looking for altruism genes

so, the tidbit of info in the previous post about the mccoy clan being predisposed to von hippel–lindau disease (75% of the mccoy clan have had tumors on their adrenal glands — says so in wikipedia so it must be true), got me to thinking about what sorts of congenital conditions might offer clues to “genes for altruism” a la cochran, hardy & harpending [pdf].

re. the mccoys and von hippel–lindau disease:

“Some descendants of the McCoy family (involved in the Hatfield-McCoy feud of Appalachia, USA) as well as the Elliotts have VHL. In an article appearing in the Associated Press, it has been speculated by a Vanderbilt University endocrinologist that the hostility underlying the Hatfield–McCoy feud may have been partly due to the consequences of von Hippel–Lindau disease. The article suggests that the McCoy family was predisposed to bad tempers because many of them had a pheochromocytoma, which produced excess adrenaline and a tendency toward explosive tempers.

hmmm. excess adrenaline. that could certainly be beneficial if the sort of altruistic behavior you need to have to be reproductively successful is the kind where you’re willing to go out and fight the competing clan on behalf of your own.

so i started thinking about everybody’s favorite aggressively tribal inbreeders — the arabs — and aaaall the congenital disorders they have and if any of them might be related to adrenalin and/or the adrenal glands.

here’s one — congenital adrenal hyperplasia:

“Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) refers to any of several autosomal recessive diseases resulting from mutations of genes for enzymes mediating the biochemical steps of production of cortisol from cholesterol by the adrenal glands (steroidogenesis)…. CAH is a genetic disorder in which girls are masculinized because the adrenal glands secrete large amounts of androgen during prenatal development. The extra androgen does not affect a baby boy’s physical development, but in baby girls it can enlarge the clitoris so that it resembles a penis….


“Most of these conditions involve excessive or deficient production of sex steroids and can alter development of primary or secondary sex characteristics in some affected infants, children, or adults.”

so here’s a genetically recessive condition — so, like sickle cell anemia, you need to have two copies of the “bad” allele to have the condition — that masculinizes girls ’cause the female fetus is exposed to lots of androgen. and male fetuses are not affected? at all? couldn’t they be “extra” masculinized in some way? maybe that’s not the case, but it sure makes me wonder.

and androgen certainly has interesting effects on the brain:

“Circulating levels of androgens can influence human behavior because some neurons are sensitive to steroid hormones. Androgen levels have been implicated in the regulation of human aggression and libido.”

well, what do you need to survive in a warring clannish/tribal society but high levels of aggression? amirite?!

the world-wide incidence of CAH is 1:14,199 live births. in kuwait it’s 1:7,000 and amongst moroccan jews it’s between 1:5000-1:7000 (i know, i know — they’re not arabs — but they’re part of the same sort of clannish, inbreeding society being in morocco). there are also apparently high rates in egypt (alexandria), but i don’t know what the prevlance is. it’s also considered a problem in tunisia, jordan, oman, uae and saudi arabia.

here’s a breakdown of the prevalence in several populations:

1:282 – yupik eskimos of southwestern alaska
1:2,141 – edit: la reunion, france (or la reunion, france? see comments.)
1:5000-1:7000 – moroccan jews
1:7,000 – kuwait
1:10,866 – france (whites)
1:10,866 – italy (whites)
1:14,500 – new zealand
1:15,800 – japan
1:17,098 – scotland

carriers of one allele related to CAH often exhibit “symptoms of androgen excess.”

androgen excess? aggression? high prevalence in the arab world? clannish/tribal societies? possible “genes for altruism”?

dunno. just a thought.

previously: hatfields and mccoys and which altruism genes?

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hatfields and mccoys

“A man has a right to defend his family.”William Anderson ‘Devil Anse’ Hatfield [Albion’s Seed]

that’s ‘devil anse’ there in the second row — sitting down, second from the left, long beard and shotgun in his hand.

i haven’t seen the show (yet) about america’s most famous family feud in which something like eleven people were killed — i count 9 to 2 with the hatfields in the lead (i.e. nine mccoys dead and only two hatfields) — but judging from the traffic over the last two days, a lot of people have!

the mccoys are/were scotch-irish and hatfield is an anglo-saxon name, probably from up yorkshire way. in Albion’s Seed, david hackett fischer describes how the settlers of appalachia were scotch-irish, or came from the border areas between england and scotland, and all had a unique culture with a long history based on extended families and clans and traditions of cattle raiding and battles between clans, traditions that they brought to the united states with them. from Albion’s Seed [links added by me]:

“Backcountry Family Ways: Border Ideas of Clan and Kin

“From the perspective of an individual within this culture, the structure of the family tended to be a set of concentric rings, in which the outermost circles were thicker and stronger than among other English-speaking people. Beyond the nuclear core, beyond even the extended circle, there were two rings which were unique to this culture. One was called the derbfine. It encompassed all kin within the span of four generations. For many centuries, the laws of North Britain and Ireland had recognized the derbfine as a unit which defined the descent of property and power. It not only connected one nuclear family to another, but also joined one generation to the next.

