family honor, honor killings, and family likeness

something greying wanderer said recently (thanks, grey!)…

I think at a bare minimum there’ll be family resemblance which on average ought to be increased by inbreeding through linkage effects. I’m not sure if that’s generally accepted or not?”

…got me to thinking about family honor, honor killings, and family likeness.
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first of all, family honor: i haven’t done a systematic study of it yet, but all indications are that family honor is more important — oftentimes much more important — in long-term inbreeding societies than long-term outbreeding ones. family honor expresses itself in behaviors like feuding and honor killings. many of the usual suspects are included here (from wikipedia):

– the middle east – noted example, the bedouins
– turkey
– south asia: afghanistan, pakistan, and india
– china and japan: not so much honor killings as not disgracing the family by failing your exams!
– europe: the mediterranean region – “In Italy, infidelity of women was seen dishonorable, thus crimes of passion were classified as second-degree murders until 1970s.” (from here.)
– the old south (u.s.a.)
– hispanic cultures – including brazil.

and about honor in northern european societies (from here – my emphasis):

“[I]n Northern Europe it has a more individualized meaning that is focused on personal accomplishments and qualities.”

mmm-hmmm.

anyway, so i think it’s pretty safe to bet that family honor issues go together, for whatever reasons (i have my own ideas on the matter, of course), with long-term inbreeding. we’ve seen before that honor killings really seem to be connected to father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriage, which is mostly practiced in the arab world/north africa/middle east/parts of south asia and which pushes towards greater degrees of inbreeding (than other forms of cousin marriage).
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what about family likeness then? do the members of long-term inbreeding families look more like one another, on average, than the members of long-term outbreeding families? do they share more personality traits with one another? do they behave, on average, more like one another? i don’t know — and i don’t know of any research looking into these questions (anybody?).

remember the ghoul family though (hope they’re ok! =/ ) and how similar the brothers look to one another?:

ghoul brothers

are they indicative at all of what you get with long-term inbreeding? i really don’t know.
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but let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that the members of long-term inbreeding families are more like one another on average than the members of outbreeding families, and that the likeness is not just in appearance but also in personality traits, behaviors, etc. perhaps this (if it’s true) might help explain honor killings.

family honor, at least with regard to honor killings, is a public thing. from what i’ve read — and i’m sorry that i don’t have any references at hand at the moment — honor killings usually happen when the trangression becomes publically known, or at least becomes known outside the immediate family. in societies where family honor is important, people don’t typically kill their errant daughters if they can keep their bad behavior a secret — that would be a waste of all the time and effort and money invested in raising her, and it obviously must be emotionally a very difficult thing to do (although maybe the family honor feelings over-ride that to some extent?).

honor killings are a sort of altruistic act, and i mean altruistic in the scientific meaning of the word (from here)…

“[A]ltruism refers to behaviour by an individual that increases the fitness of another individual while decreasing the fitness of the actor.”

…but in the case of honor killings, the altruistic behavior of the actor (the person who kills the daughter) doesn’t result in the decreasing of the actor’s own fitness, but, rather, the daughter’s (obviously). and, then, it’s the fitness of other members of the family that would be increased, namely any young family members who are of reproductive age or younger, since if the family honor is tarnished, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get spouses for the other children. i half-jokingly referred to this before as “inclusive inclusive fitness” — you’re not sacrificing your own fitness to benefit another’s (whose genes you share), you’re sacrificing someone else’s — but you share a lot of genes with them, too, so in a way you are sacrificing the fitness of your own genes, just not those in your own person.

what if the underlying reason driving honor killings is because, in inbred societies, everybody knows from loooong experience that family members are really *very* like one another, so then, of course, you’d NEVER marry your kid to a member of THAT family because they had that one daughter who behaved very badly, and — conclusion — the rest of the family is probably like that, too?! maybe it’s crucial, then, for a family in an inbreeding society to distance itself from its badly behaving member by sacrificing her (and it usually is a her) in order to show the rest of society that the remaining members of the family do NOT condone the behavior and, implying, that they would never, EVER behave that way themselves.

don’t know. just an idea.
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see also: Family honor and Cultures of honour and cultures of law

previously: father’s brother’s daughter marriage and why fbd marriage amounts to more inbreeding than mbd marriage and father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage and honor killings and inclusive inclusive fitness and mating patterns, family types, social structures, and selection pressures

(note: comments do not require an email. 가문의영광)

16 Comments

  1. > …everybody knows from loooong experience that family members are really *very* like one another…

    Interesting and plausible. But, ISTM that one aspect of inbreeding families is going to alter the way that fitness-promotion is affected by honor killing. Which is inbreeding. The more of it there is, the more the pool-of-potential-spouses for the siblings and cousins of the “errant” daughter is comprised of other cousins. Which is to say, comprised of other family members.

