beliefs, that not one Arab Muslim country qualifies as ‘free’ in Freedom House’s annual survey, and that a disproportionate number of Arab regimes qualify in the ‘worst of the worst’ category — the least free and least democratic on earth.

Arab Muslim societies remain un-modern and un-democratic not just in their attitudes toward political authority and law but also in their social organization. For men and women living within a universe where tribal identity, the duties and benefits of extended kinship networks, and conceptions of collective honor organize the relations of everyday life, democratic principles will be incomprehensible.

“And therefore democracy would be impossible. How could a modern, democratic bureaucracy function, for example, if officials remain loyal primarily to tribe, faction, or family? The power of such ties preempts any ethic of disinterested public service. A government office becomes a means of benefiting your family and harming your enemies, not applying the rules fairly. Saddam’s Iraq largely functions like one big tribal patriarchy, with Saddam the patriarch. His kin, together with members of his tribe and allied tribes, rule….”
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“Assimilation Studies, Part I”
“Muslim and non-Muslim immigrants to Britain originating from the same region.”
March 21, 2007

“It’s a commonplace that Muslim immigrants in Europe have been slow to assimilate. In a general way, the public attributes this relative isolation to Muslim religion and culture. But if you’re looking for a clear, powerful, and detailed account of exactly what it is that’s been blocking Muslim assimilation in Europe, there is no better place to begin than Ballard.

“Variation on a Theme

“Before turning to Ballard’s work, I need to note that the form of cousin marriage favored by the Pakistani Muslims who immigrate to Britain is a regional variant on the ‘parallel cousin’ marriage [fbd marriage-h.chick] favored by Muslims in the heart of the Arab World. (I discussed the nature and significance of ‘parallel cousin’ marriage in ‘Marriage and the Terror War’ Parts I and II.) While many Pakistani Muslims do in fact marry their first or second ‘patrilateral parallel cousins’ (their father’s brother’s child), many others marry first and second cousins of other types. In contrast to Muslims in North Africa and the Arab World, Muslims in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan prefer marriage with any closely related cousin — not merely ‘patrilateral parallel cousins….’

Part of what makes Ballard’s 1990 ‘Migration and kinship’ piece so powerful is that he has identified Punjabi migration to Britain as something like a natural controlled experiment, with cousin marriage as the key variable. Somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of all South Asians in Britain are Punjabis. The Punjab sits athwart the border of India and Pakistan and is home to substantial communities of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. Muslims live almost exclusively in the Pakistani half of Punjab, while Sikhs and Hindus live largely in Indian Punjab. Whatever their religion, Punjabi migrants to Britain have a great deal in common. Most come from small, peasant, farming families, share basic cultural premises, speak a common language, and originally entered Britain intending to pocket savings from manual labor and return home. (In the end, many Punjabi guest workers remained in Britain.)

“In family life, Punjabis of whatever religion organize themselves into patrilineal descent groups. Within those patrilineal clans, a ‘joint family’ forms around a man, his married sons, and their children, with women leaving their natal homes to move in with their husbands. The family lives communally, sharing wealth and property, with grown sons under their father’s authority, and in-marrying wives working under the direction of their mother-in-law. And whether Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh, the modesty of women in dress and behavior is a key cultural value for all Punjabis.

Despite these many similarities, the position of Punjabi Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu immigrants in Britain dramatically differs. Ballard focuses his comparison on two immigrant groups: Punjabi Muslims from the Mirpur region of Pakistan and Punjabi Sikhs from the Jullundur region of India. (Ballard frequently invokes Punjabi Hindus for comparative purposes as well.) Far from being obscure or isolated examples, it turns out that nearly three-quarters of British Punjabis are either Mirpuri Muslims or (largely Sikh) Jullunduris. With Punjabis making up the great majority of all British South Asians, Ballard’s careful comparison is therefore telling us about two of the largest and most influential South Asian immigrant groups in Britain.

So what’s the difference between Jullunduri Sikhs and Mirpuri Muslims? Quite simply, Jullunduri Sikh’s have moved relatively far down the road of assimilation, while Mirpuri Muslims have not. Now largely middle class, many British Sikhs have abandoned manual labor to start their own businesses, have moved from the inner city to the suburbs, and currently see their children performing academically at the same level as other middle-class Britons. British Mirpuri Muslims, on the other hand, move between unemployment and manual labor, are still largely confined to poor, inner-city ethnic enclaves, and rear children with a limited grasp of English and a notably low level of academic achievement.

“Given the broad social, cultural, and linguistic similarities between Mirpuri Muslims and Jullunduri Sikhs (and Hindus), how are we to account for the radically different trajectories of these immigrant communities in Britain? Can religion explain the difference? In a sense, it can. Yet the key barriers to assimilation aren’t always religious in the strict sense. The factors that inhibit assimilation have less to do with Muslim beliefs per se than with the distinctive, non-textual practices that organize Muslim society.

In particular, the practice of cousin marriage has served to create a culturally insulated community of Mirpuri Muslims in Britain….

“After noting that economic factors can have only limited explanatory value in this case, Ballard goes on to highlight the influence of marriage practices on patterns of immigrant assimilation. Ballard suggests that the Muslim practice of cousin marriage may account for the formation of ‘far more in-turned and all-embracing’ kinship networks than we find among British Sikhs, thus helping to explain the two groups’ divergent patterns of economic achievement and cultural accommodation….
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“Assimilation Studies, Part II”
“On cousin marriage and Pakistani Muslims in Britain.”
March 22, 2007

The practice of cousin marriage among Pakistani immigrants has significantly slowed Muslim assimilation in Britain. Muslim cousin marriage has also facilitated a process of ‘reverse colonization,’ in which large, culturally intact sections of Pakistani Muslim society have been effectively transferred to British soil. These conclusions emerge from the work of British South Asianist Roger Ballard — particularly from his path-breaking paper ‘Migration and kinship: the differential effects of marriage rules on the processes of Punjabi migration to Britain.’ In the first part of ‘Assimilation Studies,’ I laid out the background necessary to follow Ballard’s case. Here in Part II, I’ll run through the core of his argument. I’ll also explain why highlighting the significance of Muslim cousin marriage is such a difficult and controversial enterprise….

“Ballard (who’s done extensive fieldwork in Pakistan’s Mirpur district) estimates that ‘over 60% of all Mirpuri marriages are contracted between first cousins.’ In 2002, Ballard noted that: ‘At least half (and possibly as many as two-thirds) of the marriages currently being contracted by young British-based Mirpuris are still arranged with their cousins from back home….’

“What differences did Ballard find between the two big groups of British immigrants from the Punjab: Muslims from the Mirpur district of Pakistan, and Sikhs from the Jullundur district of India? Although both of these groups share a broadly similar social and cultural background, their patterns of assimilation have been strikingly different….

“Even in the 1970s, when Mirpuri Muslim laborers finally did begin to bring their wives and children to live with them in Britain, ties to Pakistan were sustained through ‘chain migration.’ With immigration regulations in Britain reflecting a lesser need and desire for foreign workers, villagers back in Mirpur could obtain visas only by marrying Mirpuri migrants already in Britain. Children of these couples, in turn, married and brought to England yet another generation of Mirpuri villagers, with each link in the chain of marriage migration insuring that the process of adjustment to English language and culture would begin again from scratch. These relatively unassimilated Mirpuri marriage-migrants were largely confined to the inner-city — to neighborhoods that recreated, insofar as possible, the linguistic and cultural conditions of Pakistan itself. Given their limited contact with English-speaking neighbors, Mirpuri children in these ethnic ghettos continued to have problems in school.

So, even when Mirpuri migrant men finally did reunite their families in Britain, it was less a breaking of the bonds that linked them to Pakistan than an effective transfer of a South Asian village society to Britain itself — a sort of ‘reverse colonization’ — with marriage-driven chain migration keeping the ties between the ‘reverse colony’ and the Punjabi homeland as strong as ever. In combination with the original post-war labor inflow, marriage-driven chain migration has now succeeded in transferring well over 50 percent of Mirpur’s original population to Britain. ‘We don’t cultivate wheat here any more,’ one of Ballard’s Mirpuri informants commented, ‘we cultivate visas instead….’

“As Muslim and Sikh immigrants gradually adjusted to life in Britain, it became increasingly evident that marriages arranged with villagers from back home tended to be riven with conflict. Cultural differences, the language gap, and the wide divergence in general social competence between British-raised youth and their spouses from South Asia frequently made for trouble and strife. So when the parents of British-born Sikhs were faced with the offer of an arranged marriage with a villager from Punjab, their children invariably opposed the match. In doing so, these young Sikhs had the advantage of knowing that their parents were under no obligation to accept any particular proposal of marriage. Given the Sikh practice of clan exogamy, every marriage is arranged from scratch with an outsider. In short order, therefore, the new generation of British-born Sikhs successfully pressed their parents to arrange marriages with British-born (or perhaps even North American-born) Sikh partners.

“The situation was very different for children of Mirpuri Muslims. Among Mirpuris, it’s taken for granted that cousins have a virtual right-of-first-refusal in the matter of marriage. Even in the absence of immigration, it would have been entirely expected that the children of Mirpuri migrants would marry their cousins. How much more so was this the case when a marriage meant a British visa, and a vast increase in wealth — all redounding to the honor of the patriclan? Many Mirpuri migrants had only made it to Britain in the first place with economic help from a brother back in Pakistan. This practice of sharing of resources within the joint family created a powerful moral obligation to repay that financial help by arranging a marriage (and a visa) for the child of the brother who remained in Pakistan.

