fbd cousin marriage and clans and tribes in iraq

the counts vary depending on who you talk to and how you want to slice up clans and tribes, but there’s something on the order of 150 tribes comprised of ca. 2,000 clans in iraq today (“today” meaning in 2008). roughly three-quarters of the iraqi population admits to belonging to clans and/or tribes. here’s a map of where the tribes are located (from same report as above – click on map for LARGER view):

iraq - tribes

consang.net puts the cousin marriage rates for iraq at anywhere between 25 and 53% in the 1980s and 2000s [pgs. 17-18 – pdf], and those numbers include a lot of double-first cousin marriages which indicates father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriage. a 50% cousin marriage rate would be one of the highest rates in the world, comparable to places like saudi arabia and pakistan (and certain neighborhoods in bradford).

a 2005 u.n.-funded report from the iraqi ministry of planning and development cooperation [pdf – pg. 47] tells us that, in 2004, seventeen percent of all married women were in fbd marriages (the report refers to them as father’s brother’s son or fbs marriages taking the point of view of the woman — same difference), another four percent were in father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) marriages, and another thirteen percent were to some other kind-of relative within the paternal clan. that’s 34% of marriages between paternal relatives. another fifteen percent of marriages were between maternal relatives — maternal cousins and such. fbd marriage has actually decreased in frequency since the 1940s, but other forms of cousin marriage increased over the same time period. as the report says [pg. 48]:

“Thus, in contrast to patterns among other populations in the Middle East (Patterson 2002), kin marriage frequency does not seem to have decreased with the overall modernisation of Iraq.”

the direct result of all this fbd marriage, i think, is the hierarchical structure of arab/iraqi society in which extended families are nested into sub-clans which are nested into larger clans which, in turn, are nested into tribes — and all of these are based on a patrilineal system. this structure means that subgroups can and do easily fission off from their fellow subgroups and that they don’t always naturally cooperate with one another. this is where the bedouin “I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers” principle comes in. from murphy and kasdan’s “The Structure of Parallel Cousin Marriage” [pg. 24]:

“Degree of relationship is the significant criterion in the determination of allegiances. Distance from a common ancestor in terms of numbers of intervening kinsmen is crucial to the ordering of relations within and between agnatic sections, and the principle of degree of relationship determines the composition of the Ego-centered blood responsibility group.

“[This] fact tells us a great deal about the patrilineal units of Arab society: except perhaps at the level of the tribe, there are no lineages in the sense of bounded groups having a continuing and cohesive base in corporate rights and duties. Differing degrees of relationship within the named groupings tend to break up their internal homogeneity; they are not solidary units, but become activated only temporarily at the call of political expediency….

it’s difficult to next to impossible to form “corporate” cooperative groups like those you find in northwest european societies in fbd marriage societies, because it just doesn’t pay — in inclusive fitness terms — for individuals to cooperate with distant relatives, let alone strangers. or maybe the way to look at it is that, given the degrees of relatedness between family members in such populations, which are way higher than in non-cousin marrying pops, it just pays more for individuals to cooperate with the closest relative(s) possible in any given situation. see steve sailer’s “Cousin Marriage Conundrum” for more on the dynamics of fbd societies.

this is not something automatic or something that can be changed overnight. if you were to take a group of long term outbreeders — like northwest europeans — and set them to marrying their cousins, they would not begin to behave like clannish, nepotistic inbreeders in one generation. i don’t think. we’re probably talking about an evolutionary process here, so you’d have to let a little natural selection take its course. you’d have to allow for the relatedness between individuals in the population to change and for the dynamics within the society to change — in other words for the selection pressures to change — until more clannish individuals began to show higher fitness rates and increased in number in the population.

and vice versa for changing a long term inbreeding society.

as greg cochran has said, “every society selects for something.” i think a long term inbreeding society selects — or can select — for what i call clannishness. and iraqis have got that in spades. they’ve got clans and tribes, nepotism, and an obvious inability to handle liberal democracy. not that that’s some sort of goal in and of itself. i’m just sayin’.

so the degree and the type of inbreeding or outbreeding in any population is important — i.e. the percentage of cousin marriages, for instance, which we’ve seen is high in iraq, and whether or not those cousin marriages are fbd in type which leads to increased amounts of the very close double-first cousin marriages — but so is the length of time of the inbreeding or outbreeding. the question then is: for how long have iraqis been marrying their cousins, in particular their fbds?

in “Parallel-Cousin (FBD) Marriage, Islamization, and Arabization”, andrey korotayev points out that fbd marriage is found almost exclusively in those areas of the world that were a part of the eighth century caliphate (one exception seems to be the sotho-tswana peoples of southern africa):

caliphate in 750

korotayev suggests, rightly so i think, that the arabs introduced fbd marriage to populations in the maghreb, mashriq, and south asia (afghanistan and pakistan). the locals picked up on fbd marriage as part of a broader arabization process — they were just generally keen to imitate their new overlords in all ways. (btw, pseudoerasmus is on a mission to figure out why any group would adopt fbd marriage at all. most peoples consider it too incestuous [it does lead to a lot of double-first cousin matings], so keep an eye out on pseudo’s blog for more on that!)

the arabs conquered iraq (as part of their conquest of the persian sasanian empire) in the early part of the 600s, so that’s a good 1400 years of possible fbd marriage in iraq, although it no doubt took some time before the local population adopted the practice in significant numbers. it’s worth noting that this is pretty much diametrically opposed to what happened in europe where cousin marriage of all sorts began to be banned right around the same time.

question is, were the peoples of iraq marrying cousins of any sort before the arabs arrived? my guess is that they were not marrying their fbds before the arabs arrived, and, going by the below description of the aramaeans (which is just hearsay, i’ll admit), many of them may not have been marrying their closest cousins much at all. (of course, the elite persians — the zoroastrians — were marrying their siblings, but that’s another story for another day.) from Iraq After the Muslim Conquest, here’s what the arabs thought of the aramaeans [pg. 179]:

For their part, Arabs tended to stereotype Aramaeans as arrogant people who identified themselves by their place of origin instead of by a tribal genealogy. Arabs looked down on them as people who had lost their power and independence first to Persian and then to Arab rulers. According to Mas’udi, the Anbat were inferior to Arabs because the latter were granted a prophet and the former were not.”

inbred, clannish peoples tend to identify themselves by some sort of family name or at least by the names of their fathers and grandfathers — think: arabs, chinese, russians, scots. it’s outbred peoples who often take other sorts of surnames — like all the “professional” names of the english (miller, cooper, sawyer, lawyer, archer!). many northwest european groups have this, of course. so it’s interesting that the aramaeans did not identify themselves according to tribe but according to place. this might indicate that they were not regular inbreeders, but Further Research Is RequiredTM.

btw, here’s what the aramaeans thought of the arabs:

“On their side, the Aramaeans, as representatives of a sedentary, orderly, agricultural population, reacted somewhat unfavorably to what was felt to be an impetuosity or excitability on the part of Arabs. This attitude and the stereotpe it involved is well illustrated in the case of an Arab monk from Hira named Mar Eliyya who lived at the Nestorian monastery on Mt. Izla above Nasibin in the late sixth century. The monastic chronicler who described Rabban Eliyya’s energentic response to a crisis in the community found it necessary to explain that he possessed the ‘violent character of the bedouin.’ Such attitudes survived the conquest and were expressed as a feeling of superiority on the part of the Anbat over Arabs because of the achievements of the Babylonians, the antiquity and spread of their civilization, the flourishing of agriculture, and their acceptance of Islam without having a prophet appear amongst them.”

here’s more from Iraq After the Muslim Conquest [pg. 236]:

“The single most important ethnographic change in seventh-century Iraq was the arrival of large numbers of Muslim Arabs from the Arabian peninsula and the foundation of new urban centers as garrison cities where they settled….”

the author, historian michael morony, goes on to describe the settlement patterns of the invading arabs in two cities, kufa and basra — the arabs had gated communities and everything! [pgs. 242-243, 246]:

The pattern which emerges at Kufa is that of a city divided into separate tribal districts (Ar. sg. *nahiya* or *mahalla*), each with its own *masjid* for daily worship and tribal assemblies, its own cemetery, and with gates to close off the streets going through each district. Within each district, the members of the respective tribes seem to have settled by clan along lanes or alleys adjacent to the main street of the district. From a purely descriptive point of view, it is possible to identify most of the tribal districts in seventh-century Kufa….

“It also seems that as time passed, subgroups within a tribal district tended to form their own neighborhoods. Such were the districts (*mahallat*) of the Banu Shaytan clan of Tamim and of the Banu ‘Anz ibn Wa’il, who had their own *masjid*….”

“The organization of Basra along tribal lines was similar to that of Kufa….”

another city, hira, had been heavily settled in by arab traders for generations before the arab invasions, and they, too, had lived in neighborhoods arranged according to clans/tribes, so the clan system obviously goes well back in arab society [pg. 221]:

“Hira was the political and cultural hub of this zone of Arab settlement and, in spite of the presence of Persian soliders and *dahaqin*, it was considered to be an Arab city. The Arab population of Hira was a mixture of many small groups of diverse tribal origins. Members of Tanukh, Tayyi’, Tamim, Sulaym, ‘Ijl, Shayban, Tha’laba, Asad, Azd, Kalb, and others could be found at Hira. The organization of late Sasanian Hira around several fortified enclosures (Ar. *qusur*) that were identified with particular clans, the existence of tribal churches, and the political and social domination of the town by an elite of notables (Ar. *ashraf*) belonging to the leading clans make Hira a good example of a late pre-Islamic Arab city as well as a prototype for tribally organized early Islamic cities such as Kufa and Bara.”

more from morony [pgs. 254-255]:

One of the most apparent social consequences of the conquest was an extension of tribal social organization, especially in urban settings. This was associated with the new ruling group and was partly the result of the cohesion of tribal groups, which preserved their identities in the garrison cities and even enhanced their ties to other groups on the basis of nominal kinship. The state also helped to preserve such identities by using them as a basis for military organization. An equally powerful influence in the survival of tribal society, however, was the Qur’an. It sanctioned many aspects of the tribal social ethic, such as the importance of group solidarity, joint responsibility, exemplary behavior, generosity, hospitality, the protection of the weak by the strong, raiding, and retaliation. Although the intention in the Qur’an was to replace tribal identities with an Islamic identity, many tribal social values received a new religious sanction in the process.

Retaliation is a good example of the survival and reinterpretation of the tribal ethic in early Islamic Iraq. The Qur’an sanctioned the principle of retaliation partly because it was impossible to suppress it completely and partly because the early Islamic community at Madina faced a desperate struggle for survival. But the Qur’an also attempted to prevent an unending chain of blood vengeance by recommending charity, forgiveness, and the acceptance of a blood-price (Ar. *diya*) as the better way.

“The annals of early Islamic history are full of examples of retaliation, and there is no question that it remained one of the most important responsibilities of kinship. Of greater significance are the attempts by the state to restrict and to control it. When two of Muthanna’s lieutenants drowned several members of the tribes of Taghlib and Namir at Siffin [in syria-h.chick] in 634 in retaliation for a pre-Islamic grievance, ‘Umar made them swear that they had done it as an example and not out of vengeance. Under Mu’awiya the state attempted to regulate the operation of the private blood-feud in Iraq by enforcing the responsibilities of the clan (Ar. *aqila*) as a legal unit. At Basra, Ziyad held families and tribes responsible for the behavior of their members. Payment of the blood-price was assured by deducting the amount from the pay of the guilty party or from that of his tribe. If the victim was non-Muslim, half the normal blood-price went to the next of kin and the other half to the state treasury….”

so the invading arabs introduced — directly transplanted, really — into seventh century iraq tribes and tribal behaviors, including blood feuds, along with their underlying foundation, fbd marriage. i’m not sure what the social structures of pre-islamic iraq were like, but from what morony says, it sounds as though the arab-style of tribalism was a new introduction at the time to the region.

divisions within pre-islamic iraqi society had, however, been growing in the late sasanian era, and these divisions were not at all discouraged by the arabs once they took charge [pgs. 518 and 278]:

One of the most important of such trends was the formation of a society composed of religious communities, which was already well under way by the late sixth century with the strengthening of internal bonds and external boundaries….

“[T]he Muslims expected Jews and Christians to live according to their own religious laws, so the conquest had the effect of encouraging the operation and continuing development of autonomous systems of religious laws….”

“[T]he formation of…closely knit communities increasingly isolated the members of one group from those of another. The boundaries created between religious groups by separarte bodies of law are indicative of the rising barriers to interfaith relations at the end of the Sasanian period. The defensiveness associated with this development was symbolized by a shared vocabulary of protective walls. The Magians [zoroastrians-h.chick] saw the good fortune of their religion (M.P. *den x’arrah*) as a fortress-like enclosure formed by the starry band around the sky, which protected the good from the attacks of demons. Jews spoke of making a fence around the Torah, and the Nestorian synod of 554 called the canons ‘high walls, impregnable fortresses, protecting their guardians against all danger.'”

so, it’s not as though pre-islamic iraq was a unified nation, either. yes, my curiosity has been raised, so i’ll be checking into all of this further.

iraqis have been working on being highly clannish and tribal for nearly 1400 years, if not longer. my conservative guesstimate is that they’ve been practicing the closest form of cousin marriage possible — fbd marriage — for a thousand years, again if not longer. that’s about 40 generations, if we count a generation at 25 years in length.

like super misdreavus tweeted, there’s no reason to think that simply introducing western institutions to the country will change how the country works. not overnight. not even in ten or twenty generations, if the new institutions could somehow be sustained for that long in the country. saddam hussein tried to suppress the clans and tribes — he apparently banned the use of tribal names [pg. 3] — as did gaddafi in libya, but to no avail. iraq’s solutions lie in that country’s own traditions — their own methods of governing and running things — not in western style democracy.

as super misdreavus also tweeted, remember that “hbd denial costs human lives.” i sincerely wish — for the sake of the people in iraq, for the sake of everyone — that people would wake up to this fact.

