forget it, jake. it’s the middle east.

the western world doesn’t understand middle easterners (or any of the peoples who live in the greater arabized region) — we really don’t. the headlines about iraq from this past week illustrate this — in technicolor:

iraq - sectarianism

sectarianism. yeah, right. as if the issues between the peoples in iraq are theological ones. (just like they were/are in northern ireland…amirite?! or in burma these days.) and then there’re these sorts of headlines:

iraq - isis

yeah. ’cause isis is badder than the baddest guys in the middle east, al qaeda. and that’s the only way we westerners can understand the world — it’s the good guys vs. the bad guys. white hats vs. black hats. the freedom fighters vs. the hussein/gaddafi/assad regimes.

here’s the war nerd on what’s really going on in iraq right now:

“The War Nerd: Here’s everything you need to know about ‘too extreme for Al Qaeda’ I.S.I.S.”

“Syria should have been ISIS’s greatest moment, but things didn’t work out for it there. Not because it was ‘extreme,’ but because it tried too hard to dominate the market against savvy local competition….

The local/universal tension is deep in Islam, which borrowed Christianity’s universalizing mandate. In theory, a Chechen who knows the Quran is as entitled to tell a Syrian what to do as anyone else. In practice, he’s a jerk, and if he tells you to do things a different way than your family has done them for generations, you don’t care how many verses he can quote at you. You’re pissed off.

“ISIS’s Syrian forces were full of loudmouthed young Islamic pedants, all heavily armed, and all eager to tell the locals how to live. It didn’t go over very well. It wasn’t about ‘extremism’ as much as ‘localism.’ ISIS was eventually forced out of Aleppo in favor of Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic Front — both every bit as extreme as ISIS, but with more local recruits who didn’t rub everybody the wrong way quite as much. Zawahiri chimed in from his hiding place in Pakistan to scold ISIS, saying in typically florid jihadi lingo something that amounted to ‘You’re gonna screw us up in Syria just like you and Zarqawi did in Iraq!’ His verdict was that ISIS should move east to Iraq, and Jabhat al Nusra should be Al Qaeda’s franchise in Syria.

“Abu Bakr did not take kindly to this sort of provincialism. When you’ve been fighting for ten years, and seen pretty much everybody you care about killed, often in fairly gruesome ways, you don’t really want to hear a lot of noise about how local sensibilities must be respected, and corporate HQ back in the mountains of Pakistan must be obeyed.

“ISIS replied with a program of assassinations directed at dissenting jihadis, starting in January 2014. When they killed al-Suri (‘The Syrian’), Zawahiri’s envoy sent to settle the dispute, in February 2014, it was flat-out war between ISIS and every other faction in Syria. More than 2,000 casualties later, that feud is still simmering.”

what comes first and foremost to the peoples of the middle east is what is local. sure some people rally for their particular sects or movements, but first comes the extended family, clan, and tribe. half the time, local militias just say they’re al qaeda or isis or some other faction when what they’re actually doing is using alliances with those larger groups to further local goals. remember this about how it works in afghanistan?:

Mike Martin’s oral history of Helmand underscores the absolute imperative of understanding the highly local, personal, and non-ideological nature of internal conflict in much of the ‘third’ world.

“‘An Intimate War’ tells the story of the last thirty-four years of conflict in Helmand Province, Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of the Helmandis. In the West, this period is often defined through different lenses — the Soviet intervention, the civil war, the Taliban, and the post-2001 nation-building era. Yet, as experienced by local inhabitants, the Helmand conflict is a perennial one, involving the same individuals, families and groups, and driven by the same arguments over land, water and power….

Today, much of the violence is mischaracterised as ‘Taliban’ insurgent violence, when in fact it is not linked to the Taliban or the GIRoA, but is driven by local dynamics between groups and individuals on the ground. The Helmandis describe the conflict as *pshe-pshe*. This literally translates as ‘leg-leg’, but refers to the different legs of a tribe or clan (the English term would be ‘branch’). So, metaphorically, the phrase *pshe-pshe* means group-on-group warfare. It is a (micro) civil war….