“The British-born children of these Mirpuri Muslim migrants were perhaps a bit less apprehensive than their British Sikh counterparts about the idea of marrying villagers from back home. After all, these young Mirpuris had gotten to know their cousins on those long visits to Pakistan, and some affectionate attachments had developed. Yet the chronic problems of transnational marriages did indeed call forth opposition to such matches from many young Mirpuris. In contrast to the situation among immigrant Sikhs, however, the hands of Mirpuri parents were largely tied. To refuse a marriage with a relative back in Pakistan, when customary rights, financial obligation, and family honor were all at stake, would have been tantamount to a repudiation of siblingship itself. Such a severing of ties could bring retaliation in the form of efforts to blacken the honor of an immigrant and his family — a particularly severe sanction among Muslims.

So while Sikh immigrants increasingly broke the links of marriage-driven chain migration, the practice of Muslim cousin-marriage insured that assimilation itself would virtually begin again from scratch with each new generational infusion of Mirpuri spouses. The result has been economic stagnation and the literal transfer of more than half of Mirpur’s population to an archipelago of ‘reverse colonies’ in the heart of Britain….”

previously: stanley kurtz rocks and nowhere to run and father’s brother’s daughter marriage and tribes and types of cousin-marriage

(note: comments do not require an email. british mirpuri community.)

in my previous post on asabiyyah, i (boldly!) said: “the arab states repeatedly fell apart, not because they ran out of asabiyyah, but because those in charge didn’t manage to hold together their state in the face of all the different asabiyyahs of the various clans/tribes within their states.”

pseudoerasmus disagreed with me: “The Abbasid Caliphate, which endured in Baghdad from 750 to 1258, started out big in the 8th century but by the time it fell to the Mongols it had basically been reduced to the Tigris & Euphrates valley. That’s because foreign dynasties came to gradually pick away at the periphery of the empire. I’m not saying there weren’t internal divisions that might have weakened the Abbasid hold on power. But there’s no evidence these divisions were tribal.”

well, ok. i admit that i probably overstated my case a bit there. the clannishness of the populations of arab states isn’t the only reason those states fall apart, but it *is* a huge one, imho. but, then, i do tend to look at everything through clannishness-colored glasses. (~_^)

the point i was trying to make, though, was that i disagree with ibn khaldun’s analysis of asabiyyah (which t.greer outlined in excellent fashion in this comment!). i’m of the opinion that al-farabi had it more right: asabiyyah is clannishness and, while clannishness can and does draw clans and tribes together, it is also very much a divisive force which pulls apart arabized societies. asabiyyah is the “me and my cousin against the world” attitude. and, most importantly of course, i think that the behavioral traits that are related to asabiyyah are genetic in origin, and, therefore, it will be very difficult to get the arabized world to behave differently anytime soon.

anyway…so, by way of a few examples, i thought i’d outline some of the clannish elements of the abbasid caliphate that i think worked against it. this is far from a complete list — it’s just a few of the things i can think of off the top of my head. to be completely honest with you, i need to do a lot more reading on the medieval caliphates/medieval arab world. oh. before i get to my little exploration, i want to mention one other thing. pseudo also said:

“[I]n the actual outcomes of territorial consolidation and fragmentation in the Middle East and North Africa, I don’t see much difference between that region and Europe or any other region for that matter. — *in the premodern period*. Which region in Eurasia was not subject to repeated cycles of imperial consolidation and fragmentation?”

well, quite. but europe and other regions of the world were also clannish in the premodern period. europe didn’t move out of that phase until the end of the middle ages. so maybe it’s not fair of me to compare the medieval arab world with the modern european one (although i do the same for medieval europe all the time); however, i do think that clannishness was, and is, particularly difficult for the arabs/arabized world since these populations practice father’s brother’s daughters (fbd) marriage — they’ve burdened themselves with a social structure and a set of innate behavioral traits that makes building and maintaining bigger alliances very difficult. (they didn’t mean to, of course — it just worked out that way.) in fact, i bet that matters have gotten progressively worse over the past thousand years or so in the middle east/maghreb/afghanistan/pakistan since these populations were arabized and started practicing fbd marriage (and due to the actual introduction of arab peoples to these regions who have probably been practicing fbd marriage since the second century a.d.?). having said all that, pseudo is also quite right in saying that trying to hold an empire together is difficult in most circumstances for any population, and was especially so in the past for populations which had more primitive technologies and transport systems, etc., etc. the one set of factors does not rule out the other, though, i don’t think.

right. clannishness and the abbasid caliphate.

well, first of all, the abbasid caliphate was founded in 750 a.d. by an extended family/subclan — the abbasids — which replaced a rival subclan. it really doesn’t get much more clannish than that. (~_^) both the abbasids and the umayyads before them were subclans of mohammed’s clan, the banu hashim, these subclans being, in turn, part of the larger quarysh tribe. before i continue about the abbasids, here’s a bit about the umayyad caliphate from A History of the Arab People [pg. 30]:

“The growth of the Muslim communities in the eastern cities and provinces created tensions. Personal ambitions, local grievances and party conflicts expressed themselves in more than one idiom, ethnic, tribal and religious, and from this distance it is hard to say how the lines of division were drawn.

“There was, first of all, among converts to Islam, and the Iranians in particular, resentment against the fiscal and other privileges given to those of Arab origin, and this grew as the memory of the first conquests became weaker. Some of the converts attached themselves to Arab tribal leaders as ‘clients’ (*mawali*), but this did not erase the line between them and the Arabs.

Tension also expressed themselves in terms of tribal differences and opposition. The armies coming from Arabia brought tribal loyalties with them, and in the new circumstances these could grow stronger. In the cities and other places of migration, groups claiming a common ancestor came together in closer quarters than in the Arabian steppe; powerful leaders claiming nobility of descent could attract new followers. The existence of a unified political structure enabled leaders and tribes to link up with each other over wide areas and at times gave them common interests. The struggle for control of the central government could make use of tribal names and the loyalties they expressed. One branch of the Umayyads was linked by marriage with the Banu Kalb, who had already settled in Syria before the conquest; in the struggle for the succession after the death of Mu’awiya’s son, a non-Umayyad claimant was supported by another groups of tribes. At moments some common interst could given substance to the idea of an origin shared by all tribes claiming to come from central Arabia or from the south. (Their names, Qays and Yemen, were to linger as symbols of local conflict in some parts of Syria until the present century….)”

so the rapid urbanization of the arabs as they moved into the middle east actually exacerbated their clannishness/tribalism.

anyway — back to the abbasids. the abbasids thought that they ought to be in charge since their ancestors were more closely related to mohammed — the founder of their subclan was a paternal uncle of mohammed. the founder of the umayyad subclan was just some guy that was adopted into yet another subclan related to mohammed’s (who then went on to found his own subclan, the umayyads). the abbasids had a whole load of supporters who were not abbasids, of course, including plenty of non-muslims, but there was definitely an element of an inter-clannish spat here, as there was across the histories of all of the caliphates. for example, the founders of the fatimid caliphate in 909 a.d. claimed to be descendents of mohammed’s daughter fatimah — and, therefore, more worthy of being caliphs — so yeah…more family intrigue. from A History of the Arab Peoples [pg. 33]:

“In some ways ‘Abbasid rule did not differ much from that of the later Umayyads. From the beginning they found themselves involved in the inescapable problem of a new dynasty: how to turn the limited power derived from an uneasy coalition of separate interests into something more stable and lasting. They had won their throne through a combination of forces united only in opposition to the Umayyads, and the relationships of strength within the coalition now had to be defined. First of all the new caliph rid himself of those through whom he had come to power; Abu Muslim and others were killed. There were conflicts too within the family itself; at first members were appointed as governors, but some of them grew too powerful, and within a generation a new ruling elite of high officials had been created. Some were drawn from Iranian families with a tradition of service to the state and newly converted to Islam, others from members of the ruler’s household, some of them freed slaves.”

yup. gotta get rid of competing members of the family when you’re in a clannish society.

one of the first things the abbasids had to deal with was the alid revolt of 762-763 undertaken by a couple of brothers who, yes, claimed descent from fatimah and who thought/claimed (for various reasons) that they deserved to be in charge rather than the abbasids. so, this was more infighting between rival subclans of mohammed’s quarysh tribe. the abbasids defeated this particular branch of the family that was behind this revolt, but one of the brothers of the leaders of the revolt went on to found the idrisid dynasty of morocco, which was one of those dynasties constantly picking away at the edge of the abbasid empire, even though the idrisids always at least nominally swore allegiance to the caliphate. (one of the offshoots of the idrisid dynasty, btw, is the senussi dynasty of libya, which may or may not make a comeback one of these days.)

between 809 and 827, we’ve got the fourth fitna (civil war) over succession to the caliphate’s throne. the contenders were two half-brothers, the sons of the deceased caliph: al-amin and al-ma’mun. al-amin was caliph for a while until his brother desposed him. the caliph had named al-amin as his successor, but al-ma’mun was actually slightly older, so he was p*ssed off at not having become caliph. the thing was, al-amin’s mother, zubaidah, had been a cousin of the caliph and of the house of abbasid, while al-ma’mun’s mother was just some persian concubine.

about the aftermath of the fitna, wikipedia says:

“The long civil war shattered the social and political order of the early Abbasid state, and a new system began to emerge under al-Ma’mun, which would characterize the middle period of the Abbasid Caliphate. The most tangible change was in the elites who supported the new regime: the abnaʾ, the old Arab families and the members of the Abbasid dynasty itself lost their positions in the administrative and military machinery, and with them their influence and power. The provinces of the Caliphate were now grouped into larger units, often controlled by a hereditary dynasty, like the Tahirids in Khurasan or the Samanids in Transoxiana, usually of Iranian descent. At the same time, however, al-Ma’mun tried to lessen his dependence on the Iranian element of his empire, and counterbalanced them through the creation of two new military corps: Mu’tasim’s Turkish slaves, and the Arab tribal army of the Byzantine frontier, which was now grouped together and placed under the command of al-Ma’mun’s son al-Abbas. This system was further elaborated and acquired its definite characteristics in the reign of al-Mu’tasim, who created a tightly controlled, centralized state, and expanded his Turkish corps into an effective military force with which he waged campaigns against the Byzantines and internal rebellions alike. Its leaders came to political power as provincial governors, while the old Arab elites were sidelined.”

so the entire character of the caliphate changed — and many of the arab clans and tribes lost power — thanks to a clannish family feud. al-ma’mun probably favored non-arab groups — like the tahirids or samanids — for anti-clannishness reasons. this is a common practice in clannish societies around the world, especially the arabized world which suffers from particularly strong clannishness: to try to work around your rival clannish groups by allying yourself with some other groups. never works out, though. from A History of Islamic Societies [pgs. 103-104]:

“To win control of the Caliphate, he [al-ma'mun] had depended on the support of a Khurasanian lord, Tahir, who in return was made governor of Khurasan (820-22) and general of ‘Abbasid forces throughout the empire, with the promise that the offices would be inherited by his heirs. Despite the momentary usefulness of the arrangement, the concession of a hereditary governorship defeated the Caliphal objective of integrating provincial notables into the central government. Now the empire was to be governed by an alliance of the Caliph with the most important provincial lord.

“To offset the power of the Tahirids and regain direct control of the provinces, the Caliphs were eager to create new military forces. Thus, al-Ma’mun and al-Mu’tasim (833-42) raised two types of forces. The first were *shakiriya*, intact units under the leadership of their local chiefs, from Transoxania, Armenia, and North Africa. Though the soldiers were not directly beholden to the Caliphs, they served as a counterweight to the Tahirids. The second type of force was Turkish slaves, called the unsullied *ghilman* (pl.), who were purchased individually, but grouped into regiments. For the sake of efficiency and morale, and a balance of power between the regiments, each lived in its own neighborhood, had its own mosque and markets, and was trained, supplied, and paid by its commander. Thus slave regiments also became self-contained units which gave their primary loyalty to their officers rather than to the Caliphs….

These new regiments strenghthened the hand of the Caliphs, but the Transoxanian and Turkish soldiers soon ran afoul of the Baghdadi populace and of the former Arab soldiers in the Baghdadi army, and bloody clashes ensued. Eventually, the Caliph al-Mu’tasim built a new capital, Samarra, about 70 miles north of Baghdad, to isolate the troops from the masses. While Baghdad remained the cultural and commercial capital of the region, from 836 to 870 Samarra was the military and administrative headquarters of the Caliphate. However, the new city only created further difficulties. The Caliphs, who had hoped to avoid clashes between the populace and the troops, instead became embroiled in rivalries among the various guard regiments. The officers took civilian bureaucrats into their patronage, won control of provincial governorships, and eventually attempted to control succession to the Caliphate itself. Regimental rivalries led to anarchy. Between 861 and 870 all the leading officers were killed, and the troops fell out of control and turned to banditry. The employment of slave armies further alienated the Caliphate from the populace it ruled. While the early ‘Abbasid empire had depended upon the military support of its own subjects, the late empire tried to dominate its peoples with foreign troops….”

clannish behaviors everywhere! even in “socially constructed” clans. (if you’ve got “genes for clannishness,” whatever they might be, you’re going to behave clannishly.)

in the late 800s, the abbasids had to deal with the breakaway hamdanid dynasty in northern iraq/syria (hmmm…familiar territory) which was founded by hamdan ibn hamdun who was p*ssed off when the caliph tried to give the governorship of mosul to some turkish guy. hamdan’s tribe — the banu taghlib who were originally from eastern arabia and who waited until quite late to convert from christianity to islam — rebelled. hamdan’s son, husayn, made peace with the caliph, though, and regained the governorship of the region for the family…buuuut, he did wind up eventually being beheaded for taking part in yet another revolt. a couple of husayn’s rather ruthless nephews managed to set up “semi-independent emirates” operating out of mosul and aleppo. although they, too, like the fatimids, swore allegience to the caliph, i view all this clannishness and literal tribal behaviors as further examples of the chipping away at the caliphate. oh — another dynasty, the uqalyids, took over in mosul in 990, and they were of the banu uqayl clan out of western arabia. so, more literal tribalism.

some of the other foreign dynasties that chipped away at the abbasid caliphate were not tribal arabs, but many of them were certainly very clannish themselves. the samanid dynasty of persia, for instance, was founded by saman khuda of the house of mihran, one of the seven parthian clans of the earlier sassanian empire. al-ma’mun appointed four of saman’s grandsons governors as a reward for the family’s loyalty to the caliph. clannish! the last of the samanids, isma’il muntasir (i.e the “victorious”), who was trying to restore his family’s then-dying glory, was killed by some arab guy, so unfortunately he wasn’t so victorious after all.

many of the other central asian dynasties that conquered areas previously, or maybe better intermittantly, held by the abbasid caliphate also read like hatfield versus mccoy stories: the buyids, the ghaznavids, the simjurids, even the seljuks. much of this rather extreme clannishess — like that of the samanids above — happened before these groups converted to islam or very shortly afterwards, so probably too soon for them to have adopted fbd marriage as part of any broader arabization process. this makes me guess that these populations in persia and afghanistan, etc., were probably practicing quite a bit of close cousin marriage before the arabs got there, just presumably not fbd marriage (if the anthropologists are right). don’t know. Further Research is RequiredTM.

but clannishness didn’t just chip away at the edges of the caliphate — internal clannishness, even though the caliphs had tried to eliminate the powers of the arab clans, worked against the caliphate. from A History of Islamic Societies [pg. 105]:

By the late ninth century…numerous small cliques attached to many leading officials had become polarized into two great factions, called the Banu Furat and the Banu Jarrah. Each of these factions was built around a wazir and his relatives and clients. The families also had a larger following based on social and ideological affiliations. The Banu Jarrah faction was composed mainly, though not exclusively, of Nestorian Christians or Christian converts, often educated in the monastery of Dayr Qunna in southern Iraq. By the middle of the ninth century, this faction had already grown powerful enough to influence state policy. In 852 al-Mutawakkil (847-61) was persuaded to assure Christians freedom of religion, freedom from military service, and the right to construct churches, and to give the Nestorian Catholicos full jurisdiction over all Christians…. The other major faction, the Banu Furat, were mainly Baghdadi Shi’a.

The chiefs of these factions eventually gained control of the whole government services…. A wazir and his faction would come to power by intrigues and by bribing the Caliph and other influential courtiers. Their main concern then would be to exploit their offices, earn back the bribes, and prepare for future hard times by various frauds, such as padded payrolls, false bookkeeping, illegal speculations, and taking bribes. The officials regarded their positions as a property which they bought, sold, and exploited for private gain.”

after the late 800s, the caliph was very often the caliph only in name (it varied depending on the individual caliph). governmental officials and their extended families and clients (patron-client systems are typical of clannish societies — think: sicily) ran the show within the core of the caliphate, and virtually independent familial dynasties typically ruled the peripheral regions.

what i find even more interesting than all this clan and tribal intrigue, though, is how clannish society within the caliphate actually was. this sort-of societal arrangement is always fraught with difficulties — from A History of Islamic Societies [pgs. 61-63]:

“Local government was organized for taxation. Surveys were taken in the villages to determine the amount of land under cultivation, the crops grown, and their expected yield, and the information was passed up to the central administration. The taxes for whole regions would be estimated, the sums divided up for each district, and the demand notes sent out describing the responsibilities of each subdivision. Each sub-unit received its bill and divided it among the smaller units. At the next stage, taxes were collected, local expenses deducted, and the balance passed upwards until the surplus eventually reached Baghdad….

“How was the state to know if crops were concealed? The state came to the villages with staffs and technical specialists such as surveyors to make land measurements, weighers and measurers to estimate the size of crops, and bankers and money changers to convert currencies or to give credits. It came with legal specialists, judges to adjudicate disputes, witnesses to transactions, registrars of deeds, and the like. Alongside the technicians, it came with specialists in violence, collectors, soldiers, police extortionists, stool pigeons, and thugs. Fear was no small part of the business of tax collection.

Yet, with all this, the potential for passive resistance and the problem of inadequate information could not be solved without the cooperation of local people. These included family patriarchs, village headmen (such as the *ra’is* in Iran, or the *shaykh al-balad* in Egypt), and village landowners, who controlled a large part of the village land and were much richer than the average peasant, but not so wealthy as the great estate or iqta’ holders….

