Archives for posts with tag: endogamous mating

Humans are still evolving despite massive recent lifestyle changes, study finds – no way! =P – “The researchers analysed church records of births, marriages and deaths for 10,000 inhabitants of seven parishes in Finland since the beginning of the 18th Century and concluded that evolution is still occurring despite the dramatic cultural changes over the same period. ‘We are still evolving. As long as some individuals have more children and other individuals have fewer children than others, there is potential for evolution to take place,’ said Elisabeth Bolund of Uppsala University in Sweden. Dr Bolund and her colleagues at the universities of Sheffield and Turku in Finland…found that between 4 and 18 per cent of the variations between individuals in lifespan, family size and ages of first and last childbirth were influenced by genes. ‘This is exciting because if genes affected differences between individuals in these traits, it means they could also change in response to natural selection,’ Dr Bolund said…. The study, published in the journal Evolution, showed that the genetic influence on the timing of when someone is likely to begin a family and the overall size of the family has actually risen higher in recent times compared to the 18th and 19th Centuries. This means that modern humans could still be evolving because people are responding to Darwinian natural selection on the genetic differences between individuals within the population, the scientists said. ‘It is possible that we in modern societies have more individual freedom to express our genetic predispositions because social influences are more relaxed, and this leads to the genetic differences among us explaining more of the reproductive patterns,’ Dr Bolund said.” – h/t ed west!

The decline of human endogenous retroviruses: extinction and survival“[W]e show that the human genome and that of other hominoids (great apes and gibbons) have experienced an approximately four-fold decline in the ERV integration rate over the last 10 million years.” – huh.

Did Fishermen Find Evidence of an Unknown Group of Primitive Humans?“A fossilized jawbone pulled from the seafloor near Taiwan may be from an ancient type of hominin new to science…. [M]ultiple lineages of extinct humans may have coexisted in Asia before the arrival of modern humans.”

Neanderthals disappeared from the Iberian Peninsula earlier than in the rest of Europe

from lawrence kruass“An interesting fact from Svante Paabo: How related are we to Neanderthals? On average like 1 Neanderthal relative 6 generations back!”

Fossil Provides Evidence Of Early Human Migration To Europe“Some 55,000 years ago, a person — whether female or male, we don’t know — lived in Manot Cave in the western Galilee area of what is now Israel. Judging from the partial skull recovered from the cave, and described in Nature last week by Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University and his co-authors, the person was anatomically modern and closely related to the first modern humans who went on to colonize Europe.” – see also The Manot 1 skull and how we now look at Neandertal ancestry in early modern humans from john hawks.

Before Agriculture, Human Jaws Were a Perfect Fit for Human Teeth“The emergence of agricultural practices initiated major changes to the jaw structure of ancient humans, leading to dental problems we still experience.”

Half of our [european] ancestry comes from the Pontic-Caspian steppe“Here’s the latest teaser for the new David Reich et al. paper on the ethnogenesis of present-day Europeans. It’s part of an abstract for a seminar to be held by Professor Reich at Jesus College, Oxford, on February 9. Interestingly, it argues that migrations from the steppe resulted in a ~50% population turnover across northern Europe from the late Neolithic onwards.” – see also Strong (?) linguistic and archaeological evidence for steppe Indo-Europeans from dienekes.

A couple of AAPA 2015 abstracts to blow your socks off“‘The origins of the Aegean palatial civilizations from a population genetic perspective.'” – cool! (^_^)

Mapping 61 Ancient Tattoos on a 5,300-Year-Old Mummy – ötzi the iceman had 61 tattoos!

Large multiallelic copy number variations in humans“Thousands of genomic segments appear to be present in widely varying copy numbers in different human genomes…. We find that mCNVs give rise to most human variation in gene dosage—seven times the combined contribution of deletions and biallelic duplications—and that this variation in gene dosage generates abundant variation in gene expression.”

Your IQ in 13 genes (or about 29% of it) – from dr. james thompson.

105 years of the Flynn effect: very fluid“Into this torrent of Flynn-Effectism jump Jakob Pietschnig and Martin Voracek with a large raft of a paper which runs to 179 pages, which is what you get when you have the temerity and the Teutonic thoroughness to plough through 105 years of data and assemble 271 independent samples from 31 countries, totalling almost four million participants. What sorts of childhood do German speakers have, which drives them to these immense labours?” – (~_^) – also from dr. james thompson.

Academic performance of opposite-sex and same-sex twins in adolescence: A Danish national cohort study – h/t jayman! who tweeted: “Opposite sex DZ twins & their math grades shows little evidence of hormonal masculinization in utero.”

from sam dumitriu“Serial killers who kill for enjoyment rather than financial gain are on average 10 IQ points smarter.” [source] (…out of the ones that have been caught. =/ )

Intergenerational Wealth Mobility in England, 1858-2012: New evidence based on rare surnames“Descendants of the wealthy people of England in 1850 are still wealthy. They also have longer life spans than the average person; they are much more likely to attend Oxford or Cambridge; they still live in more expensive neighbourhoods; and they are more likely to be doctors or lawyers.”

Social mobility barely exists but let’s not give up on equality“Too much faith is placed in the idea of movement between the classes. Still, there are other ways to tackle the unfairness of society.” – from greg clark. h/t ben southwood!

Chimps with higher-ranking moms do better in fights

Genetic analysis of human extrapair mating: heritability, between-sex correlation, and receptor genes for vasopressin and oxytocin“[W]e used data on recent extrapair mating in 7,378 Finnish twins and their siblings. Genetic modelling showed within-sex broad-sense heritability — i.e. the percentage of variation in extrapair mating due to genetic variation — of 62% in men and 40% in women. There was no between-sex correlation in extrapair mating, making indirect selection unlikely. Based on previous animal and human findings, we also tested for association of the arginine vasopressin receptor 1A gene (AVPR1A) and oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) with extrapair mating. We found gene-based association for AVPR1A in women but not in men, and OXTR showed no significant association in either sex. Overall, these findings confirm genetic underpinnings of extrapair mating in humans, but do not suggest that women’s predisposition to extrapair mating is due to selection on men.” – h/t erwin schmidt!

Sources of Marital Conflict in Five Cultures [pdf] – h/t jayman! who tweeted: “‘Marital conflict tends to arise around issues relevant to reproductive strategies.'”

Science Is Not Always “Self-Correcting”“Some prominent scientists and philosophers have stated openly that moral and political considerations should influence whether we accept or promulgate scientific theories. This widespread view has significantly influenced the development, and public perception, of intelligence research. Theories related to group differences in intelligence are often rejected a priori on explicitly moral grounds. Thus the idea, frequently expressed by commentators on science, that science is ‘self-correcting’ — that hypotheses are simply abandoned when they are undermined by empirical evidence — may not be correct in all contexts.” – no, indeed. =/ – from nathan cofnas.

Liberal Bias in Social Psychology: Personal Experience II“‘To what extent is research on politicized topics in social psychology, psychology, and the social sciences distorted by political bias?’ Or, put differently, how much does political bias lead us to entirely unjustified and invalid conclusions?” – h/t claire lehmann! see also Liberal Bias in Social Psychology: Personal Experience I.

Harsh environments and “fast” human life histories: What does the theory say?“A common belief among human life history researchers is that ‘harsher’ environments – i.e., those with higher mortality rates and resource stress – select for ‘fast’ life histories, i.e. earlier reproduction and faster senescence. I show that these ‘harsh environments, fast life histories’ – or HEFLH – hypotheses are poorly supported by evolutionary theory.” – h/t razib!

Lifecycle Patterns in the Socioeconomic Gradient of Risk Preferences [pdf] – h/t ben southwood! who tweeted: “Risk tolerance drops by 0.5sd between adolescence and age 40, but for badly-off it continues dropping to extremity.”

Evidence of polygenic selection on human stature inferred from spatial distribution of allele frequencies – from davide piffer who tweeted: “Different populations have different levels of genotypic height.”