“Currently, our ideas are largely based upon Maoist descriptions of insurgency; they highlight the importance of ideologies and organisation to motivate insurgents. The Army definition of an insurgency is ‘an organised, violent subversion used to effect or prevent political control, as a challenge to established authority’; it was from this that the ‘insurgency narrative’ was drawn.

“But this is not what took place in Helmand. The US and Britain were imposing a view of the war that bore little resemblance to the local understanding. The clearest example was the British ignoring Helmandis’ historical hatred (and related feelings of revenge) for them because it did not fit their understanding of the official narratives of the war….

He [martin] catalogues in microscopic detail how first US Special Forces and then British troops were constantly manipulated by their Afghan allies into fighting on their side as part of local feuds and criminal enterprises that were only very dimly related to the ideology of being pro-government or pro-Taliban.

“Indeed, according to Dr Martin’s research, the two were often labels adopted by factions and warlords in need of material support from either the Nato forces or the Taliban….

“Nor that there was no inconsistency between being pro-government and pro-Taliban on any given day for a militia commander.

“highly local, personal, and non-ideological.” it’s not any different in iraq, i assure you. we don’t know what’s going on there. we really don’t. it’s all waaaay more complicated than anything you’ll see reported in the news outlets. and it’s not black and white in the way that we westerners like to see things.

one would’ve thought that at least our military forces would’ve had some clue about the importance of clans in the middle east — that’s why they’ve got anthropologists on the force, right? nope, as martin in his book (quoted above) revealed about our involvement in afghanistan — and as mark weiner explained in The Rule of the Clan about the u.s. military in iraq [kindle locations 542-550]:

“When we fail to understand the clan heritage of a great many of our enemies, their motivation for taking up arms against us in the first place will remain obscure.

“We also find ourselves in a far weaker position when we engage them in battle. In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, for instance, winning the support of Iraq’s scores of individual tribes was vital to the success of the war effort — each tribe that supported al-Qaeda in Iraq or the larger insurgency substantially diminished the likelihood of a coalition victory. The Albu Fahd, Albu Mahal, and Albu Issa were particularly significant to coalition efforts in al-Anbar province, which includes the city of Fallujah, site of one of the bloodiest battles in the war. Given the complexity of Iraqi tribal alliances, one might have expected that American knowledge of the tribes and their individual social and political characteristics would have been encyclopedic. Instead, one of the earliest Department of Defense efforts to come to grips with the strategic value of Iraqi tribes was completed a full three years after the war began.

as the internet would say: *facepalm!* =/

what they should’ve all read, of course, was steve sailer’s “Cousin Marriage Conundrum”!

previously: “pshe-pshe” and misunderstanding afghanistan

(note: comments do not require an email. what is the MATTER with you people?)

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“pshe-pshe” and misunder- standing afghanistan

here’s a really interesting looking new book!:

An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict

“Mike Martin’s oral history of Helmand underscores the absolute imperative of understanding the highly local, personal, and non-ideological nature of internal conflict in much of the ‘third’ world.

“‘An Intimate War’ tells the story of the last thirty-four years of conflict in Helmand Province, Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of the Helmandis. In the West, this period is often defined through different lenses — the Soviet intervention, the civil war, the Taliban, and the post-2001 nation-building era. Yet, as experienced by local inhabitants, the Helmand conflict is a perennial one, involving the same individuals, families and groups, and driven by the same arguments over land, water and power.

“This book — based on both military and research experience in Helmand and 150 interviews in Pashto — offers a very different view of Helmand from those in the media. It demonstrates how outsiders have most often misunderstood the ongoing struggle in Helmand and how, in doing so, they have exacerbated the conflict, perpetuated it and made it more violent — precisely the opposite of what was intended when their interventions were launched.”

from an article by martin in today’s telegraph:

“Britain didn’t understand the enemy in Helmand”

“I would argue that our performance – in terms of achieving our objectives – has been very poor. In the case of Afghanistan, and specifically Helmand Province, where the majority of our forces have been based, we have failed to understand the Helmandis. We have also failed to understand their culture, their history and their motivations.