“These notables played an important intermediary role in the taxation process. As the most powerful people connected with the villages, they handled negotiations, made a deal on behalf of the peasants, and paid the taxes. The arrangement suited everyone. The bureaucratic agents were never absolutely sure how much money they could raise, and wished to avoid the nuisance of dealing with individuals. The peasants did not have to confront the exorbitant demands of the tax collectors directly. The notables underestimated the taxes to the state, overestimated them to the peasants, and pocketed the difference. ‘Abbasid officials understood perfectly well the importance of these people, whom they called their *a’wan* (helpers)….”

clannish corruption. long-standing tradition in the middle east, then.
_____

anyway…those are just some of the clannish elements of the abbasid caliphate that, imho, caused it to “collapse” — or nearly collapse — or get chipped away over time both on the edges and internally. i guess that there were plenty more such elements and that one could find similar examples from other arab states, too, both in the past and in the present.

new working theory, btw: that the populations of the middle east, maghreb, afghanistan/pakistan have become more and progressively clannish and dysfunctional (in terms of attempts to build western-style states in these places) since they’ve become more and more arabized (especially since they began practicing more and more fbd marriage) beginning at the earliest in the ca. early 600s. the actual migration of the (already at the time) very inbred, and therefore very clannish, arabs didn’t help, either.

previously: asabiyyah

(note: comments do not require an email. as-saffah, the first abbasid caliph.)

the counts vary depending on who you talk to and how you want to slice up clans and tribes, but there’s something on the order of 150 tribes comprised of ca. 2,000 clans in iraq today (“today” meaning in 2008). roughly three-quarters of the iraqi population admits to belonging to clans and/or tribes. here’s a map of where the tribes are located (from same report as above – click on map for LARGER view):

iraq - tribes

consang.net puts the cousin marriage rates for iraq at anywhere between 25 and 53% in the 1980s and 2000s [pgs. 17-18 - pdf], and those numbers include a lot of double-first cousin marriages which indicates father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriage. a 50% cousin marriage rate would be one of the highest rates in the world, comparable to places like saudi arabia and pakistan (and certain neighborhoods in bradford).

a 2005 u.n.-funded report from the iraqi ministry of planning and development cooperation [pdf - pg. 47] tells us that, in 2004, seventeen percent of all married women were in fbd marriages (the report refers to them as father’s brother’s son or fbs marriages taking the point of view of the woman — same difference), another four percent were in father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) marriages, and another thirteen percent were to some other kind-of relative within the paternal clan. that’s 34% of marriages between paternal relatives. another fifteen percent of marriages were between maternal relatives — maternal cousins and such. fbd marriage has actually decreased in frequency since the 1940s, but other forms of cousin marriage increased over the same time period. as the report says [pg. 48]:

“Thus, in contrast to patterns among other populations in the Middle East (Patterson 2002), kin marriage frequency does not seem to have decreased with the overall modernisation of Iraq.”

the direct result of all this fbd marriage, i think, is the hierarchical structure of arab/iraqi society in which extended families are nested into sub-clans which are nested into larger clans which, in turn, are nested into tribes — and all of these are based on a patrilineal system. this structure means that subgroups can and do easily fission off from their fellow subgroups and that they don’t always naturally cooperate with one another. this is where the bedouin “I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers” principle comes in. from murphy and kasdan’s “The Structure of Parallel Cousin Marriage” [pg. 24]:

“Degree of relationship is the significant criterion in the determination of allegiances. Distance from a common ancestor in terms of numbers of intervening kinsmen is crucial to the ordering of relations within and between agnatic sections, and the principle of degree of relationship determines the composition of the Ego-centered blood responsibility group.

“[This] fact tells us a great deal about the patrilineal units of Arab society: except perhaps at the level of the tribe, there are no lineages in the sense of bounded groups having a continuing and cohesive base in corporate rights and duties. Differing degrees of relationship within the named groupings tend to break up their internal homogeneity; they are not solidary units, but become activated only temporarily at the call of political expediency….

it’s difficult to next to impossible to form “corporate” cooperative groups like those you find in northwest european societies in fbd marriage societies, because it just doesn’t pay — in inclusive fitness terms — for individuals to cooperate with distant relatives, let alone strangers. or maybe the way to look at it is that, given the degrees of relatedness between family members in such populations, which are way higher than in non-cousin marrying pops, it just pays more for individuals to cooperate with the closest relative(s) possible in any given situation. see steve sailer’s “Cousin Marriage Conundrum” for more on the dynamics of fbd societies.

this is not something automatic or something that can be changed overnight. if you were to take a group of long term outbreeders — like northwest europeans — and set them to marrying their cousins, they would not begin to behave like clannish, nepotistic inbreeders in one generation. i don’t think. we’re probably talking about an evolutionary process here, so you’d have to let a little natural selection take its course. you’d have to allow for the relatedness between individuals in the population to change and for the dynamics within the society to change — in other words for the selection pressures to change — until more clannish individuals began to show higher fitness rates and increased in number in the population.

and vice versa for changing a long term inbreeding society.

as greg cochran has said, “every society selects for something.” i think a long term inbreeding society selects — or can select — for what i call clannishness. and iraqis have got that in spades. they’ve got clans and tribes, nepotism, and an obvious inability to handle liberal democracy. not that that’s some sort of goal in and of itself. i’m just sayin’.

so the degree and the type of inbreeding or outbreeding in any population is important — i.e. the percentage of cousin marriages, for instance, which we’ve seen is high in iraq, and whether or not those cousin marriages are fbd in type which leads to increased amounts of the very close double-first cousin marriages — but so is the length of time of the inbreeding or outbreeding. the question then is: for how long have iraqis been marrying their cousins, in particular their fbds?

in “Parallel-Cousin (FBD) Marriage, Islamization, and Arabization”, andrey korotayev points out that fbd marriage is found almost exclusively in those areas of the world that were a part of the eighth century caliphate (one exception seems to be the sotho-tswana peoples of southern africa):

caliphate in 750

korotayev suggests, rightly so i think, that the arabs introduced fbd marriage to populations in the maghreb, mashriq, and south asia (afghanistan and pakistan). the locals picked up on fbd marriage as part of a broader arabization process — they were just generally keen to imitate their new overlords in all ways. (btw, pseudoerasmus is on a mission to figure out why any group would adopt fbd marriage at all. most peoples consider it too incestuous [it does lead to a lot of double-first cousin matings], so keep an eye out on pseudo’s blog for more on that!)

the arabs conquered iraq (as part of their conquest of the persian sasanian empire) in the early part of the 600s, so that’s a good 1400 years of possible fbd marriage in iraq, although it no doubt took some time before the local population adopted the practice in significant numbers. it’s worth noting that this is pretty much diametrically opposed to what happened in europe where cousin marriage of all sorts began to be banned right around the same time.

question is, were the peoples of iraq marrying cousins of any sort before the arabs arrived? my guess is that they were not marrying their fbds before the arabs arrived, and, going by the below description of the aramaeans (which is just hearsay, i’ll admit), many of them may not have been marrying their closest cousins much at all. (of course, the elite persians — the zoroastrians — were marrying their siblings, but that’s another story for another day.) from Iraq After the Muslim Conquest, here’s what the arabs thought of the aramaeans [pg. 179]:

For their part, Arabs tended to stereotype Aramaeans as arrogant people who identified themselves by their place of origin instead of by a tribal genealogy. Arabs looked down on them as people who had lost their power and independence first to Persian and then to Arab rulers. According to Mas’udi, the Anbat were inferior to Arabs because the latter were granted a prophet and the former were not.”

inbred, clannish peoples tend to identify themselves by some sort of family name or at least by the names of their fathers and grandfathers — think: arabs, chinese, russians, scots. it’s outbred peoples who often take other sorts of surnames — like all the “professional” names of the english (miller, cooper, sawyer, lawyer, archer!). many northwest european groups have this, of course. so it’s interesting that the aramaeans did not identify themselves according to tribe but according to place. this might indicate that they were not regular inbreeders, but Further Research Is RequiredTM.

btw, here’s what the aramaeans thought of the arabs:

“On their side, the Aramaeans, as representatives of a sedentary, orderly, agricultural population, reacted somewhat unfavorably to what was felt to be an impetuosity or excitability on the part of Arabs. This attitude and the stereotpe it involved is well illustrated in the case of an Arab monk from Hira named Mar Eliyya who lived at the Nestorian monastery on Mt. Izla above Nasibin in the late sixth century. The monastic chronicler who described Rabban Eliyya’s energentic response to a crisis in the community found it necessary to explain that he possessed the ‘violent character of the bedouin.’ Such attitudes survived the conquest and were expressed as a feeling of superiority on the part of the Anbat over Arabs because of the achievements of the Babylonians, the antiquity and spread of their civilization, the flourishing of agriculture, and their acceptance of Islam without having a prophet appear amongst them.”

here’s more from Iraq After the Muslim Conquest [pg. 236]:

“The single most important ethnographic change in seventh-century Iraq was the arrival of large numbers of Muslim Arabs from the Arabian peninsula and the foundation of new urban centers as garrison cities where they settled….”

the author, historian michael morony, goes on to describe the settlement patterns of the invading arabs in two cities, kufa and basra — the arabs had gated communities and everything! [pgs. 242-243, 246]:

The pattern which emerges at Kufa is that of a city divided into separate tribal districts (Ar. sg. *nahiya* or *mahalla*), each with its own *masjid* for daily worship and tribal assemblies, its own cemetery, and with gates to close off the streets going through each district. Within each district, the members of the respective tribes seem to have settled by clan along lanes or alleys adjacent to the main street of the district. From a purely descriptive point of view, it is possible to identify most of the tribal districts in seventh-century Kufa….

“It also seems that as time passed, subgroups within a tribal district tended to form their own neighborhoods. Such were the districts (*mahallat*) of the Banu Shaytan clan of Tamim and of the Banu ‘Anz ibn Wa’il, who had their own *masjid*….”