“Beyond the derbfine lay a larger ring of kinship which was called the clan in North Britain. We think of clans today mainly in connection with the Scottish Highlands. But they also existed in the lowlands, northern Ireland and England’s border counties where they were a highly effective adaptation to a world of violence and chronic insecurity.

“The clans of the border were not precisely the same as those of the Scottish Highlands, and very different from the Victorian contrivances of our own time. They had no formal councils, tartans, sporrans, bonnets or septs. But they were clannish in the most fundamental sense: a group of related families who lived near to one another, were conscious of a common identity, carried the same surname, claimed descent from common ancestors and banded together when danger threatened.

“Some of these border clans were very formidable. The Armstrongs, one of the largest clans on the Cumbrian border in the sixteenth century, were reputed to be able to field 3,000 mounted men, and were much feared by their neighbors. The Grahams held thirteen towers on the western border in 1552, and bid defiance to their foes. The Rutherfords and Halls were so violent that royal officials in 1598 ordered no quarter to be given to anyone of those names. The Johnston-Johnson clan adorned their houses with the flayed skins of their enemies the Maxwells in a blood feud that continued for many generations.

“These North British border clans tended to settle together in the American backcountry….”
_____

i posted previously on how the border clans probably praciticed some form of inbreeding or endogamous mating (like the irish perhaps) and that that’s why they were clannish in nature. hackett fischer backs me up on that with an example from northern england — and inbreeding/endogamous mating certainly happened in appalachia:

In many cases the husband and wife both came from the same clan. In the Cumbrian parish of Hawkshead, for example, both the bride and groom bore the same last names in 25 percent of all marriages from 1568 to 1704. Marriages in the backcountry, like those on the borders, also occurred very frequently between kin….

“These clans fostered an exceptionally strong sense of loyalty, which a modern sociologist has called ‘amoral familism,’ from the ethical perspective of his own historical moment. In its own time and place, it was not amoral at all, but a moral order of another kind, which recognized a special sense of obligation to kin. That imperative was a way of dealing with a world where violence and disorder were endemic. Long after it had lost its reason for being, family loyalty retained its power in the American backcountry.

“An example was the persistence of the family feud, which continued for many centuries in the southern highlands. These feuds flowed from the fact that families in the borderlands and back-country were given moral properties which belonged mainly to individuals in other English-speaking cultures. Chief among them were the attributes of honor and shame. When one man forfeited honor in the backcountry, the entire clan was diminished by his loss. When one woman was seduced and abandoned, all her ‘menfolk’ shared the humiliation. The feuds of the border and the backcountry rose mainly from this fact. When ‘Devil Anse’ Hatfield was asked to explain why he had murdered so many McCoys, he answered simply, ‘A man has a right to defend his family.’ And when he spoke of his family, he meant all Hatfields and their kin. This backcountry folkway was strikingly similar to the customs of the borderers.

“Historians of a materialist persuasion have suggested that the feud was a modern invention in the southern highlands. One has called it a ‘response to industrialism.’ Another has interpreted it as the product of changes in the means of production. These modern processes would indeed provide many occasions for feuds. But they were not the cause of the feuding itself, which had deeper cultural roots. Other historians have argued that southern feuds were mainly a legacy of the Civil War. But feuds occurred in the backcountry before 1861. They were part of the brutal violence of the American Revolution in the backcountry. Strong continuities in family feuding may be traced from the borders of North Britain to the American backcountry — a pattern that persisted throughout the southern highlands even into the twentieth century.
_____

people become clannish or tribal when they marry/mate closely repeatedly over generations. if you want to understand, and perhaps get rid of, clans and family feuds and killings in the name of family honor, then you have to understand/get rid of the close marriages.

an interesting note about the mccoy clan (via wikipedia):

“Hatfield-McCoy feud blamed on ‘rage’ disease

“Rare, genetic condition may have fueled violent tempers across generations

“The most infamous feud in American folklore, the long-running battle between the Hatfields and McCoys, may be partly explained by a rare, inherited disease that can lead to hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts.

“Dozens of McCoy descendants apparently have the disease, which causes high blood pressure, racing hearts, severe headaches and too much adrenaline and other ‘fight or flight’ stress hormones.

“No one blames the whole feud on this, but doctors say it could help explain some of the clan’s notorious behavior….

“Von Hippel-Lindau disease, which afflicts many family members, can cause tumors in the eyes, ears, pancreas, kidney, brain and spine. Roughly three-fourths of the affected McCoys have pheochromocytomas — tumors of the adrenal gland.