(note: comments do not require an email. erbil, iraq – inhabited for 8,000 years.)


nepotism as a moral duty (in iraq)

here’s an oldie but a goodie — from the nyt in 2003:

Iraqi Family Ties Complicate American Efforts for Change
Published: September 28, 2003


“Americans just don’t understand what a different world Iraq is because of these highly unusual cousin marriages,” said Robin Fox of Rutgers University, the author of “Kinship and Marriage,” a widely used anthropology textbook. “Liberal democracy is based on the Western idea of autonomous individuals committed to a public good, but that’s not how members of these tight and bounded kin groups see the world. Their world is divided into two groups: kin and strangers.”

Iraqis frequently describe nepotism not as a civic problem but as a moral duty. The notion that Iraq’s next leader would put public service ahead of family obligations drew a smile from Iqbal’s uncle and father-in-law, Sheik Yousif Sayel, the patriarch in charge of the clan’s farm on the Tigris River south of Baghdad.

“In this country, whoever is in power will bring his relatives in from the village and give them important positions,” Sheik Yousif said, sitting in the garden surrounded by some of his 21 children and 83 grandchildren. “That is what Saddam did, and now those relatives are fulfilling their obligation to protect him from the Americans.”

Saddam Hussein married a first cousin who grew up in the same house as he did, and he ordered most of his children to marry their cousins….

Next to the family, the sons’ social priority is the tribe, Sadah, which has several thousand members in the area and is led by Sheik Yousif. He and his children see their neighbors when praying at Sunni mosques, but none belong to the kind of civic professional groups that are so common in America, the pillars of civil society that observers since de Tocqueville have been crediting for the promotion of democracy.

“I told my children not to participate in any outside groups or clubs,” Sheik Yousif said. “We don’t want distractions. We have a dynasty to preserve.” To make his point, he told his sons to unroll the family tree, a scroll 70 feet long with lots of cousins intertwined in the branches.

the arab and arabized world ranks very low in surveys of civic behaviors. the middle east/maghreb typically vies with eastern europe for bottom place in the rankings when it comes to people joining voluntary associations. see this previous post: civic societies ii.

more from the nyt:

Cousin marriage was once the norm throughout the world, but it became taboo in Europe after a long campaign by the Roman Catholic Church. Theologians like St. Augustine and St. Thomas argued that the practice promoted family loyalties at the expense of universal love and social harmony. Eliminating it was seen as a way to reduce clan warfare and promote loyalty to larger social institutions — like the church.

The practice became rare in the West, especially after evidence emerged of genetic risks to offspring, but it has persisted in some places, notably the Middle East, which is exceptional because of both the high prevalence and the restrictive form it takes. In other societies, a woman typically weds a cousin outside her social group, like a maternal cousin living in a clan led by a different patriarch. But in Iraq the ideal is for the woman to remain within the clan by marrying the son of her father’s brother, as Iqbal did.

The families resulting from these marriages have made nation-building a frustrating process in the Middle East, as King Faisal and T. E. Lawrence both complained after efforts to unite Arab tribes.

“The tribes were convinced that they had made a free and Arab Government, and that each of them was It,” Lawrence wrote in “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” in 1926. “They were independent and would enjoy themselves a conviction and resolution which might have led to anarchy, if they had not made more stringent the family tie, and the bonds of kin-responsibility. But this entailed a negation of central power.”

That dichotomy remains today, said Ihsan M. al-Hassan, a sociologist at the University of Baghdad. At the local level, the clan traditions provide more support and stability than Western institutions, he said, noting that the divorce rate among married cousins is only 2 percent in Iraq, versus 30 percent for other Iraqi couples. But the local ties create national complications.

“The traditional Iraqis who marry their cousins are very suspicious of outsiders,” Dr. Hassan said. “In a modern state a citizen’s allegiance is to the state, but theirs is to their clan and their tribe. If one person in your clan does something wrong, you favor him anyway, and you expect others to treat their relatives the same way.”

The more educated and urbanized Iraqis have become, Dr. Hassan said, the more they are likely to marry outsiders and adopt Western values. But the clan traditions have hardly disappeared in the cities, as is evident by the just-married cousins who parade Thursday evenings into the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad. Surveys in Baghdad and other Arab cities in the past two decades have found that close to half of marriages are between first or second cousins.

The prevalence of cousin marriage did not get much attention before the war from Republicans in the United States who expected a quick, orderly transition to democracy in Iraq. But one writer who investigated the practice warned fellow conservatives to stop expecting postwar Iraq to resemble postwar Germany or Japan.

“The deep social structure of Iraq is the complete opposite of those two true nation-states, with their highly patriotic, cooperative, and (not surprisingly) outbred peoples,” Steve Sailer wrote in The American Conservative magazine in January. “The Iraqis, in contrast, more closely resemble the Hatfields and the McCoys….”


and while we’re quoting robin fox, here from The Tribal Imagination [pg. 62]:

“For a start, there is no ‘Iraqi People.’ The phrase should be banned as misleading and purely rhetorical. Iraq as a ‘nation’ (like the ‘nation’ of Kuwait) was devised by the compasses and protractors of Gertrude Bell when the British and French divided up the Middle East in 1921. We know well enough the ethnic-religious division into Kurd, Sunni, and Shia. People who know very little else can rehearse that one (even if they do not really know the difference; the Kurds are Sunnis, after all). But what is not understood is that Iraq, like the other countries of the regions, still stands at a level of social evolution where the family, clan, tribe, and sect command major allegiance. The idea of the individual autonomous voter, necessary and commonplace in our own systems, is relatively foreign.”

(note: comments do not require an email. tribal map of iraq.)

cousin marriage in sub-saharan africa

whenever i’m kinda tired and slightly braindead, i usually start trawling the streets google books or online journals for any info/data on mating patterns in human populations. (unless i rewatch star wars for the umpteenth millionth time, obviously.) it’s my own, personal form of trainspotting just with less trains. and more mating patterns.

so i thought i’d share with you what i’ve got to date for sub-saharan (ss) african populations. this is faaar from being a complete list, nor is it systematic in any way. it’s just the stuff that i’ve happened to come across so far, so don’t read anything into the list like “overall there seems to be more inbreeding or outbreeding” or whatever.

first of all, there are a LOT of ss african populations! thousands. so, you know, it’ll take some time to get info on them all! here’s a map of the broad ethnolinguistic groups of africa that i’ve stolen from wikipedia — remember that there are hundreds if not thousands of subgroups within these broad groups:

subsaharan africa ethnolinguistic groups

needless to say, with such a wide variety of peoples, there is also a wide variety of mating patterns in ss africa. some populations avoid cousin marriage altogether. we’ve already seen this with the bamileke of cameroon and the igbo of nigeria. also the turkana of kenya and quite possibly the amhara of ethiopia (not 100% sure about them — need to double-check). a notable group which apparently avoids cousin marriage is the zulu. but plenty of other ss africa groups do practice cousin marriage like, as you’ll see in the table below, the kongo and luba in the democratic republic of congo, the ashanti in ghana, the sotho-tswana in south africa, and the kpelle of liberia. (fun fact that’s stuck in my brain for some reason — some of oprah’s ancestors were probably kpelle.)