Shared Genetic Influences Between Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Traits in Children and Clinical ADHD

Dorian Gray without his portrait: Psychological, social, and physical health costs associated with the Dark Triad“Examined the Dark Triad and health in American, Australian, and British samples. Psychopathy was best associated with ‘negative’ health outcomes. Narcissism was associated with ‘positive’ health outcomes…. Sex differences in health outcomes were partially mediated by the Dark Triad.”

DNA methylation age of blood predicts all-cause mortality in later life – h/t stuart ritchie! (i don’t wanna die! =o )

Study uncovers genetics of motion sickness – i betcha i have every. single. one. =/

Correlation: The devil rides again? – bryan pesta on correlation…on his new(-ish) blog!

I Don’t Belong Here – on immigrants in france and their problems. lots o’ data! as usual from those who can see!

Your DNA Is Nothing Special“It’s time to relax about genetic testing.” see also: It’s time for the United States to talk about genetics.

diana fleischman tweets: “85% of students in my lecture today think people shouldn’t be able to choose the sex of their baby.” also, from pew: “83% of Americans say changing a baby’s genes to make it more intelligent takes science too far.”

Why There Is No Perfect Human In Puerto Rico or Anywhere Else – h/t shrikant mantri!

Amazonian horticulturalists live in larger, more related groups than hunter–gatherers“Endogamous marriages among kin create intensive kinship systems with high group relatedness, while exogamous marriages among nonrelatives create extensive kinship with low group relatedness. Here, a sample of 58 societies (7,565 adults living in 353 residential groups) shows that average group relatedness is higher in lowland horticulturalists than in hunter–gatherers. Higher relatedness in horticulturalists is remarkable given that village sizes are larger, harboring over twice the average number of adults than in hunter–gatherer camps. The relatedness differential between subsistence regimes increases for larger group sizes.” – h/t andrew sabisky! (thanks, andrew! (^_^) )

On the Whole How You Raise Kids Doesn’t Matter Much – from razib.

Searching For The Origins Of Individualism And Collectivism

The Implicit Assumptions Test“Does the IAT measure what proponents claim it does?” – short answer: no. – h/t steve stewart williams!

Liberal countries have more satisfied citizens while conservatives are happier individuals

How secular family values stack up“[Bengston] was surprised by what he found: High levels of family solidarity and emotional closeness between parents and nonreligious youth, and strong ethical standards and moral values that had been clearly articulated as they were imparted to the next generation. ‘Many nonreligious parents were more coherent and passionate about their ethical principles than some of the “religious” parents in our study,’ Bengston told me. ‘The vast majority appeared to live goal-filled lives characterized by moral direction and sense of life having a purpose….’ [N]onreligious family life is replete with its own sustaining moral values and enriching ethical precepts. Chief among those: rational problem solving, personal autonomy, independence of thought, avoidance of corporal punishment, a spirit of ‘questioning everything’ and, far above all, empathy. For secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle: empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other people as you would like to be treated…. As one atheist mom who wanted to be identified only as Debbie told me: ‘The way we teach them what is right and what is wrong is by trying to instill a sense of empathy … how other people feel. You know, just trying to give them that sense of what it’s like to be on the other end of their actions.'”

Iceland to build its first temple to the Norse gods in 1,000 years

Formation-flying birds swap places to share out lift – h/t steve stewart williams! who tweeted: “Reciprocal altruism is rare in nonhuman animals, but it looks like scientists have found another example.”

Commentary: Weighing the cost of ‘home rule’ in Maine“The state’s system of strong municipal governments is rooted in the early Puritans’ fear of centralization of power.” – from colin woodard.

The Massacre of Europe’s Songbirds – by italians and balkan populations. h/t mr. robert ford!

Ancient tablets reveal life of Jews exiled in Babylon“…where the Judeans traded, ran businesses and helped the administration of the kingdom. ‘They were free to go about their lives, they weren’t slaves,’ Vukosavovic said. ‘Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t a brutal ruler in that respect. He knew he needed the Judeans to help revive the struggling Babylonian economy.'”

Discovery of writing at Peru’s Checta – possible 5000 year old writing from peru. h/t charles mann!

Found in Spain: traces of Hannibal’s troops – h/t donna yates!

Among New York Subway’s Millions of Riders, a Study Finds Many Mystery Microbes“Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College released a study on Thursday that mapped DNA found in New York’s subway system — a crowded, largely subterranean behemoth that carries 5.5 million riders on an average weekday, and is filled with hundreds of species of bacteria (mostly harmless), the occasional spot of bubonic plague, and a universe of enigmas. Almost half of the DNA found on the system’s surfaces did not match any known organism and just 0.2 percent matched the human genome.” – ruh roh. =/

bonus: Even cockroaches have personalities – personality goes a long way. (~_^)

bonus bonus: In Bedbugs, Scientists See a Model of Evolution – h/t hbd bibliography!

bonus bonus bonus: from john hawks“[M]ale anthropology instructors are vastly more likely to exude spittle than any other field.” =P

bonus bonus bonus bonus: ricky gervais loves natural selection. (~_^)

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: A Great Idea: Create an HMS Beagle in LEGO Form“Vote to turn this tiny version of a famous ship into a LEGO kit available for all to enjoy.” – legohhhhhhhhs!!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: The Closest Thing to STAR WARS’ Greedo is Now a CatfishPeckoltia greedoi! (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. baby olinguito!)


Oxytocin helps explain difference in social perception between men and women“‘The Love Hormone’, Oxytocin affects men and women differently in social contexts — in men it improves the ability to identify competitive relationships whereas in women it facilitates the ability to identify kinship.”

Watching Bacteria Evolve, With Predictable Results“[I]n experiments using bacteria and other fast-breeding organisms, scientists can replay evolution many times over in their labs. And the results of a new experiment published Thursday in the journal Cell Reports demonstrate — with movies — that evolution can be astoundingly predictable.”

Facial contrast and femininity“Women have higher luminous contrast between their facial skin and their lip/eye color. This contrast effect is influenced not only by degree of lightness but also by degree of redness.” – from peter frost.

Caste“An endogamous group that is exposed to unusual selective pressures – say because of their occupation – is going to change in response to those particular selective pressures.” – from greg cochran.

Cultural influences on IQ – from elijah armstrong.

Human cells respond in healthy, unhealthy ways to different kinds of happinessEudaimonic well-being was, indeed, associated with a significant decrease in the stress-related CTRA gene expression profile. In contrast, hedonic well-being was associated with a significant increase in the CTRA profile.”

Even George W. Bush Has Heart Disease“Contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, it is possible – and indeed quite likely – that heart disease is an inevitable consequence of living. In other words, lifestyle, including what you eat, drink, where you work, how much you work out, etc, may have little to nothing to do with your chances of developing heart disease.” – from jayman. (the most surprising thing that i learned from this post is that george w. bush actually has a heart! (~_^) )

Students Today “Hook Up” No More Than Their Parents Did in College

Rare footage of isolated Amazon tribe released“A newly released video captures images of the Kawahiva tribe, indigenous people living in Brazil’s Amazon jungle thought to have had very little contact with the outside world.”

World’s oldest temple built to worship the dog star“THE world’s oldest temple, Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey, may have been built to worship the dog star, Sirius.”

These Carvings Are the Oldest Rock Art in America, by Thousands of Years“‘The true age of this rock art had not been known, but a new analysis suggests these petroglyphs are the oldest North America, dating back to between 10,500 and 14,800 years ago.’ The rocks occupy a spot in the Nevada desert once covered by Winnemucca Lake.”

Oldest Gaming Tokens Found in Turkey“Small carved stones unearthed in a nearly 5,000-year-old burial could represent the earliest gaming tokens ever found, according to Turkish archaeologists who are excavating early Bronze Age graves.” – they’re really neat!