“The organization of Basra along tribal lines was similar to that of Kufa….”

another city, hira, had been heavily settled in by arab traders for generations before the arab invasions, and they, too, had lived in neighborhoods arranged according to clans/tribes, so the clan system obviously goes well back in arab society [pg. 221]:

“Hira was the political and cultural hub of this zone of Arab settlement and, in spite of the presence of Persian soliders and *dahaqin*, it was considered to be an Arab city. The Arab population of Hira was a mixture of many small groups of diverse tribal origins. Members of Tanukh, Tayyi’, Tamim, Sulaym, ‘Ijl, Shayban, Tha’laba, Asad, Azd, Kalb, and others could be found at Hira. The organization of late Sasanian Hira around several fortified enclosures (Ar. *qusur*) that were identified with particular clans, the existence of tribal churches, and the political and social domination of the town by an elite of notables (Ar. *ashraf*) belonging to the leading clans make Hira a good example of a late pre-Islamic Arab city as well as a prototype for tribally organized early Islamic cities such as Kufa and Bara.”

more from morony [pgs. 254-255]:

One of the most apparent social consequences of the conquest was an extension of tribal social organization, especially in urban settings. This was associated with the new ruling group and was partly the result of the cohesion of tribal groups, which preserved their identities in the garrison cities and even enhanced their ties to other groups on the basis of nominal kinship. The state also helped to preserve such identities by using them as a basis for military organization. An equally powerful influence in the survival of tribal society, however, was the Qur’an. It sanctioned many aspects of the tribal social ethic, such as the importance of group solidarity, joint responsibility, exemplary behavior, generosity, hospitality, the protection of the weak by the strong, raiding, and retaliation. Although the intention in the Qur’an was to replace tribal identities with an Islamic identity, many tribal social values received a new religious sanction in the process.

Retaliation is a good example of the survival and reinterpretation of the tribal ethic in early Islamic Iraq. The Qur’an sanctioned the principle of retaliation partly because it was impossible to suppress it completely and partly because the early Islamic community at Madina faced a desperate struggle for survival. But the Qur’an also attempted to prevent an unending chain of blood vengeance by recommending charity, forgiveness, and the acceptance of a blood-price (Ar. *diya*) as the better way.

“The annals of early Islamic history are full of examples of retaliation, and there is no question that it remained one of the most important responsibilities of kinship. Of greater significance are the attempts by the state to restrict and to control it. When two of Muthanna’s lieutenants drowned several members of the tribes of Taghlib and Namir at Siffin [in syria-h.chick] in 634 in retaliation for a pre-Islamic grievance, ‘Umar made them swear that they had done it as an example and not out of vengeance. Under Mu’awiya the state attempted to regulate the operation of the private blood-feud in Iraq by enforcing the responsibilities of the clan (Ar. *aqila*) as a legal unit. At Basra, Ziyad held families and tribes responsible for the behavior of their members. Payment of the blood-price was assured by deducting the amount from the pay of the guilty party or from that of his tribe. If the victim was non-Muslim, half the normal blood-price went to the next of kin and the other half to the state treasury….”

so the invading arabs introduced — directly transplanted, really — into seventh century iraq tribes and tribal behaviors, including blood feuds, along with their underlying foundation, fbd marriage. i’m not sure what the social structures of pre-islamic iraq were like, but from what morony says, it sounds as though the arab-style of tribalism was a new introduction at the time to the region.

divisions within pre-islamic iraqi society had, however, been growing in the late sasanian era, and these divisions were not at all discouraged by the arabs once they took charge [pgs. 518 and 278]:

One of the most important of such trends was the formation of a society composed of religious communities, which was already well under way by the late sixth century with the strengthening of internal bonds and external boundaries….

“[T]he Muslims expected Jews and Christians to live according to their own religious laws, so the conquest had the effect of encouraging the operation and continuing development of autonomous systems of religious laws….”

“[T]he formation of…closely knit communities increasingly isolated the members of one group from those of another. The boundaries created between religious groups by separarte bodies of law are indicative of the rising barriers to interfaith relations at the end of the Sasanian period. The defensiveness associated with this development was symbolized by a shared vocabulary of protective walls. The Magians [zoroastrians-h.chick] saw the good fortune of their religion (M.P. *den x’arrah*) as a fortress-like enclosure formed by the starry band around the sky, which protected the good from the attacks of demons. Jews spoke of making a fence around the Torah, and the Nestorian synod of 554 called the canons ‘high walls, impregnable fortresses, protecting their guardians against all danger.’”

so, it’s not as though pre-islamic iraq was a unified nation, either. yes, my curiosity has been raised, so i’ll be checking into all of this further.

iraqis have been working on being highly clannish and tribal for nearly 1400 years, if not longer. my conservative guesstimate is that they’ve been practicing the closest form of cousin marriage possible — fbd marriage — for a thousand years, again if not longer. that’s about 40 generations, if we count a generation at 25 years in length.

like super misdreavus tweeted, there’s no reason to think that simply introducing western institutions to the country will change how the country works. not overnight. not even in ten or twenty generations, if the new institutions could somehow be sustained for that long in the country. saddam hussein tried to suppress the clans and tribes — he apparently banned the use of tribal names [pg. 3] — as did gaddafi in libya, but to no avail. iraq’s solutions lie in that country’s own traditions — their own methods of governing and running things — not in western style democracy.

as super misdreavus also tweeted, remember that “hbd denial costs human lives.” i sincerely wish — for the sake of the people in iraq, for the sake of everyone — that people would wake up to this fact.

(note: comments do not require an email. erbil, iraq – inhabited for 8,000 years.)

here’s an oldie but a goodie — from the nyt in 2003:

THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ: TRADITIONS
Iraqi Family Ties Complicate American Efforts for Change
By JOHN TIERNEY
Published: September 28, 2003

(…)

“Americans just don’t understand what a different world Iraq is because of these highly unusual cousin marriages,” said Robin Fox of Rutgers University, the author of “Kinship and Marriage,” a widely used anthropology textbook. “Liberal democracy is based on the Western idea of autonomous individuals committed to a public good, but that’s not how members of these tight and bounded kin groups see the world. Their world is divided into two groups: kin and strangers.”

Iraqis frequently describe nepotism not as a civic problem but as a moral duty. The notion that Iraq’s next leader would put public service ahead of family obligations drew a smile from Iqbal’s uncle and father-in-law, Sheik Yousif Sayel, the patriarch in charge of the clan’s farm on the Tigris River south of Baghdad.

“In this country, whoever is in power will bring his relatives in from the village and give them important positions,” Sheik Yousif said, sitting in the garden surrounded by some of his 21 children and 83 grandchildren. “That is what Saddam did, and now those relatives are fulfilling their obligation to protect him from the Americans.”

Saddam Hussein married a first cousin who grew up in the same house as he did, and he ordered most of his children to marry their cousins….

Next to the family, the sons’ social priority is the tribe, Sadah, which has several thousand members in the area and is led by Sheik Yousif. He and his children see their neighbors when praying at Sunni mosques, but none belong to the kind of civic professional groups that are so common in America, the pillars of civil society that observers since de Tocqueville have been crediting for the promotion of democracy.

“I told my children not to participate in any outside groups or clubs,” Sheik Yousif said. “We don’t want distractions. We have a dynasty to preserve.” To make his point, he told his sons to unroll the family tree, a scroll 70 feet long with lots of cousins intertwined in the branches.

the arab and arabized world ranks very low in surveys of civic behaviors. the middle east/maghreb typically vies with eastern europe for bottom place in the rankings when it comes to people joining voluntary associations. see this previous post: civic societies ii.

more from the nyt:

Cousin marriage was once the norm throughout the world, but it became taboo in Europe after a long campaign by the Roman Catholic Church. Theologians like St. Augustine and St. Thomas argued that the practice promoted family loyalties at the expense of universal love and social harmony. Eliminating it was seen as a way to reduce clan warfare and promote loyalty to larger social institutions — like the church.

The practice became rare in the West, especially after evidence emerged of genetic risks to offspring, but it has persisted in some places, notably the Middle East, which is exceptional because of both the high prevalence and the restrictive form it takes. In other societies, a woman typically weds a cousin outside her social group, like a maternal cousin living in a clan led by a different patriarch. But in Iraq the ideal is for the woman to remain within the clan by marrying the son of her father’s brother, as Iqbal did.

The families resulting from these marriages have made nation-building a frustrating process in the Middle East, as King Faisal and T. E. Lawrence both complained after efforts to unite Arab tribes.

“The tribes were convinced that they had made a free and Arab Government, and that each of them was It,” Lawrence wrote in “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” in 1926. “They were independent and would enjoy themselves a conviction and resolution which might have led to anarchy, if they had not made more stringent the family tie, and the bonds of kin-responsibility. But this entailed a negation of central power.”

That dichotomy remains today, said Ihsan M. al-Hassan, a sociologist at the University of Baghdad. At the local level, the clan traditions provide more support and stability than Western institutions, he said, noting that the divorce rate among married cousins is only 2 percent in Iraq, versus 30 percent for other Iraqi couples. But the local ties create national complications.

“The traditional Iraqis who marry their cousins are very suspicious of outsiders,” Dr. Hassan said. “In a modern state a citizen’s allegiance is to the state, but theirs is to their clan and their tribe. If one person in your clan does something wrong, you favor him anyway, and you expect others to treat their relatives the same way.”