the most common form of cousin marriage in ss africa is mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage which isn’t too surprising since that is the most common form of cousin marriage in the world. there’s an interesting twist to it in ss africa, though, thanks to all of the polygamy which is also very common in ss african societies. here from robin fox [pg. 195]:

This latter form of marriage [mother’s brother’s daughter] is common in Africa and in patrilineal societies generally. Often, in Africa, it goes along with marriage to the wife’s brother’s daughter, as shown in diagram 4.2. A man either marries his wife’s brother’s daughter or passes the privilege on to his son (at least this is one way of looking at it). In many societies it is simply a straightforward privilege to marry the mother’s brother’s daughter.”

so, yeah, in case you were wondering, that would make the kids of these two wives (wife number one/aunt and wife number two/niece) both half-siblings and first cousins once-removed. and the children of wife number one are the first cousins once-removed to their father (and mother). and the children of wife number two are second cousins to their father. i think. i’ll let you think about it for a while. (~_^)

there is some father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage (the type favored by the arabs) in some areas of ss africa — most notably amongst the hausa and fulani in northern nigeria, and the songhai and soninke in mali — but these are all muslim groups who i would guess picked up fbd marriage from the arabs/north african groups that introduced islam to them. youssef courbage and emmanuel todd think otherwise [pg. 43]:

“So-called Arab marriage, accepting union with any first cousin, but preferably with the father’s brother’s daughter, is not characteristic of sub-Saharan Africa. It is widely practiced only by the Fulani, nomadic herders of the northern fringe, immediately south of the desert, at a level so much higher than the Arab norm that it probably had an independent origin. It is also characteristic of some sedentary groups in the same area (Soninke in Senegal, Mali, and Mauritania; Songhai in Mali; Hausa in northern Nigeria). In West Africa, marriage is usually either exogamous or characterized by a preference for cross-cousin marriage, that is, between the children of a brother and a sister, a practice that has nothing to do with Islam.”

i don’t know if that statement about the fulani practicing a greater amount of fbd marriage than the arabs is correct or not. i shall have to try and find out. (here might be a good place to start.) i think it’s more likely that, being that the fulani have obviously been in contact with the arab/muslim world for quite a long time, they picked up the practice in that way. the afghanis and pakistanis also practice quite a lot of fbd marriage even though they’re at the edge of the “arabized” world, albeit at the other end of it, so i doubt that distance from arabia matters much here. it’s the contact with the greater arab world that counts.

two ss african groups that do seem to have adopted fbd marriage independently are the sotho-tswana and venda of south africa. need to learn more about those two groups. (note that the fbd marriage recorded in the table for the tutsi in rwanda refers only to some of the elites, not the general population.)

additionally, as in christian europe (especially medieval europe), some ss african groups prohibit marriage between in-laws — which is interesting. one example are the yao of malawi. they, however, happen to have a preference for cross-cousin marriage.

again, the other mating practice that is very common in ss africa is polygamy. i’ve said a few times here on the blog that you’d think that that would narrow the gene pool/relatedness between individuals in a group just as cousin marriage does. it might not always, though, because polygamy is not one thing either (can nothing ever be easy and straightforward?! (~_^) ). the lozi of zambia, for instance, apparently practice (or did traditionally) a sort of rapid serial polygamy, with wives being shuffled rather quickly on to the next husband, so that wouldn’t really narrow the genetic relatedness in the population at all, afaics. quite the opposite really. on the other hand, some groups practice sororal polygamy with the men making sure to marry sets of sisters, so that would narrow the relatedness in the group more so than a more basic form of polygamy in which men married women more randomly. the conclusion wrt polygamy, i think, is that each group will have to be evaluated on an individual basis. (*sigh*)

problem number one: for my purposes, since i’m interested in evolution and the selection of behavioral traits, i need to know how long populations have been inbreeding or outbreeding for, since natural selection does take some amount of time (but not necessarily millions of years). that’s difficult to work out for ss africans (and most of the world for that matter) without historic records or reams of genetic data which we haven’t got yet. it might be possible to reconstruct some of the history of mating patterns for some of the groups in ss africa from colonial accounts, especially those of missionaries who also acted as early ethnographers in many ways. we shall see. it would certainly be interesting to know for how long some of these groups have been inbreeding or outbreeding. as we’ve already seen, for instance, wikipedia claims that the igbo had a “quasi-republican” form of government in the 1400s with some sort of one-man-one-vote system. that’s not a system you find in heavily inbreeding societies — at least none that i can think of. what if it’s connected to the igbo outbreeding? dunno. Further Research is RequiredTM — and most likely it’ll have to be genetic.

problem number two: don’t have a whole lot of info on the rates of cousin marriage (or not) for most of these populations either. that’s also an extremely important detail to know. here are the few groups that i do have some numbers for:

– the fulani of burkina-faso: 65.8% first and second cousin marriage rate
– the fulani, mandinka, and wolof in gambia: 65% of first marriages of men are to a cousin – that’s an average of the three populations, and i don’t have a breakdown for each group
– the fouta-jallon (taramabli-dionfo) of guinea: 25.9% cousin marriage rate
– the yoruba of oka akoko in nigeria: 51.2% cousin marriage rate
– the lobedu (sotho) of south africa: 30% cousin marriage rate

so, there’s a variety in the rates, too. again, not surprising.

i think that’s it by way of the intro, so without further ado, here is my table. oh, the populations highlighted in yellow are those which include more than ten million people. and many of these groups spill over into other countries, of course, apart from the ones in which i’ve listed them [click on table for LARGER view – should open in new tab/window]:

cousin marriage in africa - table

i think that’s it for now! stay tuned. (^_^)

A Companion to Ethics
– Consang.net – Table 1 – Consanguinity in Africa [pdf]
Contingent Lives: Fertility, Time, and Aging in West Africa
A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around The World
Culture and Customs of South Africa
Ethnic Groups of Africa and the Middle East: An Encyclopedia
The Family Estate in Africa: Studies in the Role of Property in Family Structure and Lineage Continuity
Joking, Affinity and the Exchange of Ritual Services Among the Kiga of Northern Rwanda: An Essay on Joking Relationship Theory
The Making of the Pentecostal Melodrama: Religion, Media and Gender in Kinshasa
Man in Africa
Milk, Honey, and Money: Changing Concepts in Rwandan Healing
Nomads who Cultivate Beauty: Wodaabe Dances and Visual Arts in Niger
The Problem of Context
Reproduction and Social Organization in Sub-Saharan Africa
Seven Tribes of British Central Africa
Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives
The Social Basis of Health and Healing in Africa
Structure and Sentiment: A Test Case for Social Anthropology
Women and Marriage in Kpelle Society
Women of Tropical Africa

previously: the bamileke of cameroon and fulani, hausa, igbo, and yoruba mating patterns and the turkana: mating patterns, family types, and social structures and ethiopia notes and
flatlanders vs. mountaineers revisited

(note: comments do not require an email. the yao of malawi. people will do the silliest things!)

fulani, hausa, igbo, and yoruba mating patterns

the war nerd says of some of the populations in nigeria:

“Nigeria’s three parts were simply nailed together by the British for their Imperial convenience: The North is a Muslim theocracy dominated by the Hausa and Fulani; the West, where the Yoruba kings (Oba) ruled city-states; and the East, where the Igbo operated on something a lot like ancient Greek assemblies, with every freeborn man entitled to a voice.”

hmmmm. doesn’t that sound interesting! more…

“The Yoruba were the first to meet the whites and take up Western education. They dealt with the British town by town; to the Yoruba, your town was more important than the broader ethnic identity. The Igbo came late to British rule but took to education very quickly. The Igbo get called ‘the Jews of Africa’ because they’re good at book-learning and business.