“Most importantly, we have singularly failed to understand the Helmandi conflict. And to paraphrase Clausewitz, the most important thing to do in war is understand what type of war you are fighting. Many non-Helmandis view the violence through the narrative adopted by the international community. According to the ‘insurgency narrative’ widely espoused by Western governments, a legitimate Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), which is recognised and supported by the international community, is violently opposed by a movement of insurgents, called the Taliban, who have sanctuary in Quetta, Pakistan.

“Thus, the Taliban are religiously inspired insurgents who are opposed to the democratic and women’s rights that the GIRoA embodies and promotes. But this ‘insurgency narrative’ does not fit with my experiences as an officer. I went to Helmand several times (in and out of uniform), with appropriate gaps between visits for study and reflection, and this analysis seemed further and further from the events that I was observing and participating in. In my view, the Taliban are not the main drivers of conflict; and earlier periods, including the Soviet, the civil war and the Taliban eras, have been similarly misconstrued.

“Today, much of the violence is mischaracterised as ‘Taliban’ insurgent violence, when in fact it is not linked to the Taliban or the GIRoA, but is driven by local dynamics between groups and individuals on the ground. The Helmandis describe the conflict as *pshe-pshe*. This literally translates as ‘leg-leg’, but refers to the different legs of a tribe or clan (the English term would be ‘branch’). So, metaphorically, the phrase *pshe-pshe* means group-on-group warfare. It is a (micro) civil war….

“Currently, our ideas are largely based upon Maoist descriptions of insurgency; they highlight the importance of ideologies and organisation to motivate insurgents. The Army definition of an insurgency is ‘an organised, violent subversion used to effect or prevent political control, as a challenge to established authority’; it was from this that the ‘insurgency narrative’ was drawn.

“But this is not what took place in Helmand. The US and Britain were imposing a view of the war that bore little resemblance to the local understanding. The clearest example was the British ignoring Helmandis’ historical hatred (and related feelings of revenge) for them because it did not fit their understanding of the official narratives of the war. At the risk of over-quoting from the great Prussian master, they were trying to turn the war into something that it was not.

“These examples underscore the importance, when intervening in an internal war, of understanding the local politics – its actors, groups, narratives, feuds and alliances….”

from another article on sky news:

He [martin] catalogues in microscopic detail how first US Special Forces and then British troops were constantly manipulated by their Afghan allies into fighting on their side as part of local feuds and criminal enterprises that were only very dimly related to the ideology of being pro-government or pro-Taliban.

“Indeed, according to Dr Martin’s research, the two were often labels adopted by factions and warlords in need of material support from either the Nato forces or the Taliban.

Early allies of Nato, ahead of the British deployment, were warlords who stole vast tracts of lands from other clans and tribes and then used their alliance with US commandos as a military lever.

“‘The foreigners must like the *topak salaran* (warlords),’ Dr Martin quotes a local as saying.

“In 2008, while researching Desperate Glory, it was abundantly clear that British intelligence officers had only the sketchiest notion of who the ‘enemy’ in Helmand was.

“They did not appreciate the difference between long bloody engagements fought in the heart of the drug processing villages with the sudden evaporation of Taliban fighters in the face of large numbers of British troops.

“Nor that there was no inconsistency between being pro-government and pro-Taliban on any given day for a militia commander.

“Trucking contractors charged extra for ‘security’ and would then arrange for their convoys to be attacked.

“Drug barons, very often Afghan police, would contract Taliban militia to deliver their goods to market in government-held areas while Afghan troops were conducting anti-narcotics operations against their rivals.

“That is the way in Helmand – a rich agricultural landscape which has been riven by decades of conflict in which survival is the only form of victory.

“The buying of intelligence on alleged members of the Taliban by US forces meant a market developed in denunciations.

“Dr Martin wrote: ‘I repeatedly explored the issue of faulty intelligence driven by feuds and vendettas in 2011 and 2012.