The more educated and urbanized Iraqis have become, Dr. Hassan said, the more they are likely to marry outsiders and adopt Western values. But the clan traditions have hardly disappeared in the cities, as is evident by the just-married cousins who parade Thursday evenings into the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad. Surveys in Baghdad and other Arab cities in the past two decades have found that close to half of marriages are between first or second cousins.

The prevalence of cousin marriage did not get much attention before the war from Republicans in the United States who expected a quick, orderly transition to democracy in Iraq. But one writer who investigated the practice warned fellow conservatives to stop expecting postwar Iraq to resemble postwar Germany or Japan.

“The deep social structure of Iraq is the complete opposite of those two true nation-states, with their highly patriotic, cooperative, and (not surprisingly) outbred peoples,” Steve Sailer wrote in The American Conservative magazine in January. “The Iraqis, in contrast, more closely resemble the Hatfields and the McCoys….”

yup.

and while we’re quoting robin fox, here from The Tribal Imagination [pg. 62]:

“For a start, there is no ‘Iraqi People.’ The phrase should be banned as misleading and purely rhetorical. Iraq as a ‘nation’ (like the ‘nation’ of Kuwait) was devised by the compasses and protractors of Gertrude Bell when the British and French divided up the Middle East in 1921. We know well enough the ethnic-religious division into Kurd, Sunni, and Shia. People who know very little else can rehearse that one (even if they do not really know the difference; the Kurds are Sunnis, after all). But what is not understood is that Iraq, like the other countries of the regions, still stands at a level of social evolution where the family, clan, tribe, and sect command major allegiance. The idea of the individual autonomous voter, necessary and commonplace in our own systems, is relatively foreign.”

(note: comments do not require an email. tribal map of iraq.)

whenever i’m kinda tired and slightly braindead, i usually start trawling the streets google books or online journals for any info/data on mating patterns in human populations. (unless i rewatch star wars for the umpteenth millionth time, obviously.) it’s my own, personal form of trainspotting just with less trains. and more mating patterns.

so i thought i’d share with you what i’ve got to date for sub-saharan (ss) african populations. this is faaar from being a complete list, nor is it systematic in any way. it’s just the stuff that i’ve happened to come across so far, so don’t read anything into the list like “overall there seems to be more inbreeding or outbreeding” or whatever.

first of all, there are a LOT of ss african populations! thousands. so, you know, it’ll take some time to get info on them all! here’s a map of the broad ethnolinguistic groups of africa that i’ve stolen from wikipedia — remember that there are hundreds if not thousands of subgroups within these broad groups:

subsaharan africa ethnolinguistic groups

needless to say, with such a wide variety of peoples, there is also a wide variety of mating patterns in ss africa. some populations avoid cousin marriage altogether. we’ve already seen this with the bamileke of cameroon and the igbo of nigeria. also the turkana of kenya and quite possibly the amhara of ethiopia (not 100% sure about them — need to double-check). a notable group which apparently avoids cousin marriage is the zulu. but plenty of other ss africa groups do practice cousin marriage like, as you’ll see in the table below, the kongo and luba in the democratic republic of congo, the ashanti in ghana, the sotho-tswana in south africa, and the kpelle of liberia. (fun fact that’s stuck in my brain for some reason — some of oprah’s ancestors were probably kpelle.)

the most common form of cousin marriage in ss africa is mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage which isn’t too surprising since that is the most common form of cousin marriage in the world. there’s an interesting twist to it in ss africa, though, thanks to all of the polygamy which is also very common in ss african societies. here from robin fox [pg. 195]:

This latter form of marriage [mother's brother's daughter] is common in Africa and in patrilineal societies generally. Often, in Africa, it goes along with marriage to the wife’s brother’s daughter, as shown in diagram 4.2. A man either marries his wife’s brother’s daughter or passes the privilege on to his son (at least this is one way of looking at it). In many societies it is simply a straightforward privilege to marry the mother’s brother’s daughter.”

so, yeah, in case you were wondering, that would make the kids of these two wives (wife number one/aunt and wife number two/niece) both half-siblings and first cousins once-removed. and the children of wife number one are the first cousins once-removed to their father (and mother). and the children of wife number two are second cousins to their father. i think. i’ll let you think about it for a while. (~_^)

there is some father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage (the type favored by the arabs) in some areas of ss africa — most notably amongst the hausa and fulani in northern nigeria, and the songhai and soninke in mali — but these are all muslim groups who i would guess picked up fbd marriage from the arabs/north african groups that introduced islam to them. youssef courbage and emmanuel todd think otherwise [pg. 43]:

“So-called Arab marriage, accepting union with any first cousin, but preferably with the father’s brother’s daughter, is not characteristic of sub-Saharan Africa. It is widely practiced only by the Fulani, nomadic herders of the northern fringe, immediately south of the desert, at a level so much higher than the Arab norm that it probably had an independent origin. It is also characteristic of some sedentary groups in the same area (Soninke in Senegal, Mali, and Mauritania; Songhai in Mali; Hausa in northern Nigeria). In West Africa, marriage is usually either exogamous or characterized by a preference for cross-cousin marriage, that is, between the children of a brother and a sister, a practice that has nothing to do with Islam.”

i don’t know if that statement about the fulani practicing a greater amount of fbd marriage than the arabs is correct or not. i shall have to try and find out. (here might be a good place to start.) i think it’s more likely that, being that the fulani have obviously been in contact with the arab/muslim world for quite a long time, they picked up the practice in that way. the afghanis and pakistanis also practice quite a lot of fbd marriage even though they’re at the edge of the “arabized” world, albeit at the other end of it, so i doubt that distance from arabia matters much here. it’s the contact with the greater arab world that counts.

two ss african groups that do seem to have adopted fbd marriage independently are the sotho-tswana and venda of south africa. need to learn more about those two groups. (note that the fbd marriage recorded in the table for the tutsi in rwanda refers only to some of the elites, not the general population.)

additionally, as in christian europe (especially medieval europe), some ss african groups prohibit marriage between in-laws — which is interesting. one example are the yao of malawi. they, however, happen to have a preference for cross-cousin marriage.

again, the other mating practice that is very common in ss africa is polygamy. i’ve said a few times here on the blog that you’d think that that would narrow the gene pool/relatedness between individuals in a group just as cousin marriage does. it might not always, though, because polygamy is not one thing either (can nothing ever be easy and straightforward?! (~_^) ). the lozi of zambia, for instance, apparently practice (or did traditionally) a sort of rapid serial polygamy, with wives being shuffled rather quickly on to the next husband, so that wouldn’t really narrow the genetic relatedness in the population at all, afaics. quite the opposite really. on the other hand, some groups practice sororal polygamy with the men making sure to marry sets of sisters, so that would narrow the relatedness in the group more so than a more basic form of polygamy in which men married women more randomly. the conclusion wrt polygamy, i think, is that each group will have to be evaluated on an individual basis. (*sigh*)

problem number one: for my purposes, since i’m interested in evolution and the selection of behavioral traits, i need to know how long populations have been inbreeding or outbreeding for, since natural selection does take some amount of time (but not necessarily millions of years). that’s difficult to work out for ss africans (and most of the world for that matter) without historic records or reams of genetic data which we haven’t got yet. it might be possible to reconstruct some of the history of mating patterns for some of the groups in ss africa from colonial accounts, especially those of missionaries who also acted as early ethnographers in many ways. we shall see. it would certainly be interesting to know for how long some of these groups have been inbreeding or outbreeding. as we’ve already seen, for instance, wikipedia claims that the igbo had a “quasi-republican” form of government in the 1400s with some sort of one-man-one-vote system. that’s not a system you find in heavily inbreeding societies — at least none that i can think of. what if it’s connected to the igbo outbreeding? dunno. Further Research is RequiredTM — and most likely it’ll have to be genetic.

problem number two: don’t have a whole lot of info on the rates of cousin marriage (or not) for most of these populations either. that’s also an extremely important detail to know. here are the few groups that i do have some numbers for:

- the fulani of burkina-faso: 65.8% first and second cousin marriage rate
- the fulani, mandinka, and wolof in gambia: 65% of first marriages of men are to a cousin – that’s an average of the three populations, and i don’t have a breakdown for each group
- the fouta-jallon (taramabli-dionfo) of guinea: 25.9% cousin marriage rate
- the yoruba of oka akoko in nigeria: 51.2% cousin marriage rate
- the lobedu (sotho) of south africa: 30% cousin marriage rate

so, there’s a variety in the rates, too. again, not surprising.

i think that’s it by way of the intro, so without further ado, here is my table. oh, the populations highlighted in yellow are those which include more than ten million people. and many of these groups spill over into other countries, of course, apart from the ones in which i’ve listed them [click on table for LARGER view - should open in new tab/window]:

cousin marriage in africa - table

i think that’s it for now! stay tuned. (^_^)

sources:
- A Companion to Ethics
- Consang.net – Table 1 – Consanguinity in Africa [pdf]
- Contingent Lives: Fertility, Time, and Aging in West Africa
- A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around The World
- Culture and Customs of South Africa
- Ethnic Groups of Africa and the Middle East: An Encyclopedia
- The Family Estate in Africa: Studies in the Role of Property in Family Structure and Lineage Continuity
- Joking, Affinity and the Exchange of Ritual Services Among the Kiga of Northern Rwanda: An Essay on Joking Relationship Theory
- The Making of the Pentecostal Melodrama: Religion, Media and Gender in Kinshasa
- Man in Africa
- Milk, Honey, and Money: Changing Concepts in Rwandan Healing
- Nomads who Cultivate Beauty: Wodaabe Dances and Visual Arts in Niger
- The Problem of Context
- Reproduction and Social Organization in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Seven Tribes of British Central Africa
- Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives
- The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa
- Structure and Sentiment: A Test Case for Social Anthropology
- Women and Marriage in Kpelle Society
- Women of Tropical Africa

previously: the bamileke of cameroon and fulani, hausa, igbo, and yoruba mating patterns and the turkana: mating patterns, family types, and social structures and ethiopia notes and
flatlanders vs. mountaineers revisited

(note: comments do not require an email. the yao of malawi. people will do the silliest things!)

the war nerd says of some of the populations in nigeria:

“Nigeria’s three parts were simply nailed together by the British for their Imperial convenience: The North is a Muslim theocracy dominated by the Hausa and Fulani; the West, where the Yoruba kings (Oba) ruled city-states; and the East, where the Igbo operated on something a lot like ancient Greek assemblies, with every freeborn man entitled to a voice.”

hmmmm. doesn’t that sound interesting! more…

“The Yoruba were the first to meet the whites and take up Western education. They dealt with the British town by town; to the Yoruba, your town was more important than the broader ethnic identity. The Igbo came late to British rule but took to education very quickly. The Igbo get called ‘the Jews of Africa’ because they’re good at book-learning and business.