    Question: in the phrase “family members [who] are *very* like one another,” how are “family members” defined? Is the “shame” of a not-undertaken honor killing limited to the nuclear family of the “errant daughter”? Or, does it extend to her first (second?) cousins? If so, maybe the lowered-value “errant daughter” (when unmurdered) is still a potentially suitable match.

    I suppose it varies by culture.

    Reply

  2. @amac78 – “in the phrase ‘family members [who] are *very* like one another,’ how are ‘family members’ defined?”

    i was thinking of immediate family members, but if it’s correct that inbreeding makes family members more alike, that should extend out to cousins and more distant relatives, too — first cousins in a long-term inbreeding society ought to be, on average, more like one another than first cousins in a long-term outbreeding society. no?

    @amac78 – “Is the ‘shame’ of a not-undertaken honor killing limited to the nuclear family of the ‘errant daughter’?”

    primarily the immediate family, yes, but perhaps it can extend out to some of the closer extended family in some societies. dunno. like you say, probably varies by population.

    @amac78 – “If so, maybe the lowered-value ‘errant daughter’ (when unmurdered) is still a potentially suitable match.”

    don’t know, but from what i understand, once the bad behavior becomes known in the community at all, the girl is usually not a suitable match anymore. and a BIG problem for the family’s honor.

    @amac78 – “The more of it there is, the more the pool-of-potential-spouses for the siblings and cousins of the ‘errant’ daughter is comprised of other cousins. Which is to say, comprised of other family members.”

    yes, but you still might not want to marry into that branch of the family if they’re all the black sheep.

    Reply

  3. Slightly o/t, but some of what you wrote got me thinking about the justice policy of inbreeding vs outbreeding societies, whether officially through the courts/prison, or whether dealing with it privately in-house. Outbreeding societies seem, off the top of my head of course, to be far more focused on rehabilitation and overcoming mistakes/faults than inbreeding societies, who deliver more definitive punishments, as you say through either keeping it a secret or exiling/eliminating the transgressor. Is that nature’s way of balancing out the more individual tendencies of outbreeding societies?

    Reply

  4. David Hackett Fischer makes clear in Albion’s Seed that the Virginia Cavaliers, ever so knowledgable in the innate nature of man, were very well aware of the traits of particularly families. I’ll quote the relevant passages shortly. Seems to fit with your ideas here.

    Reply

  5. For the clan to kill an unfaithful wife or a runaway husband makes total sense. Killing a daughter or a sister on the other hand is so high cost to be unlikely to be beneficial, not matter what the benefits.

    So, we should compare the propensity to kill misbehaving wives, as clannish Christians and pagans are apt to do, with the propensity to kill misbehaving daughters and sisters, as clannish Muslims are apt to do.

    If it is primarily daughters and sisters, unlikely to reflect genetic interests. More likely a religious thing.

    Reply

  6. Here you go (ebook pp 210-211):

    Individuals in Virginia were stereotyped by traits that were thought to be hereditary in their extended families. Anglican clergyman Jonathan Boucher believed that “family character both of body and mind may be traced thro’ many generations; as for instance every Fitzhugh has bad eyes; every Thornton hears badly; Winslows and Lees talk well; Carters are proud and imperious; and Taliaferros mean and avaricious; and Fowkeses cruel.” Virginians often pronounced these judgments upon one another. The result was a set of family reputations which acquired the social status of self-fulfilling prophecies.

    Reply

  7. @stakhanovite – “Outbreeding societies seem, off the top of my head of course, to be far more focused on rehabilitation and overcoming mistakes/faults than inbreeding societies, who deliver more definitive punishments, as you say through either keeping it a secret or exiling/eliminating the transgressor. Is that nature’s way of balancing out the more individual tendencies of outbreeding societies?”

    in traditional clannishness societies — like in the arab world or afghanistan or those crazy medieval highland scots ( (~_^) ) — “justice” is something dealt with by the whole clan, and between two (or more) clans. like you say, there is no focus at all on rehabilitation or even punishment really — not of the individual anyway. “justice” in traditional clannish societies is more of a system of compensating the aggrieved parties (and it’s usually an entire extended family) who get paid (the whole wergeld system).