“The small, bubbly-looking orange adrenal gland sits atop each kidney and makes adrenaline and substances called catecholamines. Too much can cause high blood pressure, pounding headaches, heart palpitations, facial flushing, nausea and vomiting. There is no cure for the disease, but removing the tumors before they turn cancerous can improve survival.

“Affected family members have long been known to be combative, even with their kin. Reynolds recalled her grandfather, ‘Smallwood’ McCoy.

“‘When he would come to visit, everyone would run and hide. They acted like they were scared to death of him. He had a really bad temper,’ she said….”

previously: “culture” of honor and traditional family systems in medieval britain and ireland and start here

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inbreeding and the evolution of altruistic behavior ii

in Understanding Human History, michael hart did a real nice job of explaining how kin selection or inclusive fitness works and how “genes for altruism” could be selected for [pgs. 37-38]:

“For about a century after Darwin proposed his theory of evolution, the origin of altruistic behavior in animals remained a puzzle. It was not until the 1960s, when William D. Hamilton proposed his theory of kin selection, that a satisfactory explanation was given. That theory can perhaps best be explained by an example:

“Suppose a man sees his identical twin drowning in a river, and estimates (correctly) that if he were to jump in and try to save his brother the probability of success would be 80%, while the probability that he would die in the attempt would be 20%. Consider these two alternatives:

“a) Some of the man’s genes strongly dispose him to rescue his brother, and he therefore jumps in and tries to save him (‘altruistic behavior’).

“b) The man does not have genes that dispose him to rescue his brother, and he therefore stays on the shore and lets his brother drown (‘selfish behavior’).

“In case (b), exactly one copy of the man’s genes survives, and may later be replicated. However, in case (a), if the rescue attempt is successful, two copies of the man’s genes survive (one in his own body, one in his brother’s). As this will happen 80% of the time, on average 1.6 (= 0.80 × 2) copies of the man’s genes will survive. In this situation, therefore, genes that dispose a person to altruistic behavior will — on average — have more surviving copies than genes that dispose a person to act selfishly and will be favored by natural selection.

“Now consider a slightly different example. Suppose that the man on shore is a brother — but not a twin — of the person who is drowning. Case (b) will still result in one copy of his genes being preserved. However, since ordinary siblings share only 50% of their genes, if the man on shore succeeds in rescuing his brother then (on average) 1.5 copies of the man’s genes will survive. Since 80% of the attempts will be successful, case (a) will on average result in 1.2 (= 0.80 × 1.5) copies of the altruistic genes surviving. Since 1.2 is greater than 1.0, the altruistic genes will be favored by natural selection in this case too.

“Suppose, however, that the two men were not brothers, but merely first cousins. First cousins, on average, share only one-eighth of their genes. In this case, altruistic behavior results in only 0.9 (= 0.80 × 1.125) copies of the man’s genes surviving, and natural selection will therefore favor the genes for selfish behavior.

“The upshot is that a gene that disposes its bearer to behave altruistically toward a close relative can have a selective advantage over one that disposes its bearer to act completely selfishly. Furthermore, this can occur even though the relative never returns the favor, and even if the survival of the relative does not increase the group’s chances of survival. It is not necessary that either reciprocal altruism or group selection operate for kin selection to result in the spread of genes that dispose their bearer to act altruistically toward close relatives.”
_____

what’s missing from these examples is, of course, inbreeding. and depth of time.

take michael’s second example up there…

“Suppose that the man on shore is a brother — but not a twin — of the person who is drowning.”

…but let’s add that the parents of these brothers were first-cousins. that makes these two guys: brothers AND second-cousins (i.e. the children of two first-cousins). so they probably share not only 50% of their genes in common as brothers, but also 3.13% of their genes in common as second-cousins. so the “push” to jump in the water to save the brother/cousin must be somewhat stronger in the inbred pair than for the brother to save just a plain ol’ brother.

now let’s take this example of michael’s…

“Suppose, however, that the two men were not brothers, but merely first cousins. First cousins, on average, share only one-eighth of their genes.”

…but let’s make them double first-cousins rather than just first-cousins. what happens then?

well, while first-cousins probably share 1/8th or 12.5% of their genes in common, double first-cousins share … well, double that! … or 1/4 or 25% of their genes in common.

what happens to michael’s calculation then?

