so, i finally got my hands on “the explanation of ideology” by emmanuel todd. flipped through it today and it looks pretty interesting, altho a little heavy on the marxism for my tastes (french academics!).
this passage really caught my eye [pgs. 134-36]:
“The paradoxical process by which a taboo [inbreeding] becomes an endogamous preference allows us to explain the expansion of Islam. Invented by the Arab world which practised systematic patrilineal endogamy, the Muslim religion moved into all the surrounding regions where exogamous prescriptions were weak or non-existant. It did not create an endogamous model but regulated and organized one by eliminating only the most extreme forms of incest: the marriage between brother and sister of ancient Egypt, that between brother and sister of Zoroastrian Iran, and that between half-brother and half-sister of ancient Palestine. Islam stops in the West, in southern Spain, at the limits of the area once under Carthaginian rule, Phoenician in anthropological terms.
“From the beginning Christianity chose an exogamous ideal. In ‘The City of God’ Augustine developed an evolutionary idea of the incest taboo, according to which the prohibitions gradually became more extensive. In fact Christianity simply inherited the Roman kinship prohibitions which forbade marriage between first cousins. The story of the kidnapping of the Sabines is a typical exogamous foundation tale.
“The conversion of the northern barbarians to Christianity from the sixth century onwards marked the beginning of an extension of the exogamous ideal, which was apparently more strictly applied among the Germanic peoples than among the Romans. Even today penal legislation covering incest, while moderate or non-existent in Latin countries — France, Italy, Spain — in northern Europe and particularly Germany betrays a phobia and abhorrence of sexual relations between close relatives. Between 1950 and 1955, 400 people were sentenced each year in West Germany for breaking the incest laws. There is nothing in the French criminal code on the subject: it punishes only when an adult takes advantage of a position of authority over a minor, whether it be as father or guardian.
“The movement of the fiercely exogamous Germanic peoples, then of the endogamous Arabs towards the Mediterranean, therefore polarized a situation which was originally extremely diverse. The Christian world embodied the ideal of exogamy, the Muslim world that of endogamy. Two monotheistic forms of universalism confronted each other, trapped by an anthropological differnce. Christians and Muslims saw each other as savages, incompatible with one another because of their sexual and family morality.”
iow, because of their mating patterns and the degrees of relatedness between the members of their respective societies. they were trapped not by an anthropological difference, but by a biological one.
talk about a clash of civilizations!
(note: comments do not require an email. i’m warning you about those sabine women…!)