Good-looking birds: Sexual attractiveness in the wild turkey“[A]ttractiveness in male turkeys is more a function of how they use their genes, rather than differences in the genes themselves.”

bonus: Britain’s biggest child sex grooming gang thought to have been busted after cops arrest 45 men – here we go again. =/

bonus bonus: Olinguinto: ‘Overlooked’ mammal carnivore is major discovery

bonus bonus bonus: Moment thief was caught on camera stealing village ‘honesty box’ to pay for homegrown fruit and veg – this happened in south wales and the thief was a guy named paul bujega bujega.

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Scientists Finally Pronounce Human Genome“‘It’s Gatcaatgaggtggacaccagaggc…’”

(note: comments do not require an email. the olinguito!)

*update below*

of course the chechens are clannish. the entire caucasus region is clannish (via ed west)! via a tweet from mark weiner (links added by me):

“Russia: War Destroyed Chechnya’s Clan Structure (Part 1)”

“Moscow, 4 January 2002 (RFE/RL) — The Chechens of Russia’s North Caucasus region are a tight-knit society based on extended families, or clans, guided by a council of elders. These clans, which traditionally lived together in a single village, are called ‘taips.’ During Stalin’s infamous deportation of Chechens to Central Asia — and even now, as war and social unrest have forced thousands of Chechens to leave their home villages and scatter throughout the republic or abandon the region altogether — the links remain strong between members of a single taip.

“There are more than 150 taips in Chechnya, each with its own traditions and council of elders….

“Traditionally, taip members can recall the name of their original ancestor from whom the clan originates. They can also recite the names and details about the lives and deaths — often on the battlefield — of at least seven generations of male ancestors.

“Ian Chesnov is an anthropology professor at Russia’s State Humanitarian University in Moscow. He spent several years in Chechnya studying cultural traits. Chesnov says that according to Caucasus tradition, a member of a taip is never abandoned in time of trouble. To the contrary, a taip acts as a kind of family network that makes sure all members have the support they need….

“The taip forms the core of Chechen society — and, many Chechens believe, predetermines the characteristics and personalities of its members. The perceived link between clan and character type is so strong that taips are considered a key aspect of the region’s political life as well….

Chechnya’s taips fall into nine distinct ‘tukums,’ or tribes. Legend holds that all Chechens descend from an original family of nine brothers, a belief represented by the Chechen symbol, which depicts a wolf encircled by nine stars. Batuev describes the tukums’ function:

“‘The taips are organized in nine tukums. A tukum is a political-military union meant to function in cases of [outside] threats or aggression. [The tukums] used to unify all the [Chechen] nation and the taips.'”

A tukum has no leader and is composed of a loose group of clans who share a common ancestry….

so, do the chechens inbreed/mate closely? according to the working theory around here, they ought to if they’re clannish (and they are). we should also be able to guess that the chechens have a history of inbreeding/close mating since they live in the mountains, and mountainous populations seem to have a tendency to inbreed (see also here) — like the auvergnats, for example.

from Mission in Chechnya (2002) [pg. 80] regarding some rules of the teips:

“4. Absolute marriage prohibition between members of one clan. This was the oldest rule. What caused such a prohibition? If those who are going to marry are in the same clan, they will not have numerous and healthy descendants — this is confirmed by the elders whose observation and life experience testified how negative the influence of close marriage was upon the descendants. The others assured them that the violation of exogamy would bring dangerous illness to those who were going to marry. Marriage prohibition inside a clan is not the consequence of a legislative act. Still, up to now the Chechens try to stick to this principle. Some clans taht took the way of exogamy violation (e.g. tsada khroevstsi) were shunned by the other clans. Why? Because a female relative of the father’s line is considered a sister of any member of the given clan. A blood relationship links with the Chechen people are so strong that they go through seven or eight generations. ‘Close’ or even ‘concerned’ relatives in the father’s line were not given the right either for marriage or for blood feud among themselves. Close relatives of the mother’s line, however, had the right for marriage and blood feud. It should be mentioned that the marriage inside the mother’s line for the first, second and the third generations was not recommended.

and from The Chechens: A Handbook (2005) [pg. 91]:

“Exogamy and endogamy

“To ensure the good health of their offspring, a prerequisite in the harsh mountainous environment, the Chechens tabooed not only close-relative marriage on both sides, but also interdicted association with any blood relative, which included all members of a clan. This meant that a man was constrained to seek his marriage partner from outside the clan, but from within the tribe: *taips* were strictly exogamous, whereas *tukhums* were endogamous entities. These traditional values are still adhered to even among city dwellers. Sources are not unanimous as to the prescribed degree of consanguineous removedness between potential marriage partners. It could be that there is no uniform rule espoused by all *tukhums*. However, at least three generations is the span of disconnectedness commonly agreed upon. Some *taips* of ‘foreign’ origin do not proscribe close kin marriages, this custom hinting at non-Caucasian or Daghestani origin.”

and from Ethnography and Folklore of the Georgia-Chechnya Border: Images, Customs, Myths & Folk Tales of the Peripheries (2008) [pg. 240]:

“Marriages within it are forbidden. The Kists and Ingush maintain this tradition strictly, though in Chechnya this tradition has changed under the influence of Islam. Previously, marriage to one’s third cousin was forbidden; now it is welcomed.

some mixed messages there, but the gist of it i think is:

– no marriage within the patrlineal clan — the teip
– you should, however, marry within the bigger tribe — the tukkhum
– you can marry maternal relatives, but probably not closer than third cousins — this cousin marriage ban is probably a holdover from when the chechens were christian [pg. 256]. in fact, third cousin marriages might even be preferred (this reminds me of the greeks).

all of this sounds almost exactly like the marriage systems amongst some of the populations in the balkans, especially amongst the albanians — i.e. avoiding paternal cousin marriage but allowing maternal (distant) cousin marriage. a bit of exogamy, but also a bit of endogamy.

size also matters. the smaller your population size, the smaller the gene pool is going to be and, so, the closer the mating ultimately — which is what matters here (i think).

there are 1,206,551 chechens in chechnya as of 2010 — let’s call it 1.2M. there are somewhere between 130 and 300 teips (patrlineal clans) in chechnya — let’s call it 215 (that’s right in the middle). that gives us ca. 5,580 individuals per teip.

there are nine tukkhums (the larger tribes) in chechnya. if we assume that there is the same number of teips in each tukkhum (which might not be the case), then that’s ca. 23-24 teips per tukkhum. 5,580 x 24 = 133,920 individuals in a tukkhum. how many of reproductive age (i never know this)? one quarter? one third? if it’s one quarter, you wind up with ca. 16,700 women you are allowed to marry if you’re a chechen guy. compare that to the millions you could marry in the u.s. — if you’re american.

so chechens are close breeders. they’re a small population that marries within an even smaller tribe and may even prefer maternal third cousin marriage.

it’s no wonder, then, that they still engage in blood feuds (just like the albanians). you’d half expect them to build tower houses for protection during clan disputes like the albanians or the maniots.

oh, wait.

see also: Inside the deadly Russian region the Tsnarnaev family used to call home @foreign policy and Chechen asabiya and the Borat Brothers from steve sailer. *update* – and see also One Blessing Of Outbreeding from roissy.

previously: where do clans come from? and balkan endogamy and more on albanians

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there are two broad groups of albanians, the gheg speakers in the north of the country (the blues on the map) and the tosk speakers in the south (the greens):


today, the ghegs are more clannish/tribal than the tosks. there are historical (stemming from topographical) reasons for this (emphases and links added by me):

“The social structure of the country was, until the 1930s, basically tribal in the north and semifeudal in the central and southern regions. The highlanders of the north retained their medieval pattern of life until well into the twentieth century and were considered the last people in Europe to preserve tribal autonomy. In the central and southern regions, increasing contact with the outside world and invasions and occupations by foreign armies had gradually weakened tribal society.