“In this case, altruistic behavior results in only 0.9 (= 0.80 × 1.125) copies of the man’s genes surviving, and natural selection will therefore favor the genes for selfish behavior.”

in the case of double first-cousins the calculation becomes 0.80 x 1.25 = 1.0. that’s just breaking even using michael’s example, but what if the odds of saving the cousin from drowing are better than 80%?

or what about the depth of time i mentioned above? what if the family of my double first-cousins has been inbreeding for a very long time. a very, very long time. like for fifty generations or more. then the relatedness between all the family members, including these double first-cousins, will be even closer. natural selection ought, then, to favor such double first-cousins jumping in to save each other.

as wade and breden showed (see also previous post), inbreeding can help to accelerate the rate of the evolution (or frequency in a population) of altruism genes [pg. 846]:

[T]he increase in matings between homozygous parents decreases the genetic variance within families, because these matings produce genotypically homogeneous arrays of offspring.”

repeated inbreeding in a family reduces the diversity (whoa!) of the allele types within that family, and if we’re talking about “genes for altruism” here, then the variety of those must get reduced within inbred families, too. in a population that consists of, say, ten inbreeding families, the one that has super-duper altruism genes that lead all of its family members to help each other out more than the members of the other families will have the advantage (provided selection favors that advantage for whatever reasons). and those super-duper altruism genes will no doubt eventually spread to the other families since, in reality, no family groups inbreed 100% of the time anywhere — there will pretty definitely be gene flow between families. so then you’ll get a whole population of super-duper family altruists (note that these people are NOT altruistic to unrelated individuals).

the human populations on earth today that inbreed most closely (within patrilineages) and often practice double first-cousin marriage — AND have been doing this for prolly at least a couple of thousand years (time depth) — are the arabs (who later spread these mating practices to the maghreb, the mashriq and far off places like iraq and afghanistan and all the other ‘stans) and some peoples in the levant like the druze. i think that, because of their long-standing mating practices, they are the prime human examples of wade and breden’s accelerated evolution of altruism thanks to inbreeding.

previously: inbreeding and the evolution of altruistic behavior and more on inbreeding and the evolution of altruistic behavior

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human biodiversity in time

hbders are used to thinking about differences between human populations in the world today, but we shouldn’t forget that human biodiversity works in time as well as space the final frontier.

here’s one of my favorite quotes from greg cochran:

“[That human evolution has continued] means that people were different in the past, enough that we’ll have to take it into account when trying to understand history. Ultimately it may cause us to radically reevaluate some of our historical ideas — the past may never be the same again.”

people in the past were not just like us. and — omg! — people in the future are not gonna be like us either!

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inbreeding and iq

i’ve mentioned the following idea in a couple of comments here and there recently, but i thought i may as well make it a full blog post…

in a previous post i linked to a study by an iranian (iirc) researcher, m. sadaat, who found a negative correlation between a nation’s inbreeding coefficient and iq — in other words, the more inbreeding in a population, the lower the iq.

inbreeding depression would seem like the likely explanation (edit: or maybe low iq people just inbreed more), and maybe it is; but i’ve been wondering if what might happen at least maybe in some cases is that, since regularly inbreeding populations become clannish or tribal, perhaps low iq individuals (and their genes/alleles) are not weeded out of the population because they benefit from being members of a clan/tribe which takes care of them even to the degree that they are able to successfully reproduce. in other words, maybe inbreeding can lead to a dysgenic situation — the opposite of, for instance, gregory clark’s eugenic medieval/early modern england in which only the cleverest and hard-working survived.

here’s an example of how a clannish or tribal society might be especially beneficial to low iq individuals — from Development and Social Change in Rural Egypt (1986), pgs. 150-51:

“The importance that poor peasants attach to the brokerage services by a single wealthy patron can be seen in the continuing importance of the extended family unit in rural Egypt. In the village of El-Diblah [pseudonymous village representative of upper egypt], as well as other Egyptian communities, politics and much of life itself are organized on the basis of large, extended families numbering 500 members or more. These extended families are broad patrilineal structures, which may or may not be able to trace themselves back to a single historical founder. While these extended families do not represent monolithic social structures, most fellahin are animated by a real feeling of belonging to a particular extended family unit. When they need a loan or help with outside government officials, poor peasants will often turn to the leader or a prominent person within their extended family. In the village of El-Diblah three of the four leading extended families are headed by rich peasants. In the eyes of most fellahin, this is exactly as it should be. In the countryside wealth acquired by virtually any means provides a good indication of an individual’s ability to deal with (or against) the ouside world.