“And then there were the Northerners, the Hausa-dominated Muslims of the dry inland territory. In a way, you wouldn’t be far off thinking of the great Nigerian divide in California terms: the coasts vs. the hot inland redneck zone. The North, in Nigerian terms, is usually called ‘Hausa,’ or ‘Hausa-Fulani,’ but it includes the Kanuri of the Northeast, who are the most remote from the coast and the fiercest opponents of anything coastal, Christian, or modern. These were all war-forged Sahel caliphates, with no tradition of local loyalties like the Yoruba, or egalitarianism like the Igbo. They had the traditional Sahel-Muslim organization, top-down all the way: Sultan gives orders to Omda, Omda gives orders to Sheikh, Sheikh gives orders to commoners. And commoners obey.”

so we’ve got clannish/tribal northerners — the fulani and the hausa. and then we have the city-state yoruba and the “egalitarian” igbo.

i’d just like to point out that:

– the fulani prefer first or second cousin marriage and specifically father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage. they’re pastoralists. there are good chances i think that, like other groups elsewhere, the fulani adopted the fbd marriage of the arabs when they converted to islam (starting in the 1400s?), but perhaps they simply practice fbd marriage because they’re pastoralists.

– the hausa also prefer cousin marriage, but it seems cross-cousin marriage, so we’re talking father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) or mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage. they are also largely muslim, but don’t seem to have adopted the fbd marriage of the arabs like their neighbors the fulani. islam has been present in hausa lands since the 1200s, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that it had fully penetrated the population.

– cousin marriage doesn’t seem to be very prevalant amongst the yoruba [pg. 74] — definitely they don’t seem to *prefer* any particular form of cousin marriage [pg. 102]. some subgroups of yoruba do have very high cousin marriage rates — the people in the town of oka akoko were found to have a consanguinity rate of 51% which included uncle-niece marriages [pg. 4]. notably, oka akoko is in a mountainous region. another case of mountaineers marrying closely? dunno. Further Research is RequiredTM!

– the igbo avoid cousin marriage altogether. no form of cousin marriage is permitted. no idea how far back this goes, but it would sure be interesting to know. if wikipedia is to be believed, the igbo had a “quasi-republican” form of government in the 1400s (see also here). wouldn’t it be cool if that system was connected to mating patterns?! dunno though. we shall have to wait and see if any further info presents itself.

oh, and btw — polygamy is present in all of these groups — and probably has been for a long, long time.

perhaps there’s something in all this, perhaps not, but these groups do seem to fit the usual pattern — closer mating patterns=more closed societies, broader mating patters=more open societies. dunno. just sayin’. Further Research is RequiredTM!


previously: the bamileke of cameroon

(note: comments do not require an email. jaja of opobo.)

archaic greek mating patterns and kinship terms

i’ve got this idea that the more specific a group’s mating patterns, the more specific their kinship terms — and vice versa.

so, if you’re the arabs, and you prefer father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage, you’ll have some rather specific kinship terms for all of your different aunts and uncles and cousins, because you want to be able to identify who your bint ‘amm is. if you’re the chinese, and you have an historic preference for mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage, you’ll also have specific kinship terms for all of your relatives. in fact, both of these societies have the most complicated of kinship terminology systems: the sudanese kinship system.

on the other hand, if you’re not picky about which cousin you can marry OR if all of your cousins are off-limits (like in christian europe), then you might not bother to designate any differences between your cousins (or other relatives). in the hawaiian kinship system, for instance, the only differentiation between relatives is sex and age, so all your brothers and male cousins are just “brother” and all your sisters and female cousins are just “sister.” and in traditional hawaiian society, marriage was very flexible.

meanwhile, in pre-christian europe, most all european populations had different terms for male and female, paternal and maternal cousins — like the arabs or chinese. after converting to christianity and adopting the church’s cousin marriage bans, the kinship terminology shifted to one in which cousins were no longer individually identified (see, for example, German Kinship Terms, 750-1500: Documentation and Analysis and this previous post). as michael mitterauer describes, this process took a few hundred years to happen [pgs. 68-69]:

“Fundamental trends in the changing kinship systems in Europe can best be deduced from the modified kinship terms in various European languages. Initially, terminological analyses will only yield very general clues that other indicators can differentiate and refine. Above all, these analyses cannot allow us to conclude anything about how some of the concepts used mirror a certain contemporaneous social order. Kinship terminology often outlasted by hundreds of years the conditions that gave rise to it. We frequently come upon phenomena of cultural lag when tapping this linguistic source in the attempt to learn about historical kinship systems, but that a change in a social situation must have preceded a change in vocabulary lies beyond a shadow of doubt.

so what does any of this have to do with archaic greece (800 BC – 480 BC)? (or classical greece and athens for that matter?)

well, from mitterauer again we have [pg. 69]:

“Greek was the first European language to eliminate the terminological distinction between the father’s and mother’s side, a transition that began as early as between the fifth and third century BC.35

so that’s just at the transition point between archaic greece and classical greece. but starting at least in the early part of the archaic period and lasting throughout to the classical period the archaic greeks were outbreeding! at least the upper class ones were — difficult/impossible to know about the lower classes. from Women in Ancient Greece [pg. 67]:

“Marriages were arranged by the prospective groom and the prospective bride’s guardian, and the wife usually (although not always) went to live with her husband’s family. In the early Archaic Age [800 BC – 480 BC], to judge from the evidence of Homer’s poems (e.g. ‘Odyssey’ 4.5), male members of the upper classes generally married women who were not related to them, and who came from different areas. This upper-class habit of exogamy — marrying outside the community — was related to the political importance which marriage possessed in these circles. Marriage exchanges were one of the means by which noble families created political alliances with groups living in other areas, and in this way they made a considerable contribution to the aristocracy’s stranglehold on power. This practice survived to the end of the Archaic Age. However, with the emergence of the *polis*, exogamy began to give way in some places to endogamy — to marriage within the community. For the upper classes, this meant marriage within a tight circle of aristocratic families living in the same *polis*.”

so there was outbreeding in archaic greece for a few hundred years (at least amongst the upper classes), and, then, eventually — after about 400 years or so — there was a linguistic shift to more general kinship terms which reflected that outbreeding. in other words, there was a lag time between the “social situation” (or mating patterns) and the linguistic shift in the kinship terms. in medieval german, the shift to more general terms for cousins began in the 1100s, about 300-600 years after the cousin marriage bans arrived in northern europe (depending on what region you look at).

that’s all for now. more anon!

previously: loosening of genetic ties in europe started before christianity? and demokratia