“And then there were the Northerners, the Hausa-dominated Muslims of the dry inland territory. In a way, you wouldn’t be far off thinking of the great Nigerian divide in California terms: the coasts vs. the hot inland redneck zone. The North, in Nigerian terms, is usually called ‘Hausa,’ or ‘Hausa-Fulani,’ but it includes the Kanuri of the Northeast, who are the most remote from the coast and the fiercest opponents of anything coastal, Christian, or modern. These were all war-forged Sahel caliphates, with no tradition of local loyalties like the Yoruba, or egalitarianism like the Igbo. They had the traditional Sahel-Muslim organization, top-down all the way: Sultan gives orders to Omda, Omda gives orders to Sheikh, Sheikh gives orders to commoners. And commoners obey.”

so we’ve got clannish/tribal northerners — the fulani and the hausa. and then we have the city-state yoruba and the “egalitarian” igbo.

i’d just like to point out that:

- the fulani prefer first or second cousin marriage and specifically father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage. they’re pastoralists. there are good chances i think that, like other groups elsewhere, the fulani adopted the fbd marriage of the arabs when they converted to islam (starting in the 1400s?), but perhaps they simply practice fbd marriage because they’re pastoralists.

- the hausa also prefer cousin marriage, but it seems cross-cousin marriage, so we’re talking father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) or mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage. they are also largely muslim, but don’t seem to have adopted the fbd marriage of the arabs like their neighbors the fulani. islam has been present in hausa lands since the 1200s, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that it had fully penetrated the population.

- cousin marriage doesn’t seem to be very prevalant amongst the yoruba [pg. 74] — definitely they don’t seem to *prefer* any particular form of cousin marriage [pg. 102]. some subgroups of yoruba do have very high cousin marriage rates — the people in the town of oka akoko were found to have a consanguinity rate of 51% which included uncle-niece marriages [pg. 4]. notably, oka akoko is in a mountainous region. another case of mountaineers marrying closely? dunno. Further Research is RequiredTM!

- the igbo avoid cousin marriage altogether. no form of cousin marriage is permitted. no idea how far back this goes, but it would sure be interesting to know. if wikipedia is to be believed, the igbo had a “quasi-republican” form of government in the 1400s (see also here). wouldn’t it be cool if that system was connected to mating patterns?! dunno though. we shall have to wait and see if any further info presents itself.

oh, and btw — polygamy is present in all of these groups — and probably has been for a long, long time.

perhaps there’s something in all this, perhaps not, but these groups do seem to fit the usual pattern — closer mating patterns=more closed societies, broader mating patters=more open societies. dunno. just sayin’. Further Research is RequiredTM!

nigeria_ethnic_624

previously: the bamileke of cameroon

(note: comments do not require an email. jaja of opobo.)

i’ve got this idea that the more specific a group’s mating patterns, the more specific their kinship terms — and vice versa.

so, if you’re the arabs, and you prefer father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage, you’ll have some rather specific kinship terms for all of your different aunts and uncles and cousins, because you want to be able to identify who your bint ‘amm is. if you’re the chinese, and you have an historic preference for mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage, you’ll also have specific kinship terms for all of your relatives. in fact, both of these societies have the most complicated of kinship terminology systems: the sudanese kinship system.

on the other hand, if you’re not picky about which cousin you can marry OR if all of your cousins are off-limits (like in christian europe), then you might not bother to designate any differences between your cousins (or other relatives). in the hawaiian kinship system, for instance, the only differentiation between relatives is sex and age, so all your brothers and male cousins are just “brother” and all your sisters and female cousins are just “sister.” and in traditional hawaiian society, marriage was very flexible.

meanwhile, in pre-christian europe, most all european populations had different terms for male and female, paternal and maternal cousins — like the arabs or chinese. after converting to christianity and adopting the church’s cousin marriage bans, the kinship terminology shifted to one in which cousins were no longer individually identified (see, for example, German Kinship Terms, 750-1500: Documentation and Analysis and this previous post). as michael mitterauer describes, this process took a few hundred years to happen [pgs. 68-69]:

“Fundamental trends in the changing kinship systems in Europe can best be deduced from the modified kinship terms in various European languages. Initially, terminological analyses will only yield very general clues that other indicators can differentiate and refine. Above all, these analyses cannot allow us to conclude anything about how some of the concepts used mirror a certain contemporaneous social order. Kinship terminology often outlasted by hundreds of years the conditions that gave rise to it. We frequently come upon phenomena of cultural lag when tapping this linguistic source in the attempt to learn about historical kinship systems, but that a change in a social situation must have preceded a change in vocabulary lies beyond a shadow of doubt.

so what does any of this have to do with archaic greece (800 BC – 480 BC)? (or classical greece and athens for that matter?)

well, from mitterauer again we have [pg. 69]:

“Greek was the first European language to eliminate the terminological distinction between the father’s and mother’s side, a transition that began as early as between the fifth and third century BC.35

so that’s just at the transition point between archaic greece and classical greece. but starting at least in the early part of the archaic period and lasting throughout to the classical period the archaic greeks were outbreeding! at least the upper class ones were — difficult/impossible to know about the lower classes. from Women in Ancient Greece [pg. 67]:

“Marriages were arranged by the prospective groom and the prospective bride’s guardian, and the wife usually (although not always) went to live with her husband’s family. In the early Archaic Age [800 BC – 480 BC], to judge from the evidence of Homer’s poems (e.g. ‘Odyssey’ 4.5), male members of the upper classes generally married women who were not related to them, and who came from different areas. This upper-class habit of exogamy — marrying outside the community — was related to the political importance which marriage possessed in these circles. Marriage exchanges were one of the means by which noble families created political alliances with groups living in other areas, and in this way they made a considerable contribution to the aristocracy’s stranglehold on power. This practice survived to the end of the Archaic Age. However, with the emergence of the *polis*, exogamy began to give way in some places to endogamy — to marriage within the community. For the upper classes, this meant marriage within a tight circle of aristocratic families living in the same *polis*.”

so there was outbreeding in archaic greece for a few hundred years (at least amongst the upper classes), and, then, eventually — after about 400 years or so — there was a linguistic shift to more general kinship terms which reflected that outbreeding. in other words, there was a lag time between the “social situation” (or mating patterns) and the linguistic shift in the kinship terms. in medieval german, the shift to more general terms for cousins began in the 1100s, about 300-600 years after the cousin marriage bans arrived in northern europe (depending on what region you look at).

that’s all for now. more anon!

previously: loosening of genetic ties in europe started before christianity? and demokratia

(note: comments do not require an email. archaic greek chicks.)

in my last post on saudi arabs, i mentioned that there are maybe, perhaps some hints that the historic mating patterns amongst the najdis of the central part of the arab peninsula were closer than those amongst the hejazis of the western coast. maybe. there are only hints, so it’s hard to be sure.

one other hint that the hejazis maybe outbred a bit more than the najdis is the somewhat greater freedoms that women have historically had in the region (the pattern seems to be the stronger the inbreeding, the more restrictions on women). from Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for an Arabian Identity [pg. 27]:

“As in other societies the Arab concept of family is closely linked to that of female honour. In the Arabian Peninsula the urban Hijazis have historically been viewed as more lax or lenient in such matters than tribal Najdi culture, with its strict Wahhabi norms of sexual segregation. An increased emphasis on female honour has, however, developed among some of the Hijazi *’awa’il* in reaction to Najdi standards.”

if the elevation/marginal environment theory of inbreeding/outbreeding is correct, then it would make sense if arabs living right along the coast in the west were inbred less. same for those on the east coast, i suppose. (the greatest oubreeders of the arab peninsula ought to be in the southeast area of saudi arabia, but i don’t think many people live there!):

saudi arabia - topography
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in any case, saudi society is not just clannish, it’s downright tribalistic — and the people of the hejazi region don’t like the people of the najdi region. and the feeling is very much mutual [pgs. 16-17, 85]:

The most obvious and important expression of the persistence of social boundaries is the rarity of intermarriage between Najdis and Hijazis, with obvious implications for cultural assimilation. Hijazi opinion on this matter varies. Some explain that Najdi men fear the consequences of marital alliances with Hijazi families, while others contend that Hijazis are reluctant to allow their daughters to marry Najdis, because of polygamy, ease of divorce and stricter gender segregation among the Najdis. Najdi men — who do not hesitate to take wives from other Arab countries — regard marrying a woman from the same country as a greater commitment, especially when she is from an inferior or less ‘pure’ lineage in the Najdi grading of tribal descent. Meanwhile, the Hijazies, who claim descent from the Prophet’s tribe, the Quarysh, consider themselves the superior ones. Competition in ‘purity of blood’ in the Arabian Peninsula reaches its apotheosis in the context of intermarriage, and the few instances of it are typically between a Hijazi man and a non-tribal (i.e. ‘non-pure blood’) Najdi *khadiri*, as a tribal Najdi *gabili* will not marry outside the group. Even in these rare cases, the Najdi *khadiri* family typically makes the marriage procedures very lenthy and costly….