“‘Zaghlul,’ for example, is the rich peasant head of one of the leading extended families in El-Diblah. A short, wiry 55-year-old fellah, whose dress and mannerisms are almost indistinguishable from those of other peasants in the village, Zaghlul now owns about 25 feddans of land. Much of this land is planted in sugar cane, a crop that he uses to supply his own cane press that produces black molasses for local sale. As the owner of 25 feddans of land, and the proprietor of one of the few ‘manufacturing’ enterprises in the village, Zaghlul is able to dispense a wide number of agricultural and non-agricultrual work opportunities to favored members of his extended family. Many of the poorer members of his extended family live in a mud-brick settlement surrounding Zaghlul’s modern two-story, red-brick house. In the evenings a steady stream of these poor people come to Zaghlul’s house, seeking brokerage and intercessionary services (for example, help in securing agricultural inputs and medical services from the government)….

so the smarter individuals in egyptian clans give jobs to and generally help out the not-so-smart members of their clans. not so good maybe.

this scenario doesn’t seem to apply to the chinese or european jews who have high average iqs despite lots of long-term inbreeding — at least the chinese have inbred a lot for a loooong time anyway. not so sure about the jews.

maybe what’s required to get to my proposed dysgenic situation is a true tribal society in which it’s tribe vs. tribe 100% of the time — and maybe you can only get to a true tribal society via father’s brother’s daughter marriage which only the arabs/north africans/south asians practice. dunno.

otoh, maybe the average iqs of chinese people and ashkenazi jews would’ve been even higher if they hadn’t have bred so closely. hmmmm.

maybe somebody’s already discussed this possible scenario elsewhere, but i haven’t come across it before. -?-

previously: inbreeding and nat’l iq and family type in egypt

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voting patterns and clans in egypt

so the elections are underway in egypt. i wish them luck (i really mean that!).

i quoted this article (now behind a paywall) once before, mostly ’cause i thought the guy being interviewed was pretty funny:

Key Clans Hold Sway in Egypt Elections

“TOMIYA, Egypt — In this rural hamlet 100 miles southwest of Cairo, farmers turn their fields with ox-pulled plows and ferry their daily harvest to market on carts pulled by swaybacked donkeys. Nine months after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, this village’s politics remain similarly stuck in a previous era.

“Here, as in much of rural Egypt, two political forces appear poised to dominate Monday’s parliamentary vote, just as they have for much of the past century: the Muslim Brotherhood and a small clique of powerful families, feudal landowners with longstanding ties to the former ruling party and security services….

Tribe, family, and religion — this is how people vote here,’ said Micheil Fayek, a candidate in Fayoum governorate, which includes Tomiya, for the liberal-leaning, but pro-military Wafd Party….

“At sunset, on the eve of Monday’s vote, a group of local farmers sat sucking on a water pipe on the roadside near Tomiya. Asked what they thought of their local candidates, they named the Muslim Brotherhood candidates and, like everyone here, candidate Yussuf Abu Talab, whose father and grandfather have represented the district in parliament for as long as anyone can remember. The rest of the ballot was a mystery to them.

“‘Abu Talab’s father was very powerful, anything you needed, he would give you,’ said one of the farmers, Taha Abu Shaaban, 40 years old. ‘He was in the ruling party, but the people loved him….’

“The likes of Mr. Abu Talab, whose family owns the vast swaths of farmland these men all toil each day, are old political hands, masters of Egypt’s rough and tumble and often corrupt electoral politics. Mr. Abu Talab couldn’t be reached for comment. But Moataz Mahmoud, the head of the Hurriya (Freedom) Party he is running with said that such well-known figures such as Mr. Talab around Egypt are expected to win seats because they have a long history of looking after their constituents.

“Though these elections look poised to be freer and fairer than past Egyptian elections, the same dirty tricks that have been fixtures of past elections are already evident.

“Mr. Fayek, the Wafd Party candidate, said he has been approached by a number of paid vote bundlers who muster a chunk of guaranteed votes in exchange for cash. In Fayoum, Mr. Fayek said he had received offers from such hustlers to sell 1,000 vote bundles for between LE50 and LE100 ($10 and $20) a vote, with results guaranteed by cell phone pictures of the checked ballot snapped by each voter inside the voting booth.

“That the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to make a strong showing in these elections has never been in doubt. But the role of these powerful families has received comparatively little attention and could end up being a strong and unpredictable force in the next parliament, giving it a more counterrevolutionary hue than many democracy activists hoped….

‘Egyptian Election is based on individuals with strong tribal and family connections rather than on ideologies or programs of parties, and the only exception to this is the Islamist voters,’ said Mr. Mahmoud, the head of the Hurriya Party, which includes ex-Mubarak regime members from around the country and who is also a candidate from a prominent family from southern Egypt. ‘It doesn’t it matter if I was a part of the ruling regime. Even if I was a member of the Israeli Likud, I would still win.’
_____

see? funny. (^_^)

here’s how elections and voting normally work in clannish egypt (although i’m not sure how applicable this is to the presidential voting that they’re doing today in egypt — the following is more about how parliamentarian elections work). from Development and Social Change in Rural Egypt [pgs. 150, 151-54]:

“The unequal distribution of economic resources in the El-Diblah district [pseudonymous district representative of upper or southern egypt] means that political relations in the area are dominated by one type of relationship: the patron-client relationship. Rich peasant patrons, who own over ten feddans of land, remain the principal source of employment, credit and brokerage services for the large number of poor peasants in the district. To be sure, the gradual reduction in the size of rich peasant landholdings means that many wealthy patrons no longer possess the monopoly of resources needed to permanently support their poor peasant clients. In most cases poor peasants seeking wage labor must now circulate between several rich patrons in order to survive. Yet the majority of these poor peasants still look to one particular wealthy patron for brokerage and intercessionary services with the government. By effectively mediating the demands of their poor peasant clients with the outside political world, rich peasant patrons can dominate political life at the local level….