“Traditionally there have been two major subcultures in the Albanian nation: the Gegs in the north and the Tosks in the south. The Gegs, partly Roman Catholic but mostly Muslim, lived until after World War II in a mountain society characterized by blood feuds and fierce clan and tribal loyalties. The Tosks, whose number included many Muslims as well as Orthodox Christians, were less culturally isolated mainly because of centuries of foreign influence. Because they had came under the rule of the Muslim landed aristocracy, the Tosks had apparently largely lost the spirit of individuality and independence that for centuries characterized the Gegs, especially in the highlands.

“Until the end of World War II, society in the north and, to a much lesser extent, in the south, was organized in terms of kinship and descent. The basic unit of society was the extended family, usually composed of a couple, their married sons, the wives and children of the sons, and any unmarried daughters. The extended family formed a single residential and economic entity held together by common ownership of means of production and common interest in the defense of the group. Such families often included scores of persons, and, as late as 1944, some encompassed as many as sixty to seventy persons living in a cluster of huts surrounding the father’s house.

Extended families were grouped into clans whose chiefs preserved patriarchal powers over the entire group. The clan chief arranged marriages, assigned tasks, settled disputes, and set the course to be followed concerning essential matters such as blood feuds and politics. Descent was traced from a common ancestor through the male line, and brides usually were chosen from outside the clan. Clans in turn were grouped into tribes.

“In the Tosk regions of the south, the extended family was also the most important social unit, although patriarchal authority had been diluted by the feudal conditions usually imposed by the Muslim bey….”

here’s a really (REALLY) long excerpt from Poverty in Albania: A Qualitative Assessment with some notes of my own thrown in here and there. the excerpted bits are italicized while my comments are not. the quote from the book comes from pages 83-90. the book itself was published in 2002 and comprises the results of a series of surveys undertaken across albania by world bank researchers in the late 1990s and early 2000s (again, emphases and links added by me):

“Civil Society

“People in all the study sites generally want a capable government that solves problems and creates opportunities. A combination of factors — inadequate government presence, poor management of government functions, corruption, and lack of confidence that elections will change conditions — has created a vacuum of authority in parts of Albania. In certain rural locations, particularly in the north and east, there is no functioning government. In these areas, institutions such as extended families/clans are filling the gaps of authority…. Further, Albanians’ wariness of other groups in general — other families, ethnic groups, and religious groups — fragments civil society and confines non-governmental solutions to local areas….

“Filling the Vacuum

“Two forces are rising to fill the vacuum of government authority — the traditional fis structure, and the small, ad-hoc aid programs of foreign governments and private organizations in some eastern parts of the country….

“The fis is even more important for filling the power vacuum. An elder in Mirdita describes authority there: ‘I am elected elder of this village. The water resources are distributed according to the old traditions, based on the fis. Here things are settled based on the fis, not the state. My fis is composed of my uncle, first cousins, and also fourth cousins. When there is discord that involves injuries … it is not the state that gets involved to resolve the problem, but the wisest of the elderly men in the fis. We discuss how to resolve the problem and develop a consensus. Then we make the decision and the problem is resolved.’

“Re-emergence of the Fis and Canun

A fis is a group of people descended from the same great grandfather. This extended family is bound together tightly by tradition, culture, and a set of rules called the Canun, which were formalized by Lek Dukagjini in the 1400s. The Canun withered under Communism but has resumed governing importance in some areas. As Remzi, a fis elder in Kukes, explains, ‘The Canun is now starting to function because the government is weak … and the government’s laws are not being properly implemented by the state.’ Fis in some areas are now using the traditional Canun, or a modern variation of it, to govern themselves. As noted in the chapter on agriculture, issues of land reform, land use, irrigation water distribution, and other matters are being determined by the fis structure using the Canun as the basis for decisions….

Fis are found primarily in northern rural Albania (Kukes, Mirdita, and Shkordra), but they also exist in the highlands of Korca and among the Roma populations….

“Fis Governance

In each village, there may be as few as 3 or as many as 10 fis. As noted earlier, a fis is defined as a group of those people who descend directly from a common great grandfather. In practical terms, each fis comprises three to four generations. The number of people in each fis can range from fewer than 10 to more than 500 people. The selection of leaders within a fis varies, but there are some common practices. Each fis is led by a male who is elected by other males in the fis. Often the elected leader is the oldest active male, who is responsible for setting and enforcing standards of behavior. He usually does not make important decisions alone, but in consultation with other respected males in the fis, including brothers and sons, and extending to cousins….

“Relations Within and Among the Fis

‘When someone in our fis makes a mistake, even if he is 40 years old, the entire fis gets together and orders him not to commit further mistakes and put shame on us all. This is our way to preserve tradition. There are seven or eight fis in the village, and we are in competition with each other to be the best one. When one of us makes a mistake or commits a crime, the entire fis is humiliated and its reputation is hurt…. When I have disputes within the fis, I try to resolve them within the fis. But if I cannot do so, I sometimes will invite and elder from another fis to listen to our problems and provide mature judgement. And if we do not get a satisfying result from this, we address the problem to the committee of elders in the village.’ – Hamit, an elder in Shkodra
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“Where the government is totally absent, the committee of elders governs without a government institution by managing common work and the relationships among the various fis. In these situations, the committee of elders uses some version of the Canun to set rules and govern. According to Preng, and elder in Mirdita, ‘I am the elected leader of the fis…. Here, things are settled by the fis and we do not rely on the government. My fis is composed of my uncle, first cousins, and also fourth cousins. When there is a dispute that results in injury, it is not the government that gets involved but the elders who get together and decide the fee. A committee of elders, the wisest men from all the fis, discusses the problem and resolves it based on consensus. When the fee is paid, then the problem is considered resolved…. If the criminal has no money to pay the fee, then he is killed. The fee depends on the issue and how events happened….

“Applying the Canun

“The application of Canun varies by fis. A few apply the traditional Canun, even though they recognize its shortcomings. They feel that, despite the traditional Canun’s weaknesses, it is the best solution in the absence of government. In one area of Kukes, an elder describes the Canun as ‘unprincipled and not fair as the laws. It is very tough and incites disputes and revenge. For instance, according to the Canun, if someone hits you, then you have the right to kill him…. It has some very precise rules, though in today’s society it is hard to implement the rules…. For instance, the Canun does not allow my daughter to bring bread or coffee in the room when guests visit. Women must wear a scarf on their head. A stranger who is visiting your house must not shake hands with your wife or daughter.’ The Canun has returned to an extent that blood feuds have re-emerged. In some areas, such as Shkodra and northern Kukes, families reportedly are confined to their own homes to protect themselves during a feud. In these cases, friends and neighbors bring them food because the family cannot grow their own food or otherwise work while feuding.

“Despite the use of traditional Canun rules in some areas, most fis have adapted the Canun to better fit, in their view, the values of the modern era….

“Dispute Resolution and Other Functions

“… The need for such dispute resolution increased after 1990, due to new freedoms and disputes over property rights, just as the government’s ability to resolves such disputes began to decline…. According to an elder in Shkodra, ‘After 1990, conflict increased compared to the time of my father. The Communist regime caused many fights because it took land from its owners and distributed it equally to everybody, and encouraged people to construct houses on other people’s land….

albania’s committee of nationwide reconciliation estimates that there were ca. “10,000 murders for honour, blood feud and revenge between 1990 and 2009” in the country, although it’s difficult to know for sure what the real numbers are. i think it’s safe to say A LOT, though. the albanian tradition of gjakmarrja is basically an eye-for-an-eye moral system in which honor is all-important — the honor of the extended family. albanians (and other groups in the balkans) have for centuries had purpose built boltholes to hide in when they and their families were the objects of a blood feud (check out the border reivers’ bastle houses, too):

i think the long history and current prevalence of blood feuds in albania and throughout the region illustrates that greying wanderer’s characterization of the balkans as “full of people who hate the people in the adjacent enclosed ancient valley” is not far off the mark.