(note: comments do not require an email. archaic greek chicks.)

hejazis vs. najdis (and vice versa)

in my last post on saudi arabs, i mentioned that there are maybe, perhaps some hints that the historic mating patterns amongst the najdis of the central part of the arab peninsula were closer than those amongst the hejazis of the western coast. maybe. there are only hints, so it’s hard to be sure.

one other hint that the hejazis maybe outbred a bit more than the najdis is the somewhat greater freedoms that women have historically had in the region (the pattern seems to be the stronger the inbreeding, the more restrictions on women). from Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for an Arabian Identity [pg. 27]:

“As in other societies the Arab concept of family is closely linked to that of female honour. In the Arabian Peninsula the urban Hijazis have historically been viewed as more lax or lenient in such matters than tribal Najdi culture, with its strict Wahhabi norms of sexual segregation. An increased emphasis on female honour has, however, developed among some of the Hijazi *’awa’il* in reaction to Najdi standards.”

if the elevation/marginal environment theory of inbreeding/outbreeding is correct, then it would make sense if arabs living right along the coast in the west were inbred less. same for those on the east coast, i suppose. (the greatest oubreeders of the arab peninsula ought to be in the southeast area of saudi arabia, but i don’t think many people live there!):

saudi arabia - topography

in any case, saudi society is not just clannish, it’s downright tribalistic — and the people of the hejazi region don’t like the people of the najdi region. and the feeling is very much mutual [pgs. 16-17, 85]:

The most obvious and important expression of the persistence of social boundaries is the rarity of intermarriage between Najdis and Hijazis, with obvious implications for cultural assimilation. Hijazi opinion on this matter varies. Some explain that Najdi men fear the consequences of marital alliances with Hijazi families, while others contend that Hijazis are reluctant to allow their daughters to marry Najdis, because of polygamy, ease of divorce and stricter gender segregation among the Najdis. Najdi men — who do not hesitate to take wives from other Arab countries — regard marrying a woman from the same country as a greater commitment, especially when she is from an inferior or less ‘pure’ lineage in the Najdi grading of tribal descent. Meanwhile, the Hijazies, who claim descent from the Prophet’s tribe, the Quarysh, consider themselves the superior ones. Competition in ‘purity of blood’ in the Arabian Peninsula reaches its apotheosis in the context of intermarriage, and the few instances of it are typically between a Hijazi man and a non-tribal (i.e. ‘non-pure blood’) Najdi *khadiri*, as a tribal Najdi *gabili* will not marry outside the group. Even in these rare cases, the Najdi *khadiri* family typically makes the marriage procedures very lenthy and costly….

“The images that Hijazi and Najdi have of one another and the names they use to describe each other are further indications of social boundaries and the consciousness that sustains them. The Hijazis, for example, call the Najdis *shurug* (Easterners), a derogatory term. Another term, *badu* (Bedouin), carries an even worse connotation — essentially a lack of urban refinement. On the other hand, the Najdis call Hijazis *tarsh al-bahr*, (the flotsam of the sea) and *bagaya hujjaj*, (pilgrimage remnants). Whereas the first term is applied to those from Jeddah and the second to Meccans and Medinese, both allude to the ‘impurity’ of Hijazis’ Arab descent, owing to intermarriage with non-Arab Muslims. While the Najdis pride themselves on their lineage and *asala* (purity of blood), the Hijazis pride themselves on their *zawg* (good taste), *anaga* (elegance), *nazaka* (refinement) and *usul* (knowledge of the rules of propriety). To be sure, Hijazis also place lineage as the first criterion of status and respectability, especially those claiming descent from the Quraysh. But for those from other Muslim countries who settled in Mecca, Medina or Taif, lineage does not imply ‘blood purity’, but rather three generations of good social standing. As a result, ‘Najdis regard Hijazis as degenerate and not quite Arabian’….

“Marriages between Hijazis and Najdis are very rare. The exceptions are one way, occurring between a *khadiri* (non-tribal, ‘non-pure’ Najdi) woman and a Hijazi man, especially if he is wealthy and offering a high *mahr*. Najdis do not marry Hijazis because their lineage is not considered pure enough. Therefore Hijazis are excluded from marriage with the Najdi elite…. The rarity of cases of inter-marriage between Hijazis and Najdis is the most significant expression of the social boundaries between the regions of Saudi Arabia and an obvious example of the cultural distinctivenss of the Hijazis. Despite the attempt at integration and national homogeneity, marriage practices and alliances demonstrate the fractured nature of the Saudi state.

not much love there, then.

and, like i said, saudi society is very tribal — extremely tribal. from Challenges to the Cohesion of the Arab State [pgs. 181-182, 184, 186-187 – links added by me]:

“Saudi Arabia is known in the literature as a ‘rentier state.’ In its most narrow meaning, a rentier states refers to a state which gains most of its revenues not from taxes, but rather from the income (‘rents’) derived from the sale of natural resources, in this case — petroleum. In the Saudi case, the state distributes much of the income to the population, without taxing it. Saudi Arabia has (as have other wealthy Gulf states) an unwritten ‘social contract’ between the Sa’ud family and its subjects: the family runs a cradle-to-grave social welfare system and guarantees employment in the public sector; in exchange, the population is expected to be loyal, without having a representative system. It is, in fact, a system of ‘no taxation, no representation.’

This governmental system dovetails quite nicely with the tribalistic character of Saudi Arabia, and to a great extent even duplicates it. Although the tribe, as a discrete social unit, has been somewhat weakened in Saudi Arabia due to the efforts of the Saudi state, the structure of relations between the Sa’ud family and the population operates to a great extent according to tribalistic patterns and values, and thus contributes to national cohesion.

“Certain political, and socio-economic groups develop a corporate identity and behavior, not unlike that of tribes. These groups are termed *’asabiyyat* (from the word *’asabiyya*, tribal solidarity), and indeed form the core of social cohesion in Saudi Arabia. They are patron-client groups that have a common tribal, regional, family, or ethnic background, which is used to obtain jobs or resources from the central government. In return, the central government uses these relationships to command the loyalty of these groups. In this sense, the state is an extension of tribal politics.

in 1961, when the saudi central government was moved from jeddah (in hejazi territory) to riyadh (in najdi territory), pretty much ALL of the hejazi civil servants were sacked and replaced with najdis [pg. 94]. now THAT’S what i call nepotism!

more from Challenges to the Cohesion of the Arab State:

“Tribalistic patterns of behavior are characterized by a high degree of personalization since they are based on personal relationships. For instance, the main ministries are headed by members of the Saudi royal family that represent the various ‘circles of power.’ To get a job in one of those ministries, one must ally oneself with the relevant faction of the family, or with someone associated with it. The most powerful circles of power [in 2008 when this book was published-h.chick] are the Al Salman (connected to Salman, the governor of Riyadh province), the Al’ Abdallah (associated with the present king), the Al Fahd (connected to Fahd, who was king until his death in 2005), the Al Na’if (connected to the minister of the interior, and the Al Sultan (connected to the heir apparent and minister of defense and aviation). These circles act as corporate groups looking out for one another. They consist of blood relatives and their associates. Until a few years ago, applicants for government jobs were required to provide their family and tribal background, going back five generations, as part of the application process. This clearly illustrates how the royal family uses tribal patterns and values to maintain its rule.