“It is possible to examine the local-level powers wielded by rich peasant patrons like Zaghlul in terms of two broad patterns of political dynamics. These two patterns related to the ‘big-man small-boy’ syndrome identified by Robert Price in his analysis of political culture in Ghana. Price draws a sharp distinction between big men and small boys: ‘Big men are those of social weight, worth and responsibility; while small boys are, like children, of little consequence in the affairs of the community. Big men are expected to make decisions, give orders and look after the material well-being of their social inferiors. In turn, small boys are expected to exhibit unquestioning obedience and obsequious public deference toward big men’ (1974: 175).

“While villagers in the El-Dibah district do not explicitly differentiate between big men and small boys, these two terms bear a striking resemblance to the actual manner in which they view political reality. Villagers expect aspiring political leaders to seek positions in accordance with their acknowledged social status and worth. This means that rich peasant patrons or big men seek positions at the upper levels of Egyptian government, especially in the National Assembly. However, small peasants or small boys, who are the obsequious clients of big men, serve on the relatively insignificant elected councils that have been created in recent years at the village, district and governorate levels….

“The whole modus operandi of National Assembly (Parliamentary) elections favors the selection of big men. For example, a total of ten candidates participated in the 1979 parliamentary election in the El-Diblah district. According to informants, only three of these candidates were ‘serious’ contenders for the two paliamentary seats from the district. Two of these candidates were prominent rich peasants; the third was the scion of a leading extended family in the area. During the weeks immediately preceding the election these candidates did absolutely no public campaigning. The only campaigning that occurred took place between the big men themselves. The leading candidates, and their supporters, spent most of their time visiting village headmen and extended family leaders in the area. In the words of one local politico, ‘No one spends much time distributing campaign material around here because not all that many villagers can read. Most of the muwazzafin will vote for the [government] party candidates, while the fellahin who vote will vote as their ‘umdas and family leaders tell them to.’

In the El-Diblah district a successful paliamentary candidate typically campaigns by distributing ‘vote money’ to the headmen of smaller villages, and to the heads of leading extended families in larger areas. Depending on the financial resources of the candidate, a village headman or family leader may receive between £E100 and £E400 (U.S. $143 and $572 [in 1986, h. chick]). These rich peasant leaders are then expected to distribute their vote money among the client members of their village or family unit in order to deliver as many votes as possible to the candidate.

“The practical dynamics of this method of campaigning can be seen by referring to the case history of ‘Ahmed,’ one of the successful candidates in the 1979 parliamentary election in El-Diblah. In the eyes of most villagers, Ahmed is the personification of a big man. His family owns about 90 feddans of land, including the largest grape vineyard in the area. His father served in the Egyptian Parliament in the 1950s, and Ahmed himself has represented the El-Diblah district in the National Assembly for the past 12 years. Ahmed’s brother is the headman of a key village in the district, and he is also related by marriage to several other headmen in the area. Thus, at election time Ahmed does not need to distribute vote money to many local village headmen since they are expected, on the basis of kinship ties, to deliver the votes of their villages to him. During the last couple of parliamentary elections, however, Ahmed has given ‘vote money’ to two of the four family leaders in the village of El-Diblah. These family leaders have responded by delivering to Ahmed the votes of their extended family units. The staunch opposition of other family leaders in the village of El-Diblah presents Ahmed with no particular problem. While women in the area have the right to vote, but rarely exercise it, Ahmed has seen to it that all of the women in his village are registered to vote. Since women here vote as their husbands do, through this little strategem Ahmed has been able to effectively ‘double’ his vote output, and so to overcome the opposition of certain family leaders in El-Diblah.

“To many poor peasants Ahmed’s conspicuous use of ‘vote money’ during parliamentary elections serves only to confirm his status as a big man. Egyptian peasants expect such a demonstration of big-man worth during parliamentary campaigns, because they widely suspect that the main motivation for seeking such a leadership post is that of personal gain. Peasants believe that big men such as Ahmed have achieved their wealth and prominence by one of two means, inheritance or theft. While the fellahin find theft reprehensible, they do not find it completely intolerable as long as the personal aggrandizement of their elected officials provides them with an occasional share of the spoils.