“Source of Power

The principle source of power for a fis is its moral standing among the other fis. An elder in Shkodra says, ‘Our moral force and authority derive from good behavior.’ This moral standing is built over generations. Fis that historically have been strong are more likely to enjoy power now. An elder in Shkodra says, ‘Blood is never forgotten. Mother and father have one name. Blood has one name. After 20 or 100 years, the blood of mothers and fathers is not forgotten.’

Moral standing is judged according to the behavior of the members of a fis. Living according to the laws set by the fis, working hard, being kind and gracious to both neighbors and strangers, showing generosity to others, and having a family that is free of conflict are some of the criteria by which fis judge each other. An elder in Shkodra explains, ‘A good man, according to the Canun, is one who works, is wise, is loved by everybody, who does not humiliate anyone, and who pulls his family together. A bad man is one who does the opposite. The good fis are polite, have culture, and use common sense. A bad fis is not able to run its own affairs properly, let alone enjoy proper relations with other fis.’ An elder in Kukes, who asserts that his family is the ‘best’ fis in the community, describes similar criteria for judging a fis there: ‘My grandfather was known as the representative of the best fis in the village. Now we have 20 families in the village and maybe someone from our fis has committed some wrongs, but we still enjoy the reputation of our generosity and hospitality. For instance, if I see a stranger passing by on the road, I invite him to visit my home and have coffee with us. I preserve the reputation of the fis. When I visit my neighbor, I make a contribution. When he visits me, he makes a contribution. When someone asks to marry my daughter who does not come from a well-respected fis, I do not permit my daughter to marry that person.’

so, unlike in western europe where a man is judged by his character and behavior alone, amongst albanians (and i’m guessing other balkan populations) one’s moral character is all wrapped up with that of one’s extended family. this is something we hear throughout muslim societies in the arab world and middle east as well (e.g. all the honor killings) — not surprising when they are very inbred, too.

Marriages among members of the same fis are not permitted, even when the two people are seven or eight generations removed. Because one must marry someone from another fis, all marriages involve fis politics. Marriage is very important to determining the stature of a fis in the community. Much time is spent determining the suitability of various suitors, based on the reputation of the fis and the perceived behavior of the prospective bride and groom. Because the reputation of the fis is important to power relations in the community, a woman has little influence in selecting her husband. According to an elder in Kukes, ‘Couples are engaged not through love, but through a mediator….”

since the ban on marrying relations within the fis only applies to paternal relations, it could very well be that albanians frequently marry maternal relatives — close or distant maternal cousins. i haven’t seen any info on this either way for albanians, but another balkan group — bosnian muslims — actually have a preference for marrying in-laws which includes maternal relatives. some albanians are christians (orthodox and roman catholic), so presumably they more-or-less follow the christian ban on marrying close cousins — as a general rule, that is — although all sorts of europeans regularly work around this. there should be no such cousin-marriage ban amongst albanian muslisms.

in any case, albanians are marrying (especially traditionally) very endogamously since they normally marry someone from a fis in the village or, perhaps, a neighboring village.


“Wariness of Other Groups

“The re-emergence of the fis highlights the importance of family structures in addressing problems formerly handled by government. But the importance of family is not limited to northern districts and Korca. People throughout the country feel that family affiliations is an important factor in choosing their friends and neighbors. Ethnic and religious affiliation also affect relationships within and between communities. As a result, these groups tend to be wary of each other. Table 12 details people’s attitudes toward their neighbors. [click on table for LARGER view]:

About 77 percent of people prefer that their neighbors are members of the same fis or family, with 59 percent strongly preferring it. About 52 percent prefer that their neighbors share the same religion, while about 44 percent prefer that neighbors are of the same ethnicity. It appears that family affiliation is more important than religion or ethnicity in determining feels [sic] about neighbors.

The civil society that either shares space with government or fills a vacuum left by government comprises a series of groups that are wary of each other and sometimes conflict. Consequently, there are few informal institutions, organizations, and networks that cross large geographic areas. Those that do exist, such as the emigration networks into Greece and Italy, are based on single extended families or single local communities. So while informal institutions and organizations are significant assets, they may be limited in their capacity to address problems across different families, religions, and ethnicities.”

like other clannish/tribal societies, albania doesn’t manage to have a civil society. not in the sense that nw europeans have. clannishness and tribalism seem to go along with inbreeding — either consanguineous and/or endogamous mating patterns — and i think the causation goes from inbreeding -> clannishness/tribalism (although certainly being clannish probably encourages further inbreeding). and the underlying mechanism is, as steve sailer pointed out ages ago, somehow related to kin selection and inclusive fitness.

albanians seem to be some of the most inbred peoples in europe — looking at their genomes, they have the highest frequencies of within-country “blocks of ibd” (identity by descent) as compared to other europeans which suggests to me that they’ve been inbreeding for a long time, too. that, i think, is part of the reason for the high ibd rates amongst albanians. given their history, then, it shouldn’t be surprising that they still are very clannish/tribal and don’t manage to build a civil society.

see also:
Albania: Blood Feuds — ‘Blood For Blood’ (Part 1)
Blood feuds still boiling in Albania – feuding taken to a new level when a 17 year old girl is killed.
Ancient blood feuds cast long shadow over hopes for a modern Albania
Peacemaker breaks the ancient grip of Albania’s blood feuds
No way out
The Forgiveness of Blood – movie.

previously: balkan endogamy

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nick says: “The Balkans had the 7th cousin law, that forbid them to marry anyone closer than the 7th cousin.”

i did a little googling on that and found what i think will probably prove to be a general pattern for balkan populations: a ban on marrying in the patriline, but marrying on the mother’s side is ok and even preferred. so the seventh-cousin law that nick is referring to relates only to paternal cousins.

this is just a preliminary look at the mating patterns in the balkans, btw. i need to do a lot more research on this.

anyway, this pattern of avoiding marriage in the patrline but preferring marriage to maternal relatives seems to hold for bosnian muslims, albanians, and macedonian slavs.

regarding the macedonian slavs: “The genealogical reckoning is primarily agnatic [i.e. through the male line – h. chick]. Kinship terminology distinguishes father’s brother (stric) from the mother’s brother (ujak), as well as using a special word to indicate sister’s or daughter’s husband (zet) and a woman married to a set of brothers (jetrva). On the agnatic side, marriage is forbidden up to the ninth generation, while the matrilineal first cousins could be regarded as possible mates if it was not for the canonical prohibition.

that’s the christian church’s ban on cousin marriage. but otherwise, marriage to matrilineal relatives is ok — and macedonian slavs would’ve approved of matrilineal first cousin marriage if it wasn’t for their church.

regarding the bosnian muslims, bringa reports (pg. 146) that “there is a preference for marrying agnatic affines.” agnatic refers to the paternal line — so your father and your paternal grandfather and all your paternal aunts and uncles, etc. affines are in-laws. so there is a preference amongst bosnian muslims to marry their in-laws connected to the father’s side of the family.

the most obvious members of that group would simply be one’s maternal relatives, i.e. your father’s in-laws (see?). but agnatic affines could also include, for instance, your paternal uncle’s wife’s relatives.

i know — it all gets kinda complicated. the important thing, though, is it’s all a sort of endogamous mating.

finally, the albanians. i’m going to reproduce a long-ish passage from State Collapse and Reconstruction in the Periphery: Political Economy, Ethnicity and Development in Yugoslavia, Serbia and Kosovo. just skip it if you’re bored already, but it talks about the clannishness or tribalness (the author’s words, not mine!) of the albanians and how their mating patterns have, at least traditionally, been endogamous, including marriage to maternal relatives (this is not strange, btw, since marriage to maternal relatives seems generally to be the most popular form of close family marriage around the world) [pgs. 64-67]:

“A brief description of Albanian society is required here. Albanians are divided into two language or dialect groups, the Gheg and the Tosk, with the Tosk dominating in southern Albania and the Gheg in northern Albania and the highlands (the division is roughly at the Shkumbi river). The Albanians in Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia are Ghegs (with some exceptions in southern Macedonia). Traditional structures, tribal or clan-based, as well as village community-based forms of social organisation remained important among the Albanian population in Kosovo throughout the Yugoslav period. There are notable elements of continuity in traditional loyalty structure and customary law (including the practice of blood feud). The terms ‘tribe’ and ‘clan’ are contested, but we may instead use the Albanian terms. The Albanian term ‘fis’ refers to a large groups which claim descent from one common male ancestor. Each fis is divided into sub-branches. Marriage within the same fis (based on the male line) is considered incestuous even if the ‘actual’ relationship is, say, nine or ten generations back (which does not apply on the maternal side).[12] In Kosovo there are about thirteen fises. A smaller group which traditionally has existed within the fis is a brotherhood or ‘vellazeri’, which is similar to the Balkan form of extended family, the ‘Zadruga’, but differs from it, for example, in that there was not a common budget. A ‘mehala’ is another term for a subgroup consisting of a number of closely related houses. A house, or a ‘shpi’ could itself consist of an extended family — something still existing in Kosovo although they have declined considerably during the Yugoslav period…. It should be noted that within the same fis some members can be Muslim and other Catholic. Among the Albanians there are Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox. The Orthodox prevail in south Albania (among the Tosk), whereas Kosovo is predominantly Muslim….

The traditional Albanian village consisted of the (often fortified) houses (kulle) of the extended families, but had no public spaces. There were no cafes or inns, or public buildings of any kind. All matters relating to society, or social life, were discussed inside the family houses, and the house was thereby of particular importance in Albanian cultural life…. In contrast to the pattern in northwestern Europe, for example, there were no intermediary associations or public spheres between the individual, or family, and the state and hence nothing resembling what has been called ‘civil society’ in the usage of eighteenth- or nineteenth-century thinkers. Indeed there was neither the social structure nor social infrastructure or type of economy for such an analytical term as ‘civil society’ to be applied; social life was shaped by the extended family (with its house), the clan and the village, and there was no social organisation beyond the extended family apart from the clan. All legal matters were strictly regulated in customary law and applied by the clans, or mediated in meetings by the elders (kuvend)….

“The Albanians … had no aspirations to an Albanian state before the twentieth century, but were quite content with remaining inside the Ottoman state. Although there may have been a growing Albanian identity, beyond the fis, especially in the nineteenth century, there was not really any expression of Albanian nationalism. Several factors made expressions of nationhood unlikely. There were disputes between clans, and the Albanians did not share a single religion, but were divided between Islam, Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism. The lifestyles of, for example, the Tosk in the south or in the coastal trading ports and the Gheg of the highlands were quite different.

“[12] As noted by Edith Durham, the Catholic Church prohibited marriage to the sixth degree, but on the maternal side much closer relatives might enter marriage. See Durham (1909: 22); The practice of prohibiting marriage within the fis remains today.”

previously: mating patterns in medieval eastern europe and invention of the modern world

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this is just a short note — a little food for thought.

the following quote comes from catherine linley day’s FABULOUS ph.d. thesis, “Marriage Patterns in Two Wiltshire Parishes 1754-1914: Geographical Mobility, Consanguinity and Illegitimacy” [opens pdf]:

“In a theoretical isolated population of 500 people, after six generations all potential marriage partners would have been related to each other as 3rd cousins or closer (Fox 1967).”

the fox 1967 reference is to robin fox’s Kinship & Marriage: An Anthropological Perspective. i haven’t looked through fox’s book, yet, to see where linley day got this from.

in any case, it’s interesting to see how quickly endogamous mating patterns can lead to everyone in the population being quite related to one another (like in iceland or ashkenazi jews), genetically speaking. of course, no human population is totally isolated (right??), so you won’t find this exact scenario out in nature. but it’s interesting — and important — to keep in mind.

update 7/10 – calculating the inbreeding coefficient (see comments below):

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ihtg pointed out (thnx, ihtg!) that ethiopian jews have very strong exogamous mating patterns (except for mating outside of their ethnic group, presumably). he mentioned the ‘zamad’, which is the beta israel term for extended family. when looking for a marriage partner for their children, ethiopian jews would exclude anyone within the zamad related to them going back seven generations! that means marriage between sixth-cousins and anyone closer was not really (heh) kosher. from “Surviving salvation: the Ethiopian Jewish family in transition” [pg. 59]:

“For the Beta Israel, in contrast, social life was organized around the flexible and often-overlapping concepts of the extended family (zamad) and household (beta sa’ab). Zamad is a term whose precise meaning varies according to the circumstances and, in particular, according to what it is being contrasted. Thus, zamad is most frequently used to refer to an entire extended family (as opposed to strangers), but it was also used to distinguish blood relations (yesaga zamad) from in-laws (amachenat). When searching for a spouse for a son or daughter, parents would automatically exclude anyone in their zamad counting back seven generations. Thus to marry even a third cousin would be considered a form of incest! Since sons traditionally settled in the same village as their parents when they married, many local communities consisted of one or several extended families. Membership in a large and powerful zamad provided both practical benefits and social standing. Members of a zamad were expected to support each other in time of need. Within the borders of the zamad little attention was paid to the ‘real’ relationship between members. Thus, according to circumstance, grandparents, uncles, or older siblings might be a child’s ‘parents.’ A person’s ‘children’ might easily include nieces, nephews, stepchildresn, and younger siblings. His or her biological sons and daughters might be teens before they realized that some of their ‘brothers and sisters’ were in fact cousins!”

so, the beta israel are very outbred within their extended family (zamad). it’s not clear to me who a preferred marriage partner might be — someone from one’s own zamad, just beyond sixth cousin? or someone from another zamad? and if it’s someone from another zamad, is it someone from another zamad from the same village? inquiring minds want to know!

still, the beta israel are so outbred within their zamad that keeping track of who’s your sibling or who’s your first-cousin or even who’s your fifth-cousin is not really important because all of them are off-limits as far as marriage goes. they don’t need to keep track of their father’s brother’s daughter or mother’s brother’s daughter the way the arabs do, ’cause neither of those individuals are marriable. kind-of like how the germans, before the arrival of christianity, had specific words for the different types of cousins, but once they could no longer marry most of their cousins, the term ‘cousin’ was then universally applied to all of them. (these germans included anglo-saxons, too, of course.)

so, i decided to look around to see if i could find out anything about the mating patterns of other groups of ethiopians — i recalled seeing something about this prohibition against sixth cousin marriage, or something like that, somewhere else (i think it was here on wikipedia).

first of all, there are several different ethnic groups in ethiopia, of course: oromo, amhara, tagray, etc. — some are cushitic, others semitic, others nilotic — many are christians, some are muslims.

but look what i found out about some of them [pg. 406]:

“In the central highland societies of Amhara, Tagray, several Gurage groups, but also among the Omotic-speaking Dizi in the south-west, clans do not exist and people trace descent along bilateral lines. Both the above types rest on ideas of lineal kinship through descent from a father’s line, a mother’s line or through both, but bilateral tracing or ambilineality excludes clanship. Males and females can inherit through both their mother’s and father’s line, but actualization of the rights of the claims is strongly situational.

“In ambilineal societies, the nuclear family tends to be the most important unit, although in the rural areas this unit is often at least two-generational. Among the Amhara, wife and husband kept their rights of possession in property brought into the marriage, making for a relatively equal, or at least independent, and somewhat competitive relation between spouses. As clans are absent to define the kin circle outside of which one has to marry, bilateral or ambilineal societies use a generational rule of distance, e.g., the well-known one among Amhara (and taken over by many other groups) that one may not marry ‘within seven generations’ reckoned from ego upwards, i.e., no descendant from a common great-great-great-grandparent on either mother’s or father’s side. Such a group of descendants from an apical male (wanna abbat) is often called bet (‘house’) among the Amhara or anda among Tegrenna-speakers.”