“Like the head of a tribe, the state is responsbile for the protection of its citizens. The state, personified in the Sa’ud family which functions as the head of a tribe, protects the people’s physical and financial safety. Like all tribal leaders, members of the royal family mediate disputes, and keep the peace….

The Saudi royal family/state also functions as a genealogical organizer of society. As tribes did in the past, it determines who will marry whom. The fact that it makes it hard for Saudis to marry non-Saudis contributes to the myth of an entire country under Sa’ud domination, of one vast exclusive tribal family patronized by the Al Sa’ud. Since Saudi citizenship, which grants admission to the tribal family, confers entitlement to the largesse of the *shaykh*, the Saudis have created powerful incentives for their citizens to accept the truth of the myth of Saudi national identity, an identity fused with religion, in which membership is in fact a coveted privilege bestowed by birthright….

“Regional identities

“The region with the most highly developed sense of regional identity is the Hijaz, a strip of land along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, stretching from the border with Jordan in the north nearly to Yemen in the south. In it are situated the two holiest places in Islam, Mecca and Medina.

“In the Hijaz the elite are quite aware of the status they enjoyed before what the Saudis call unification, and some Hijazis call occupation, or annexation. When they feel they are being treated as second-class citizens, which they often are because the Najdis hold most of the government and religious jobs, they strive to gain recognition by asserting their distinctiveness as the elite of Islam’s holiest places.

“One recent manifestation of the this regionalism is the periodical *al-Hijaz*, published in London by the Hijazi National Organization (*al-jam’iyya al-wataniyya al-Hijaziyya*). The periodical is extremely anti-Saudi, and seeks to celebrate Hijazi culture and distinctiveness. The articles, most of which remain unsigned, refer not to the ‘unification’ of Arabia under the Saudis, as stated in the official narrative, but rather to the occupation of the Hijaz….

“Some Hijazis are thus beginning to assert their distinctiveness, whether through writing about Hijazi customs and food, or by wearing Hijazi dress. Indeed, there seems to be a revival of Hijazi dress lately. People who choose to wear Hijazi dress do so at some risk since it is Najdi dress which is considered the national dress and is worn by most of those in or close to power. What one wears is a statement, and is noted immediately. Some Hijazis are demonstratively reverting to their own regional dress, which includes a tighter-fitting robe calle a *jubba*, and a turban, or *’amama*….

“One man stands out as leader of the Hijazi cultural movement, namely Sami al-Angawi, an architect, who has made it his life’s work to preserve the customs, dress, and architecture of the Hijaz against Najdi attempts to eliminate them. He openly wears Hijazi dress. Moreover, he explicitly declares that he is a Sufi, a mystic — in other words, that he belongs to a stream of Islam which is forbidden by the Wahhabi clerics, who monopolize religion in Saudi Arabia.

He has protested the destruction of Hijazi architecture and Hijazi holy sites by envious Wahhabis, who see the worship of these sites as unlawful religious innovation (*bid’a*). Several of these sites have been destroyed, the most recent amongst them being the Jiyad fortress, built by the Ottomans in the eighteenth century, and destroyed in 2002. The fortress was the site from which Husayn bin ‘Ali started the Arab Revolt in Mecca. It overlooks the Ka’aba, and was removed to make way for a massive, five-story project. The developers of the project are the Bin Ladin Company, which has close ties to the royal family.”

i could never understand all the destruction of islamic sites — including mohammed’s mother’s grave (!) — happening in mecca and medina (see also here). greed (i.e. wanting to build huMONgous hotel complexes to milk the hajj crowds) doesn’t seem to cover it, afaiac. but now that i know that all these sites are in hejazi territory and are connected with hejazi history — and the fact that it’s mostly najdis destroying them — NOW it all makes sense! it’s tribes vs. tribes, that’s all.

previously: historic mating patterns on the arabian peninsula and tribalism on the innerwebs

(note: comments do not require an email. mecca’s big ben!)

historic mating patterns on the arabian peninsula

anybody else getting a little bored with europe and europeans? yeah, i thought so. here’s a little diversion! (i will return to the mating patterns of europeans shortly.)

the arabs. and by “the arabs” i mean the ones on the arabian peninsula. even more specifically, i mean to contrast the arabs living in the hejaz on the west coast with the arabs from the najd in the interior. for a very long time, the hejazi arabs have been quite comopolitan and internationally-oriented, whereas the najdi arabs were mostly camel-herding nomads or settled in and around desert oases. the balance of power between the two shifted beginning in the 1700-1800s when the al saud clan — from the najd region — gained control of the region, and, most importantly, when they eventually acquired de facto control of the nation’s oil.

consang.net tells us that the saudi arabians today inbreed a LOT: 50%+ of all marriages are consanguineous (between second cousins or closer). there is variation within the country though.

from Consanguinity among the Saudi Arabian population (1995) [click on table for LARGER view] …

consanguinity among the saudi arabian peninsula - table 02

… the total consanguinity rate in what the authors refer to as the “north western province” (i think this must be some former provincial designation), which is basically the hejaz region, was 67.7% in 1995. the “central province” — the northern part of the najd region — had a consanguineous marriage rate of 60.8% — so lower than the hejaz region.

i don’t think that this was always the case, that consanguineous marriage was more common in the hejaz region than in the najd region. in fact, i think that the hejazis have adopted cousin marriage more and more over the course of the last couple of centuries thanks to a process of “najdification” that, presumably, the entire country has been undergoing since the al saud clan came to prominence. (also, perhaps many najdis have moved to places in the hejaz region like mecca.)

from Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for an Arabian Identity (2004) [pgs. 77-81]:

Of key interest here is the introduction of what may be called the ‘tribalisation’ of marriage relations amongst the Hijazis. In contrast to past practices of marriage with non-Arab Muslims, marriages now take place within the Hijazi cultural group. The definition of what constitutes a Hijazi for marriage purposes has become more strict….

One implication of ‘tribalisation’, however, is that it draws the cultural form of association that sets the standards for the Hijazis from Najdi life. The emphasis placed on lineage, purity and related ideas confirms the superiority of a particular conception of what a social group should be: a tribe….

“For members of the Hijazi *’awa’il*, establishing and dissolving contemporary marriage relationships is now regulated by several sets of rules and considerations, most of which are relatively recent in origin…. All of these changes are best understood in light of the contrast between the period prior to and that following the Hijaz’s political unification under Saudi rule….

“In the period before Saudi political unification the rules governing marriage derived from largely religious sources, reflecting a very different relation between state and society to that which exists in the present. All contemporary marriage rules are closely related to these earlier ones, either as refinements or entailing new but subordinate principles.