“In Ahmed’s case service in the National Assembly has indeed provided peasants with what may be termed a ‘politics of largesse’ (Hyden 1980: 90). While his powers at the national level are quite circumscribed, at the local level Ahmed has become an effective ‘gatekeeper’ over the flow of national resources into his district. He has, for example, played an important role in determining the location of certain social services in the area: schools, warehouses and consumer cooperatives. Through this process Ahmed has been able to reward his followers through the creation of new jobs, new titles, and perhaps most importantly, new means of graft. In El-Diblah, as well as other rural areas, easy access to government warehouses and cooperatives provides villagers with the chance to purchase (or pilfer) those government-subsidized products (for example, wood, iron, meat) that can be sold for a handsome profit on the black market.”
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any and all analyses of the egyptian political situation that you (we) get via western newspapers and media sources will be seriously lacking in insight if they don’t take into account the role of extended families and clans at really every level of egyptian society including the political. and they don’t usually include this, so we really don’t understand what the h*ck is happening there.

here are a few more tidbits about voting patterns and clans in egypt:

Onetime Mubarak foes move closer to power as Egyptians vote again
January 03, 2012


“There were indications in some provinces, especially in tribal areas, that former members of Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party might win a number of seats. The party has been disbanded but its onetime members have benefited from clan and family allegiances that heavily influence voting preferences….”
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Egypt votes in third round of elections
03 Jan 2012

“‘Overwhelmingly we are hearing people tell us that they will be voting for the Salafi Nour party or the Ikhwan, the Muslim Brotherhood’s party Freedom and Justice, so it’s very much a lot of grassroots support for the Islamist parties here,’ Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reported from El-Arish, in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

“‘When it comes to the individual candidates, people are not talking to us about policy and issue and what the individual candidates stand for; it is very much on tribal and clan lines, that’s how people are voting here….‘”
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Tribes and Elections in Upper Egypt

One of the central features of politics and elections in the southern part of Egypt is the tribal organization. In many areas, tribes have for the past decades had a decisive influence on elections and their outcome. During the upcoming elections this power is going to be challenged by the new political parties, but the question is whether they will be able to overcome the already well-established system.

From south of Cairo to the most southern city of Aswan, tribes are central for the political process and important to take into account when discussing elections. In some areas tribal influence is so strong that no one will think about elections without thinking about tribal alliances and tribal politics. In these areas, elections are not seen as a competition between parties and political ideas, but as the tribe of Ababdah against the tribe of Ja’afra – to mention two of the larger tribes in the most southern parts of Egypt….

The tribes are essentially to be understood as very large extended families that are distinct politically, but not culturally, from their neighbors….

“That the tribes constitute a political force has been the case during all times, but it seems as if their importance as political entities has been strengthened during the last decades….

“That tribalism has been revitalized within the past decades is something people testify to. Earlier, one would hear older people say that tribes had grown less important. During the years of Gamal Abd al-Nasser, when the Egyptian government promoted an ideology of equality and Arab Socialism, the idea that some people should have a specific status due to their pedigree was in conflict with the ideology. The existence of tribes or ‘clans’ in Upper Egypt was seen as reflecting a backwardness that the Free Officers were trying to curtail. To many, citizenship in a modern state does not fit with the notion of tribes, which in principle encroaches upon the relationship between the individual and the state and creates opposing fields of loyalty.

“During the era of Anwar Sadat and especially the former president Hosny Mubarak, the idea of tribalism, of emphasizing the importance of one’s pedigree, once again became legitimate and got official approval….”
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previously: mating patterns in egypt and family type in egypt and corporations and collectivities

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clans in the news

i like to keep an eye out for clan/tribal stories on google news. here are some of the more fun ones i came across lately:

Tunisian clan fighting injures 18
May 14, 2012

TUNIS: Violent clashes between rival clans in Tunisia have left 18 people injured, one of them seriously, the TAP agency reported on Monday.

The clashes occurred Sunday night and Monday morning in the Feriana region in the centre-west of the north African country and erupted over a dispute over iron trafficking from neighbouring Algeria, according to the interior ministry.

Police and the army intervened to stop the fighting, it said.

Violent, sometimes deadly clan clashes are common in areas of Tunisia bordering Libya in the east and Algeria in the west where trafficking of arms and other goods is common.

tunisia is full of mostly berbery-araby people, so these aren’t any crazy tuaregs or anything. these are just some of your typical tunisians behaving in a typically clannish way. tunisians marry their cousins, of course — 2009 consanguinity rate=24.8%.

meanwhile: Tunisian ex-ruling clan member loses fight for Canadian residency, seeks refugee status
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Over 150 Families in Ingushetia Give Up Vendetta – Leader
13/05/2012

A special reconciliation commission in Ingushetia has prevented vendetta conflicts between 150 families over 42 months, the leader of the Russian Islam-dominated republic in the Caucasus said on Sunday.