“bet” like beta israel? prolly.

listen to what amhara and tagray societies are like!:

“The bilateral kinship system in the case of the Amhara, and probably even more so the Tagray, has led to a highly individualistic ethos where kin bonds are subject to high variability and negotiation. As among clan group members, there are no automatically solidary kin group units in this society. Tagray kinship in particular is marked by a strongly contractual, ‘political’ character. Locality and neighbourhood are more important than kin-based households. Ambilineal societies have thus given rise to an extraordinary social dynamism, generating individual competition (thus perhaps contributing to the meritorious complex in Ethiopia) but also to a high conflict potential on the level of households.

neato! except for the conflict part. doesn’t sound all that foreign (if you’re a europoid), eh? and, of course, it’s not the bilateral kinship system that’s led to the “highly individualistic ethos” but, rather, all the oubreeding.

there’s more:

“Among the Dizi of south-west Ethiopia, a people living in the midst of lineage societies like Me’en, Benc, and Suri, there is neither clan organization nor lineage thinking. They trace bilateral lines on both side, and in this they resemble northern Semitic-speaking societies, which whom they indeed claimed historical affinity…. Dizi exogamy rules are based on generational distance reckoning (the ‘seven generation’ rule), as among the Amhara and Tagray.

other groups in ethiopia are not as exogamous as the amhara, tagray or dizi, and they appear to be more clannish. the oromo, for instance [pg. 405]:

“The Oromo, the most numerous and diversified people in Ethiopia, are historically a segmentary, patrilineal clan society, based on named clans. The genealogical principle is strong…. Migrations and socio-economic change have led to local adaptations of the system. These societies are, however, still strongly patriarchal, and polygamy is frequent. There is no clear rule of clan exogamy among Oromo; instead there is (or was) a rule of not marrying within the hidda groups of close relatives, reckoned five generations back.

five generations back means a prohibition against marrying anyone closer than fourth-cousins. that’s closer endogamy, then, than the amhara, etc., who won’t marry sixth cousins or closer (as a general rule). it also sounds like the oromo might favor marrying within the clan, just beyond fourth-cousins. polygamy, too, also narrows the degrees of genetic relatedness within a group of people.

ethiopia sounds like an interesting place with regard to mating patterns — there are many different groups with a variety of different mating traditions, unlike western europe which just sorta has two broad patterns — in the north, don’t marry your cousins — in the south, don’t marry your cousins either, but we’ll let you get away with marrying your cousins more than they do in the north.

will have to learn more about ethiopia!

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this post is prompted by a (brief) discussion in the comments over @dennis’ place. anonymous objected to me saying that pre-christian (i.e. pre-outbreeding) europeans were not, amongst other things, democratic — germanic tribes had things, for instance, he says.

yes, a lot of societies have democratic elements to them — even hunter-gatherer bands, i do believe, generally operate according to a system in which everyone (at least all the men) gets to voice their opinion on which way the band should head tomorrow or something like that. but no other society ever developed a western-style, parliamentarian-type democratic system except for europeans. here’s robin fox on this curious phenomenon [pgs. 60-61]:

“Again in England, it was not until 1688, after a bitter civil-religious war and a period of hard totalitarianism, that we were able to set up a system whereby political factions would compete for votes and, most amazingly, the losers would vountarily cede power. [fox’s emphasis.] This transformation took a long time and hard practice with many missteps….

“But far from being a fact of human nature, this voluntary ceding of power after elections, this basic feature of liberal democracy, actually flies in the face of nature. It is self-evidently absurd. Our political opponents are always disreputable, and their accession to power will be the ruin of the country. Listen to the rhetoric of campaigns: it almost amounts to criminal malfeasance to allow the opponents to take over. Yet that is what we do after a mere counting of heads: cede control to the villains and incompetents.

“The cynic will say that the only reason we allow this to happen is because we know that in truth there is no real difference between political parties in these systems, and so we join in a conspiracy of the willing to take turn and turn about. Even so, this willingness that we take so for granted is an amazing and unusual and a fragile thing. Ajami quotes an Arab proverb, min al-qasr ila al-qabr: ‘from the palace to the grave.’ Once you have power, in the name of God and the good of the people, you keep it, and the voluntary relinquishment of power is simply seen as weakness or stupidity….

“And our Western democracies still struggle with nepotism, corruption, and cronyism, whose energetic persistence should tell us something…. How could we believe, then, that we could walk into a country like Iraq and do in a few months, or even a few years, or even several decades, what millennia had failed to evolve spontaneously? Because ‘the Iraqi People,’ like everyone else, ‘loved freedom’?”

earlier in this chapter, fox explains how, of course, there is no such thing as “the iraqi people,” but instead that there are lots of tribes in iraq who do not want to share power with other tribes, and certainly do not want the members of other tribes governing over them.

parapundit, waaaay back in 2002, wrote about how the inbreeding practices of middle easterners hampers the development of democracy in those regions. he referred to stanley kurtz’s writings on the matter (stanley kurtz, btw, is a very, very smart fellow and i recommend reading anything and everything by him and taking what he says very seriously) — here are just a couple: Marriage and the Terror War and Marriage and the Terror War, Part II. in that second essay, kurtz wrote:

“Once your subject is the social meaning and function of kinship, the Muslim world stands in stark contrast to every other society in the world — traditional or modern. This contrast, I argue, has everything to do with why Muslim societies have difficulty accommodating modernity, why Muslim immigrants resist assimilation, and why some Muslims are attacking us.

“The key ‘functional connection’ between Middle Eastern marriage practices (which are not religiously dictated, although they are sometimes justified in religious terms) and Islam itself would appear to be the creation and reinforcement of a pervasive cultural tendency to form in-groups with tightly monitored boundaries….

“If we want to change any of this, it will be impossible to restrict ourselves to the study of religious Islam. The ‘self-sealing’ character of Islam is part and parcel of a broader and more deeply rooted social pattern. And parallel-cousin marriage is more than just an interesting but minor illustration of that broader theme. If there’s a ‘self-sealing’ tendency in Muslim social life, cousin marriage is the velcro.

there’s no way a “self-sealing” society is going to adopt modern, liberal democracy (and why do we keep insisting that they do, anyway?). our modern, liberal democratic system requires an open society. it requires the “atomization” of individuals — i.e. that they are not joined at the hip to their extended family members or clans or tribes. it requires society to be corporate in nature [opens pdf] — and that requires outbreeding.

if stanley kurtz explained to all of us online that the muslim world would not become democratic over-night because of their endogamous, cousin-marriage practices, steve sailer explained the why.

in an essay published waaaay back in 2003, steve wrote:

“The biggest disadvantage [from inbreeding], however, may be political.

“Are Muslims, especially Arabs, so much more loyal to their families than to their nations because, due to countless generations of cousin marriages, they are so much more genealogically related to their families than Westerners are related to theirs? Frank Salter, a political scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany whose new book ‘Risky Transactions: Trust, Kinship, and Ethnicity’ takes a sociobiological look at the reason why Mafia families are indeed families, told me, ‘That’s my hunch; at least it’s bound to be a factor.’

One of the basic laws of modern evolutionary science, quantified by the great Oxford biologist William D. Hamilton in 1964 under the name ‘kin selection,’ is that the more close the genetic relationship between two people, the more likely they are to feel loyalty and altruism toward each other. Natural selection has molded us not just to try to propagate our own genes, but to help our relatives, who possess copies of some of our specific genes, to propagate their own.

Nepotism is thus biologically inspired. Hamilton explained that the level of nepotistic feeling generally depends upon degree of genetic similarity. You share half your personally variable genes with your children and siblings, but one quarter with your nephews/nieces and grandchildren, so your nepotistic urges will tend to be somewhat less toward them. You share one eighth of your genes with your first cousins, and one thirty-second with your second cousin, so your feelings of family loyalty tend to fall off quickly.