“At the most general level, the Quran is broadly permissive of potential marriage partners: ‘Oh! Mankind! We have created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most pious of you.’ There are, however, some qualifications to this open-ended approach. The first is that Islam permits marital ties between Muslim men and non-Muslim women, provided the latter are ‘people of the book’, *ahl al kitab*, i.e. Jews or Christians. The Quran tells male Muslims that, ‘lawful for you are the chaste women from among those who have been given the book’. Muslim women, on the other hand, are absolutely prohibited from marrying non-Muslims. A Muslim woman’s marriage to a non-Muslim is considered to entail illegal intercourse and thus produces illegitimate offspring who are prohibited from inheriting the father’s wealth….

“In addition to religion, considerations of the nature of wider family life have been most influential in regulating marriage. Here the promotion and defence of patrilineal group status is of central significance. Family status is related to the *’ird* (honour) of its male members, which is defended by ensuring the chastity of female dependants. The idea of *’ird* is a key reason why marriage based on overt love has traditionally been considered *’ayb* (shameful): admitting love implies a clandestine pre-marital relationship. Indeed, the idea that marriage should be based on an emotional bond between husband and wife conflicts with the primacy of maintaining well-integrated families; it implies putting one’s personal interests and needs above the extended family’s wellbeing. In this, Hijazis conform to general Arabian attitudes but, as ever, the Hijazi preoccupation with family creates a specific distrust of bonds based on emotion or sentiment….

Accounts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries clearly show that these rules did indeed regulate Hijazi marriages. For instance, being Muslim, regardless of other origins, provided a sufficiently strong basis on which to build marriages. Mecca was a melting pot for the Islamic world, so mixed marriages were common. Marriage made a significant contribution to the heterogeneous and cosmopolitan nature of Hijazi society.

By contrast, Najdi marriage was, and remains within the same lineage, with bonds among the tribal families usually reinforced by patrilineal parallel-cousin marriages. There is, however, an important distinction between *khadiri* (non-tribal, i.e. ‘non-pure’ Najdi), and *gabili* (tribal ‘pure-blooded’ Najdi). Strict patrilinearity allowed *gabili* men to marry outsiders, such as Egyptian, Moroccan or Lebanese women, but their female relatives have never married outside the tribe. In principle, then, men from the Hijaz would not have been able to marry into a pure-blooded Najdi family, while women would, although Hijazi women were not, as a rule, given in marriage to Najdi families, nor were they asked. In this intricate system of social boundaries expressed through marriage practices, Hijazis — both men and women — married from the Asir tribal region more easily than from the tribal Najd….

“Among elite Najdi men polygamy has also been more prominent.”

so it sounds as though the najdi arabs have had a longer history of closer inbreeding than the hejazi arabs.

if we go even further back, there are more hints that the hejazis may have been comparative outbreeders, as far as arabs go anyway. from Close Relationships: Incest and Inbreeding in Classical Arabic Literature (2005) [pgs. 78-81]:

“Much has been written on the extent to which Islam changed or confirmed the existing customs in pre-Islamic Arabia. Data on these customs are scanty…. As for the forbidden degrees of marriage, early Muslim authorities explain that the main differences between pre-Islamic and Islamic customs concerned the marriage of stepmothers and sons, and being married to two sisters simultaneously. Muhammad ibn al-Saib al-Kalbi (d.146/763) praises the Arabs in the Jahiliyya, the period of ‘ignorance’, for anticipating the Qur’anic prohibitions:

“‘The Arabs, in the time of their Ignorance, held things for forbidden that the Qur’an was to declare forbidden. They did not marry daughters or mothers, nor sisters or aunts from the mother’s side or the father’s side. The worst thing they used to do was to be married to two sisters at the same time, or to succeed one’s deceased father as husband to his wife. They used to call someone who did this *dayzan*….

“‘(…) If a man died, leaving a wife, or divorced his wife, his eldest son would stand up and throw his cloak over her if he wanted her. If he did not want her, one of his brothers would marry her, with a new brideprice.’

“Ibn Habib (d. 245/860), who has a nearly identical passage, adds that ‘Islam has separated men from the wives of their fathers; they are numerous’….

“Ibn Habib also states that the Arabs used to marry two sisters….”

not too much about marrying cousins there, but there’s this…

Against the tendency of presenting the pre-Islamic Arabs as being very close to Islam already, others restrict this virtuous behaviour to the inhabitants of Mecca, contrasting them with the Bedouins, as did Yaqut in the passage quoted above….

and that passage from yaqut [pg. 60]:

“In his ‘Kitab al-Arab’ (‘Book of the Arabs’), devoted to the virtues of the Arabs, Ibn Qutayba praises especially Quaysh, the Prophet’s tribe, for preserving something of the old Abrahamic religion, inherited through Abraham/Ibrahim’s son Ismael/Imail; these remnants included ‘circucision, ritual ablution, repudiation of women, manumission of slaves, and the prohibition of marriage with forbidden family members, through kinship, milk relationship, or affinity by marriage’. Yaqut (d. 626/1229) rephrases the same idea: the pre-Islamic Meccans:

‘were not like the uncouth Bedouins. They used to circumcise their sons, to perform the Hajj at the Kaaba; … they shunned marriages with a daughter, a daughter’s daughter, a sister, and a sister’s daughter, because of their sense of jealous honour and in order to keep aloof from the Magians.'”

in other words, perhaps the pre-islamic hejazi were not at all like the pre-islamic najdis (bedouins) … and, perhaps, the hejazi — the population from whence mohammed hailed — didn’t inbreed so much [pg. 81]:

In general, as far as may be ascertained, inbreeding was not very common in pre-Islamic times. It is difficult to obtain precise information. The genealogies of tribes and clans in the pre-Islamic and early Islamic periods, though very detailed, are notoriously unreliable, loaded as they are with politics and sentiments; an alliance between tribes was often cemented by fabricating a common ancestor. Moreover, the genealogies normally present the male lines only and give very little information on females. Among the exceptions are the lineages of the Prophet Muhammad and other prominent early Muslims. Thus Ibn Habib gives Muhammad’s ancestors in the all-female line, going back seven generations. Similar but shorter matrilinear lines are given for Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, and al-Hasan. Only two lines are given in full in these lineages: the all-male and the all-female, out of the theoretical maximum of 128 (2 to the 7th) lines of ascendants that go with a full picture of seven generations in Muhammad’s case. Therefore it is hazardous to draw any firm conclusions. Yet the general picture that emerges from this admittedly limited sample is clear: there may have been ‘irregularities’ by Islamic standards, such as the above-mentioned stepmother-marriages, but the spouses are not closely related and even first-cousin unions, often assumed to be dominant in Arab society, are almost absent as far as can be observed. In the Prophet’s lineage, one finds that his great-grandmother Umm Habib and her husband Abd al-Uzza had a great-grandfather (Qusayy) in common; Uthman’s maternal great-great-grandmother Sakhra bint Abd ibn Imran married her first cousin Amr ibn Aidh ibn Imran.”

perhaps mohammed — who invented a fairly (fairly) universalistic religion — came from a comparatively not-so-inbred population [i.e. the hejazi arabs – mohammed’s tribe, the quraysh tribe, was from mecca]. -?- dunno. difficult to tell, but it’s an interesting question, i think.

previously: inbreeding and the ancient hebrews (and the arabs) and father’s brother’s daughter’s marriage

(note: comments do not require an email. tl;dr.)

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):


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.)