    you don’t get punishment (and, much later, ideas about rehabilitation) until you get state apparatuses, and in northern europe, anyway, you don’t get those until after the outbreeding starts and clans start to dissipate — that’s why, i think, the people started to put their faith in “the state” to begin with — because they no longer had their clans to fall back on.

    i suppose this pattern could’ve been different in some place like china. i have no idea when the state took over punishment there. (anybody?)

    the notion of rehabilitation has got to be very modern — nineteenth century, probably — eighteenth at the most. and that, i think, is connected to the outbred, individualistic northwest european’s ideal/feeling of universalism: everyone, even the criminal, should be treated fairly and helped to be given a second chance, ’cause everyone’s the same, really. (not.)

    Reply

  8. @jayman – “David Hackett Fischer makes clear in Albion’s Seed that the Virginia Cavaliers, ever so knowledgable in the innate nature of man, were very well aware of the traits of particularly families.”

    excellent! thank you! (^_^)

    Reply

  9. @jamesd127 – “If it is primarily daughters and sisters, unlikely to reflect genetic interests. More likely a religious thing.”

    you’re overlooking the other three or four (or six or eight) kids at home who also need to be married off, and they might not be able to be married off if the whole family’s reputation is tarnished.

    what do you do in that case: if one child has scuppered the chances of the other three or four reproducing? sacrifice the one child? or accept the loss that none of your kids are going to reproduce, and all of your efforts have been for nought?

    i think it’s definitely genetic — and it’s, i think, what i’ve dubbed “inclusive inclusive fitness.”

    Reply

    1. you’re overlooking the other three or four (or six or eight) kids at home who also need to be married off, and they might not be able to be married off if the whole family’s reputation is tarnished.

      No one is more inbred than Hindus. Do Christians or Hindus do this? It is their daughters in law that they murder, not their daughters.

      Reply

  10. @jamesd127 – “No one is more inbred than Hindus.”

    that is incorrect. the arabs and the pakistanis (and afghanis) are waaaay more inbred (i.e. practice cousin marriage now and have done for a really long time) than the hindus. see here. see also here for data from india.

    also, note that the form of cousin marriage that the arabs/pakistanis/afghanis practice — father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriage — leads to the highest degrees of inbreeding. (i did link to this in the post already.)

    Reply

  11. Great blog post about ‘inclusive, inclusive fitness.’ I have been studying honor killing for some time now, but just recently begun to think of it from am hbd perspective. The problem of fitness for one’s other siblings is the strongest reason for thinking you might be on the right track. Getting one’s other daughters married off should be mitigated somewhat, by inbreeding within the same extended family or clan. (I do not see evidence that sons of families with errant daughters have more trouble being married, and boys or unmarried males who kill are sometimes less attractive as marriage partners.) In any case, I agree that there is some serious costly signalling going on, but if family likeness is great enough, then why should others in the community believe that other members of the family will not be like the girl gone ‘bad,’ after all?

    Reply

  12. @paul – “In any case, I agree that there is some serious costly signalling going on, but if family likeness is great enough, then why should others in the community believe that other members of the family will not be like the girl gone ‘bad,’ after all?”

    not sure. but, perhaps, that’s why these families feel they have to take the extreme measure of killing the errant daughter. then you demonstrate that you, yourself, definitely do not tolerate her behavior. how, or if, that attitude then gets transferred to your other daughters, i don’t know. -?-

    @paul – “Getting one’s other daughters married off should be mitigated somewhat, by inbreeding within the same extended family or clan.”

    yes, but perhaps not even other clan members would take the other daughters with this moral scourge hanging over the family’s head. not until they’d done something about it. don’t want to be tainted by association, you know?

    @paul – “I do not see evidence that sons of families with errant daughters have more trouble being married, and boys or unmarried males who kill are sometimes less attractive as marriage partners.”

    THAT would make sense to me. i certainly wouldn’t want to marry MY daughter off to a known killer! =/

    thanks for your thoughts! (^_^)

    Reply

  13. “yes, but perhaps not even other clan members would take the other daughters with this moral scourge hanging over the family’s head. not until they’d done something about it. don’t want to be tainted by association, you know?”

    The fault could be the daughter’s or the parent’s for not bringing her up properly according to the rules. If the blame lies with the parents for not bringing her up according to the rules then that will apply to the other daughters also. Honour-killing clears the parents and hence the other daughters.

    Reply

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