But not as quickly if you and your relatives are inbred. Then, you’ll be genealogically and related to your kin via multiple pathways. You will all be genetically more similar, so your normal family feelings will be multiplied. For example, your son-in-law might be also be the nephew you’ve cherished since his childhood, so you can lavish all the nepotistic altruism on him that in an outbred family would be split between your son-in-law and your nephew.

Unfortunately, nepotism is usually a zero sum game, so the flip side of being materially nicer toward your relatives would be that you’d have less resources left with which to be civil, or even just fair, toward non-kin. So, nepotistic corruption is rampant in countries such as Iraq, where Saddam has appointed members of his extended family from his hometown of Tikrit to many key positions in the national government.”


steve and stanley and parapundit were all talking about a particular sort of tribal society with a particular form of cousin marriage — father’s brother’s daughter marriage. this form of marriage has been practiced by the arabs since before mohammed arrived on the scene (iow, they have been inbreeding for a very long time). the arabs introduced it to iraq and other places like afghanistan and pakistan and libya in the 700s. the peoples in those places may, of course, have been inbreeding in other ways before their conversion to islam. in any event, they’ve all been inbreeding for many centuries, so liberal democracy is not going to come natural to any of these populations.

but, edogamous mating is endogamous mating, and inclusive fitness is inclusive fitness. what has to be remembered is that there are different degrees of inbreeding (uncle-niece, first-cousin, second-cousin, third-cousin … tenth-cousin, etc.) as well as different types (paternal and maternal being the basic division — paternal results in the “self sealing” societies kurtz described; maternal gets you more alliances with outside groups). while centuries of father’s brother’s daughter marriage results in strongly tribal societies in which liberal democracy doesn’t fit at all, even lesser degrees of endogamous mating don’t seem to be all that great for fostering democracy.

example: the greeks.

we’ve seen that greeks have been practicing endogamous mating for who knows how long (at least back into the mid-1800s, presumably since forever). they don’t marry their first-cousins since that is against the greek orthodox church’s regulations, and they tend to avoid second-cousin marriage. but they do marry very locally — within the same village or neighboring village — preferentially to a third-cousin. (of course, things are probably changing nowadays with moves to urban centers.) the result? the extended-family is very important to greeks — and those familial sentiments spill over into the larger society. nepotism and corruption are very common in greece. almost nobody pays any taxes if they can help it.

how about democracy? how well does does liberal democracy work in what’s considered the birth-place of demokratia? from the nyt:

In the last half-century, three main families have dominated Greek politics.

“The center-left Papandreous have produced three prime ministers: George; his powerful father, Andreas, who founded Pasok, the governing Socialist party; and Andreas’s centrist father, also named George.

“The previous prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis, is the nephew of Konstantinos Karamanlis, a four-time prime minister who founded the New Democracy Party and led Greece in 1974 after the fall of the seven-year military dictatorship.

“Mrs. Bakoyannis and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a member of Parliament with New Democracy, are the children of former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, who led New Democracy in the 1980s and early 1990s and who often sparred with Andreas Papandreou.

“‘These personalities’ — especially Andreas Papandreou and Konstantinos Karamanlis — ‘helped Greece’s development in recent decades as much as they obstructed it,’ said Dimitris Sotiropoulos, a political scientist who has written on post-junta politics in Greece.

“These governments helped rebuild a traumatized country, but they also hardened the system to serve their own cadres and supporters, Mr. Sotiropoulos said….

“Over the years, leaders from each of the families have promised to end corruption. Kostas Karamanlis, a cigar-smoking lawyer with a doctorate in international affairs from Tufts University in the United States, led New Democracy to victory in 2004 on the promise that he would make government transparent, efficient and clean. Five years later, he left politics in disgrace, after his scandal-ridden party lost to Mr. Papandreou and Pasok, who have also promised to stamp out corruption.”

uh … not a good sign that liberal democracy is working very well in your country when political dynasties keep dominating the scene. (er, oops. *ahem*)

but what about on the ground? how do the greeks decide for whom to vote? according to their consciences or according to family ties? well, kinda-sorta both. here’s an account of a sticky voting situation in some local politics in meganisi (featured previously in this post) which pitted one man’s (babis’) brother (stathis) against his father-in-law (petros m.) [pg. 128]:

“[S]ince kinship could not be discounted, Nikos and his family were quite literally placed in a genealogical double bind. The person in the most invidious position was of course Babis, who had to choose between his brother and his wife’s father. I do not know on what grounds he based his choice, though I suspect they were ones of political conviction. At all events, he opted for his father-in-law and quite decisively. But if Babis’s dilemma was resolved according to political convictions, this certainly did not prevent him from trying to further his cause through family connections. Indeed, he went the rounds of all his and Stathis’s relatives and advised them not to vote for his brother. In this he must have been quite successful, for, as Nikos later explained to me, though Stathis made a respectable showing, the votes he secured were all philika psiphismata (friendly votes) and not oikoyeneiaka psiphismata (family votes). In fact the family had ‘brought him down.’

“Needless to say, my host, Nikos, was himself caught up in these unfortunate events and, with the rest of the family, voted against his relative Stathis, and for his (more distant) relative, Petros M. The exception was Nikos’s wife, who voted for her brother Stathis, As Nikos explained, she could scarcely have done anything else — though, as he admitted, it did result in the embarassing oddity of a husband and wife voting differently. As for Nikos’s old mother, Stavroula, she simply voted for whom she was told — Petros M.

“Stathis himself was outraged by this family betrayal and went so far as to boycott Nikos’s kaphenio for several months. Nikos thus paid a price for his part in the family/antifamily pact — and it should be noted that the price itself was measurable in terms of the values of kinship: the loss of the patronage of his beloved kouniados [baptismal/marriage sponsor]. But the real interest of this episode lies in the fact that although it was clearly recognized that votes could be cast along family lines — hence Babis’s visiting of all his relatives; hence Nikos’s contrast between “friendly votes” and “family votes” — in the final analysis kinship was incapable of controlling the vote, and not because an appeal to kinship lacked persuasion or because individuals had their own political ideas, but because kinship itself [author’s emphasis] actually split the vote. Instead of providing the basis for corporate action, the very complexity and multiplicity of kinship connections meant that, politics aside, people’s loyalties were divided. Kinship could be appealed to; its weight could be thrown on the scales; but nothing resulted from it automatically. It might be expected that one would vote for a relative, but in the end one could only vote for the relative by whom one was most persuaded.”

so, close kinship did not entirely win the day — babis did not vote for his own brother, stathis, but rather for his father-in-law. however, babis and stathis’ sister, nikos’ wife, did vote for her brother. and although nikos didn’t vote for his brother-in-law, in voting for petros m. he was voting for a more distant relative.

but the expectation that family would vote for family was obviously there. stathis boycotted his brother-in-law’s establishment afterwards because he hadn’t voted for him. and the greeks have set phrases for distinguishing family votes (oikoyeneiaka psiphismata) from friendly votes (philika psiphismata)? well, that right there illustrates that liberal democracy is not working 100% in greece.

as the author describes it, all of the kinship ties in greece (from all of the inbreeding) means that corporate action is difficult. family looms large in greek politics — it is not a situation of community members voting for representatives — it is family members picking and choosing amongst family members to best represent — or to get them into a position from where they’ll be able to dole out favors to — other family members.

a lot of endogamy creates tribes, for which a liberal democratic system is anathema. but even a lesser amount of endogamy seems to throw up hindrances to liberal democracy as the members of such a population are more focused on getting the best for their extended families, or even clans, rather than on what is best for all. obviously, other hbd traits, like the average iq and average personality type of a population, play huge roles in all of this. genetic relatedness and the consequent inclusive fitness-related drives and behaviors that influence the patterns of social behaviors within a society are simply another layer of biological factors to be considered when trying to understand human actions.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: “hard-won democracy” and cousin marriage conundrum addendum

update 11/25/11: see also the corporate nature of european societies and liberal democracy

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