“‘The attitude of those involved is perhaps best summed up by one of the more prominent militia commanders, who was still working with US Special Forces in 2012, when I asked him if there were still any feuds left over by the false targeting of the early days “All those sorts of problems are solved now”, he said, laughing, “they (the people we targeted) are all dead.”‘

“‘He said he could not work out why the United States was “so stupid”.'”

military intelligence, eh? =/

perhaps not surprisingly the british military has tried to stop the publication of martin’s book. he’s had to resign his commission in order to have it published.

previously: consanguineous marriage in afghanistan and kandahar vs. levittown

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

consanguin-eous marriage in afghanistan

just for a change of pace.

the consanguineous (second cousin or closer) marriage rates in afghanistan are high. consang.net tells us that the rate is between 40 and 49%. more details are to be had in Consanguineous Marriages in Afghanistan (2012) and Prevalence of Consanguienous Marriages in West and South of Afghanistan (2012), including consanguinity rates by province and ethnic group.

back in the 1970s, joseph westermeyer found that peoples in southeast asia had different mating patterns depending on what elevation they lived at — the higher up, the closer the mating patterns (see also here). this pattern appears to be holding true wherever i look (example) — and now we have afghanistan.

here’s a map of the mean inbreeding coefficients for the provinces studied in the two papers above — higher coefficients indicate greater inbreeding (click on map for LARGER view):

Afghanistan provinces - inbreeding coefficients - colored

aaaaand here’s a topographical map of afghanistan. elevation and inbreeding look to match pretty closely (would be nice to have data from the other provinces, too):

Afghanistan_Topography

here’s a breakdown of consanguinity rates by ethnicity in the country. the numbers are also sorted here by region depending upon which paper they came from — the first paper dealt with the north and east of the country, the second with the south and west. remember that consanguineous marriages include: double-first cousin marriage, first cousin marriage, first cousin-once-removed marriage, and second cousin marriage:

– north & east –
Turkmen = 48%
Hazara = 47%
Uzbek = 44%
Pashtuns = 43%
Tajik (Shi’a) = 43%
Tajik (Sunni) = 38%

– south & west –
Turkmen = 64%
Hazara = 53%
Sadats = 51%
Tajik (Sunni) = 51%
Pashtun = 50%
Tajik (Shi’a) = 49%

the turkmen in the lead!

interestingly, while there is more consanguineous marriage in the south and west of afghanistan, the inbreeding coefficients are higher in the north and east of the country, indicating that there are greater amounts of closer marriages in those (high elevation) regions. and this does appear to be the case — the percentages of double-first cousin marriages are higher in the north and east:

– north & east –
Turkmen = 8.7%
Pashtun = 7.9%
Uzbek = 7.5%
Hazara = 6.4%
Tajik (Sunni) = 6.3%
Tajik (Shi’a) = 4.0%

– south & west –
Sadats – 3.0%
Pashtun – 2.3%
Tajik (Shi’a) – 1.8%
Hazara – 1.2%
Turkmen – 1.2%
Tajik (Sunni) – 1.1%

i’m going to guess that there’s more father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriage in the north and east of afghanistan rather than in the south and west, since fbd marriage tends to push towards greater amounts of double-first cousin marriage (and, therefore, greater inbreeding in general). i’m also going to guess that the tajiks really don’t practice much fbd marriage at all, either in the north or the south — except maybe for the sunni tajiks in the north.

how long have the various afghani populations been marrying their cousins? dunno. long time prolly. fbd marriage was most likely introduced to the region by the arabs, so the afghanis probably adopted that form of cousin marriage sometime after the mid-600s.

previously: this one’s for g.w. and the flatlanders vs. the mountain people and kandahar vs. levittown

(note: comments do not require an email. turkmen girl & baby in afghanistan.)

clannishness paradox?

i think that i’m maybe — maybe — starting to notice a paradoxical pattern in clannishness. maybe. time will tell.

and the paradox is: on the one hand, we have peoples who behave clannishly generally favoring their close and extended family members (when they actually live amongst them) over the broader society (the commonweal) — egs. nepotism, corruption, feuding, etc. but on the other hand, i think that those very same clannish people are often more willing than non-clannish peoples to sacrifice one of their own under certain circumstances — it seems especially when it will benefit themselves and/or other members of the extended family/clan. i could be wrong about this. data needs to be compiled.

some examples:

– honor killings: as were discussed in yesterday’s post. and we know from before that honor killings — which are pretty extreme as far as sacrificing a member of the family goes — are most common in the arab world/maghreb/mashriq/afghanistan+pakistan where father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage is preferred and has the highest rates — and fbd marriage pushes towards the highest inbreeding rates.