“The images that Hijazi and Najdi have of one another and the names they use to describe each other are further indications of social boundaries and the consciousness that sustains them. The Hijazis, for example, call the Najdis *shurug* (Easterners), a derogatory term. Another term, *badu* (Bedouin), carries an even worse connotation — essentially a lack of urban refinement. On the other hand, the Najdis call Hijazis *tarsh al-bahr*, (the flotsam of the sea) and *bagaya hujjaj*, (pilgrimage remnants). Whereas the first term is applied to those from Jeddah and the second to Meccans and Medinese, both allude to the ‘impurity’ of Hijazis’ Arab descent, owing to intermarriage with non-Arab Muslims. While the Najdis pride themselves on their lineage and *asala* (purity of blood), the Hijazis pride themselves on their *zawg* (good taste), *anaga* (elegance), *nazaka* (refinement) and *usul* (knowledge of the rules of propriety). To be sure, Hijazis also place lineage as the first criterion of status and respectability, especially those claiming descent from the Quraysh. But for those from other Muslim countries who settled in Mecca, Medina or Taif, lineage does not imply ‘blood purity’, but rather three generations of good social standing. As a result, ‘Najdis regard Hijazis as degenerate and not quite Arabian’….

“Marriages between Hijazis and Najdis are very rare. The exceptions are one way, occurring between a *khadiri* (non-tribal, ‘non-pure’ Najdi) woman and a Hijazi man, especially if he is wealthy and offering a high *mahr*. Najdis do not marry Hijazis because their lineage is not considered pure enough. Therefore Hijazis are excluded from marriage with the Najdi elite…. The rarity of cases of inter-marriage between Hijazis and Najdis is the most significant expression of the social boundaries between the regions of Saudi Arabia and an obvious example of the cultural distinctivenss of the Hijazis. Despite the attempt at integration and national homogeneity, marriage practices and alliances demonstrate the fractured nature of the Saudi state.

not much love there, then.
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and, like i said, saudi society is very tribal — extremely tribal. from Challenges to the Cohesion of the Arab State [pgs. 181-182, 184, 186-187 - links added by me]:

“Saudi Arabia is known in the literature as a ‘rentier state.’ In its most narrow meaning, a rentier states refers to a state which gains most of its revenues not from taxes, but rather from the income (‘rents’) derived from the sale of natural resources, in this case — petroleum. In the Saudi case, the state distributes much of the income to the population, without taxing it. Saudi Arabia has (as have other wealthy Gulf states) an unwritten ‘social contract’ between the Sa’ud family and its subjects: the family runs a cradle-to-grave social welfare system and guarantees employment in the public sector; in exchange, the population is expected to be loyal, without having a representative system. It is, in fact, a system of ‘no taxation, no representation.’

This governmental system dovetails quite nicely with the tribalistic character of Saudi Arabia, and to a great extent even duplicates it. Although the tribe, as a discrete social unit, has been somewhat weakened in Saudi Arabia due to the efforts of the Saudi state, the structure of relations between the Sa’ud family and the population operates to a great extent according to tribalistic patterns and values, and thus contributes to national cohesion.

“Certain political, and socio-economic groups develop a corporate identity and behavior, not unlike that of tribes. These groups are termed *’asabiyyat* (from the word *’asabiyya*, tribal solidarity), and indeed form the core of social cohesion in Saudi Arabia. They are patron-client groups that have a common tribal, regional, family, or ethnic background, which is used to obtain jobs or resources from the central government. In return, the central government uses these relationships to command the loyalty of these groups. In this sense, the state is an extension of tribal politics.

in 1961, when the saudi central government was moved from jeddah (in hejazi territory) to riyadh (in najdi territory), pretty much ALL of the hejazi civil servants were sacked and replaced with najdis [pg. 94]. now THAT’S what i call nepotism!

more from Challenges to the Cohesion of the Arab State:

“Tribalistic patterns of behavior are characterized by a high degree of personalization since they are based on personal relationships. For instance, the main ministries are headed by members of the Saudi royal family that represent the various ‘circles of power.’ To get a job in one of those ministries, one must ally oneself with the relevant faction of the family, or with someone associated with it. The most powerful circles of power [in 2008 when this book was published-h.chick] are the Al Salman (connected to Salman, the governor of Riyadh province), the Al’ Abdallah (associated with the present king), the Al Fahd (connected to Fahd, who was king until his death in 2005), the Al Na’if (connected to the minister of the interior, and the Al Sultan (connected to the heir apparent and minister of defense and aviation). These circles act as corporate groups looking out for one another. They consist of blood relatives and their associates. Until a few years ago, applicants for government jobs were required to provide their family and tribal background, going back five generations, as part of the application process. This clearly illustrates how the royal family uses tribal patterns and values to maintain its rule.

“Like the head of a tribe, the state is responsbile for the protection of its citizens. The state, personified in the Sa’ud family which functions as the head of a tribe, protects the people’s physical and financial safety. Like all tribal leaders, members of the royal family mediate disputes, and keep the peace….

The Saudi royal family/state also functions as a genealogical organizer of society. As tribes did in the past, it determines who will marry whom. The fact that it makes it hard for Saudis to marry non-Saudis contributes to the myth of an entire country under Sa’ud domination, of one vast exclusive tribal family patronized by the Al Sa’ud. Since Saudi citizenship, which grants admission to the tribal family, confers entitlement to the largesse of the *shaykh*, the Saudis have created powerful incentives for their citizens to accept the truth of the myth of Saudi national identity, an identity fused with religion, in which membership is in fact a coveted privilege bestowed by birthright….

“Regional identities

“The region with the most highly developed sense of regional identity is the Hijaz, a strip of land along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, stretching from the border with Jordan in the north nearly to Yemen in the south. In it are situated the two holiest places in Islam, Mecca and Medina.

“In the Hijaz the elite are quite aware of the status they enjoyed before what the Saudis call unification, and some Hijazis call occupation, or annexation. When they feel they are being treated as second-class citizens, which they often are because the Najdis hold most of the government and religious jobs, they strive to gain recognition by asserting their distinctiveness as the elite of Islam’s holiest places.

“One recent manifestation of the this regionalism is the periodical *al-Hijaz*, published in London by the Hijazi National Organization (*al-jam’iyya al-wataniyya al-Hijaziyya*). The periodical is extremely anti-Saudi, and seeks to celebrate Hijazi culture and distinctiveness. The articles, most of which remain unsigned, refer not to the ‘unification’ of Arabia under the Saudis, as stated in the official narrative, but rather to the occupation of the Hijaz….

“Some Hijazis are thus beginning to assert their distinctiveness, whether through writing about Hijazi customs and food, or by wearing Hijazi dress. Indeed, there seems to be a revival of Hijazi dress lately. People who choose to wear Hijazi dress do so at some risk since it is Najdi dress which is considered the national dress and is worn by most of those in or close to power. What one wears is a statement, and is noted immediately. Some Hijazis are demonstratively reverting to their own regional dress, which includes a tighter-fitting robe calle a *jubba*, and a turban, or *’amama*….

“One man stands out as leader of the Hijazi cultural movement, namely Sami al-Angawi, an architect, who has made it his life’s work to preserve the customs, dress, and architecture of the Hijaz against Najdi attempts to eliminate them. He openly wears Hijazi dress. Moreover, he explicitly declares that he is a Sufi, a mystic — in other words, that he belongs to a stream of Islam which is forbidden by the Wahhabi clerics, who monopolize religion in Saudi Arabia.

He has protested the destruction of Hijazi architecture and Hijazi holy sites by envious Wahhabis, who see the worship of these sites as unlawful religious innovation (*bid’a*). Several of these sites have been destroyed, the most recent amongst them being the Jiyad fortress, built by the Ottomans in the eighteenth century, and destroyed in 2002. The fortress was the site from which Husayn bin ‘Ali started the Arab Revolt in Mecca. It overlooks the Ka’aba, and was removed to make way for a massive, five-story project. The developers of the project are the Bin Ladin Company, which has close ties to the royal family.”

i could never understand all the destruction of islamic sites — including mohammed’s mother’s grave (!) — happening in mecca and medina (see also here). greed (i.e. wanting to build huMONgous hotel complexes to milk the hajj crowds) doesn’t seem to cover it, afaiac. but now that i know that all these sites are in hejazi territory and are connected with hejazi history — and the fact that it’s mostly najdis destroying them — NOW it all makes sense! it’s tribes vs. tribes, that’s all.

previously: historic mating patterns on the arabian peninsula and tribalism on the innerwebs

(note: comments do not require an email. mecca’s big ben!)

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