At a meeting with religious and public figures in the capital Magas, Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov praised the efforts of the commission set up at his initiative to resolve disputed issues and conflicts between Ingush families and consolidate society.

“Thanks to the mercy of the Almighty and the shared efforts of the commission and the PR department of the republic’s administration, we have settled a vast number of conflicts between teips [clans],” he said. “We have reconciled over 150 vendetta families.”

He also paid tribute to the council of teips and proposed involving female public organizations in the process.

traditionally, the ingush married outside the clan but within the (broader) tribe (see also here) — dunno how much they’re still doing that nowadays — so that’s a rather endogamous but not an inbred mating pattern. they’re not marrying their father’s brother’s daughters.
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Bo Xilai’s Clan Links
April 23, 2012

Extended family members of Bo, then commerce minister and now ousted Chongqing Communist Party boss, have also had positions in such firms as alternative-energy company China Everbright International Ltd. (257), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

While the accumulation of influence is commonplace among relatives of politicians worldwide, the Bo family fortune of at least $136 million may fuel perceptions of corruption in the Communist Party and deepen social tensions over China’s widening wealth gap. The party has sought to cordon off from politics the investigations of Bo and his second wife, arrested on suspicion of murder, with an official commentary stating that the inquiry is solely a matter of law.

“The danger for them, the Chinese, is that the whole of the Politburo and their Central Committee colleagues will be exposed as a new property-owning class,” said Roderick MacFarquhar, a Harvard University professor who focuses on Chinese politics. “It’s already got out of hand. The problem for the regime is that it is now out in the public sphere….”

to be honest, i couldn’t figure out who all the bo-extended-family members were that were mentioned in this article: there are sons and brothers and second wives and i don’t know who. maybe one evening i’ll sit down and try to work it out. bo xilai, though, is one of today’s “princelings” of china. and we know that for literally millennia the chinese have been cousin-marrying/marrying endogamously, and that they still have a clannish society today, so it’s not very surprising to find out that the extended families of communist party leaders in china are reaping the benefits of such a connection in very big ways.

and some more news on chinese clans:

Hainan clan elections set to be heated affair
May 17, 2012

Sparks look set to fly this weekend, as two long-time arch rivals go head-to-head in the Hainanese clan association elections….

chinese clan associations, or kongsi, are: “…benevolent organizations of popular origin found among overseas Chinese communities for individuals with the same surname. This type of social practice arose, it is held, several centuries ago in China…. In the Chinese spirit, derived in large part from Confucian ideals, these kongsi members or their descendants prefer not to boast so much of their wealth but to take pride in earning worldly and financial success through their work ethic and the combined efforts of many individuals devoted to group welfare.”
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Jaafar Clan Kidnaps Syrian Opposition Members in Retaliation to their Abduction of Family Member

Members of the Free Syrian Army abducted overnight two Lebanese citizens and a Syrian national, reported Voice of Lebanon radio on Saturday.

Khodr Hussein Jaafar, Ahmed Medlij, and Syrian Abdullah al-Zein were kidnapped for their alleged role in persecuting Syrian opposition members in Syria, reported the daily al-Mustaqbal on Saturday.

The Jaafar clan retaliated by abducting some 50 members of the opposition in the Syrian border towns of Zeita and al-Burhaniyeh, it added….

seems like everyone has since been released.

clans know no boundaries. sounds like the jaafar clan knows how to take care of business. clans/tribes and cousin marriage are important in syria — and in neighboring lebanon, too.

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civicness in the u.s. by sex

curt suggested that the apparent east-west divide in civicness in the u.s. has something to do with gender, i.e. more “selfish” techie guys on the west coast, more social chicks on the east coast. maybe. i’m digging around in the world values survey to see if i can find out.

first — civicness in the u.s. by sex. data taken from the 1995 and 2006 waves, the two years that americans were asked, “are you or are you not an active member of such-and-such a voluntary organization?” — or words to that effect (you can check out the exact questions on the world values survey site).

turns out, women are slightly more likely than the u.s. average to be active members of voluntary associations, while american men are slightly less likely than average to be so:

men score above average in being active members of: sports/recreation groups, political parties, professional organizations and labor unions.

women score above average in being active members of: well, put it this way — there are a LOT of church ladies! women are also above average in being active members of charities/humanitarian organizations, art/music/educational groups and environmental groups.

in the previous post on civicness in the u.s. by region, i only looked at the data from 1999. since then, i’ve discovered that the 2006 data is available by region, so i’m gonna go back and look at civicness by region in the u.s. again and look at the 1999 and 2006 waves together. the more data the better, right? then i’ll take a look at any differences between the genders between the different regions.

previously: civic societies and civic societies ii and civicness in the u.s. (by region) and civicness in the u.s. by race

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