– the pashtuns: fbd marriage practitioners again. here’s a pashtun proverb via steve sailer:

“When the floodwaters reach your chin, put your son beneath your feet.”

presumably that’s not meant to be taken literally — presumably! but it does sound rather indicative of a willingness to sacrifice even one’s kids if necessary.

– the myddletonians: a middling clannish population from shropshire, england, in the seventeenth century (see here):

“Though placed toward the back of the church, tenant farmers, particularly those who boasted generations of ancestors in the parish, held much honor. They lost this honor, however, if they suffered rituals of public humiliation. So while often ignoring private vices, tenant farmers always made an effort to prevent overt mortifications. Worried middling parents sent their juvenile delinquents far from the surrounding countryside, not to rehabilitate them spiritually or even to save their skins, but to remove their likely and shameful jailings and hangings from the sight and recording of neighbors. A Myddle tavern-keeper, Thomas Jukes, exiled a larcenous son by placing him into apprenticeship with a roving juggler who happened to pass through the village. Michael Brame, of a long-standing Myddle family, came to Myddle following the death of his brother and brother’s wife in order to preserve the family’s leasehold and also to raise his brother’s son William. William robbed meat from several neighbors’ houses. The Braine clan took the only possible action: ‘at last he was sent away,’ noted Gough, ‘I know not whither.’”

disowned. in a serious way!

this all seems rather counter-intuitive — you’d think that clannish peoples would be less willing to sacrifice one of their family members since, most of the time, they seem overly concerned about favoring them. i mean, that’s why their societies are so dysfunctional (to different degrees). but i think it makes a sort-of upside-down-and-backwards sense if you think of these behaviors as altruistic in the strictest biological sense of the word. these behaviors are an example of “inclusive inclusive fitness,” i think. from yesterday’s post:

“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.”

another clannishness paradox that i’ve mentioned before is that individuals from clannish societies often feel very independent. here, for example, is taki on the greeks:

“The highly individualistic Greek is too self-seeking to submit easily to others’ dictates. His unruliness has helped him survive through the centuries of oppression, as well as to rise above adversity. But it has also made him unaware of the advantages of a communal spirit and true democratic attitudes. This has created a climate where cheating is a way of life, where the highest and lowest of citizens do not hesitate to use dishonesty, especially in politics.”

yeah. well, the misunderstanding there is that greeks are “individualistic.” they’re not. they’re clannish. and because they’re clannish, they don’t like outside interference — they’re not going to “submit easily to others’ dictates” and they’re certainly not going to have “a communal spirit and true democratic attitudes.” clannish people — like southern libertarians — don’t want outside interference (like from the gub’ment), so they seem individualistic, but what they are, in fact, is independent-minded — but in a clannish sort of way. the true individualists — the non-clannish peoples — tend to be communally oriented. and they are rare.

paradoxical, no? (^_^)

anyhoo — Further Research is RequiredTM.

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kandahar vs. levittown

the walled family compounds of kandahar

kandahar

…vs. the invisible boundaries of levittown

levittown

previously: there’s no place like home

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match made in heaven(?)

@the battle of kandahar in the 1880s, we’ve got the afghanis (the pashtuns?) vs. the 92nd (gordon highlanders) regiment of foot.

pashtuns vs. highlanders?! good lord.

kandahar: 92nd highlanders storming gundi mulla sahibdad:

Kandahar_92nd_Highlanders

(note: comments do not require an email. 92nd gordon highlanders at edinburgh castle, 1846.)

father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage and honor killings

i took this table from the recent pew survey of muslims

honor killings permissible - pew 2013

…and made a couple of maps (adapted from this map).

the first one is a map of the differences between what percentage of muslims in each country responded that honor killing is never justifiable when a man commits an offense versus a woman committing an offense. a plus number (+) means more enthusiasm for honor killing women — a negative (-), men. here it is (click on image for LARGER view):

map of expansion of caliphate - pew honor killings diffs

what i think we can see is that, the closer you get to the arab expansion epicenter (the arab peninsula), the greater the enthusiasm for honor killing women. so in jordan it’s +47, lebanon and egypt +10, iraq +11. but when you get out to the edges of the caliphate, the differences are not so great, or they are in fact reversed: morocco -1, turkey and afghanistan and tajikistan 0. even pakistan is only +3. when you get way out to uzbekistan and kyrgyzstan, then the numbers are reversed: -14 and -3.

(it should be noted that for some reason the question was worded differently in uzbekistan, afghanistan, and iraq. everyone else was asked specifically about premarital sex/adultery and family honor, while the uzbekis, afghanis, and iraqis were only asked about family honor. see questions 53 and 54 here [pdf].)

i think that perhaps this is a reflection of what korotayev noticed, i.e. that father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage is found in those places of the world that were a part of the eighth century muslim caliphate, because those populations wanted to emulate the arabs, and the arabs practiced fbd marriage. the reason that the populations on the edges of the caliphate are less enthusiastic about honor killing women is that they were arabized less and/or later than (dare i say it) the “core arabs” and so probably have been practicing fbd marriage for a shorter amount of time. (in fact, korotayev and other russian anthropologists suggest that fbd marriage started in the levant and moved southwards into the arab peninsula, so some of the jordanians and lebanese may have started practicing fbd marriage before the arabs down in the peninsula.)

i think, too, that there is a connection between fbd marriage and honor killings, because fbd marriage leads to greater inbreeding, and greater amounts of inbreeding may very probably lead to greater frequencies of “genes for altruism” — and honor killings can be viewed as a sort-of upside-down-and-backwards form of altruism (at least they seem that way to us).

and/or the arabs simply introduced some crazy “genes for upside-down-and-backwards altruism” to these various populations, and less so on the fringes presumably because not so many arabs actually made it that far. edit: also interesting to note is that in fbd societies, all of the men in extended families/clans share the same y-chromosome. if there is a connection between violence and some gene(s) on the y-chromosome (i thought greg cochran said something about this, but i can’t find it now), maybe this is exacerbated by fbd marriage.

here is the other map — the percentage of muslims in each country responding that it is rarely, sometimes, or often justified to honor kill women:

map of expansion of caliphate - pew honor killings women

again, the numbers taper off on the edges of the extent of the caliphate.

previously: father’s brother’s daughter’s marriage and inclusive inclusive fitness and who wants sharia?

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who wants sharia?

pew has just released the results of their latest survey of muslims around the world (in 39 different countries).

here’s a map showing the percentage of muslims in each country that would like sharia to be the law of their land (click on map for LARGER image – should take you to the pew site):

who wants sharia - pew 2013

the iraqs, afghanis, and pakistanis all seem pretty eager for sharia — they’re all in the 75-100% range. the moroccans, too. and the palestinian territories.

this is a large report from pew, so have a look at the whole thing yourself.

here’s something else that i found particularly interesting:

honor killings permissible - pew 2013

of the countries that think that honor killing is more justified when women commit an offense than when men do — russia, albania, azerbaijan, bangladesh, pakistan, jordan, iraq, egypt, lebanon, tunisia, and the palestinian territories — a majority of them (7 out of 11) have a preference for father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriage — pakistan, jordan, iraq, egypt, lebanon, tunisia, and the palestinian territories.

i don’t know what, if any, form of cousin marriage is preferred in azerbaijan or bangladesh. paternal cousin marriage, which would include fbd marriage, is avoided in places like chechnya and (at least among some peoples in) dagestan (russia in this survey?) and albania. the difference in the responses in albania was not very great (+1 point), but the difference in russia(?) was statistically significant at +7 points. it’s difficult to know who these “russian” muslims are (maybe the info is in an appendix somewhere — i’ll have to look), so i don’t know if they’re the chechens and/or some dagestanis and/or some other group(s) — and, so, i don’t know what their mating patterns are.

i’m surprised that afghanistan breaks even. i would’ve predicted that they would be like the other fbd marriage groups.

it’s interesting that some of the central asian “stans” — kyrgyzstan and uzbekistan — swing in the opposite direction. a greater number of people feel that honor killings are more justified against men who break the rules than women. i don’t know much of anything about these populations, but i did read a bit just the other day, and it seems that they have a preference for maternal cousin marriage. (note that i don’t have a good idea what the rates might be.)

previously: inclusive inclusive fitness

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