the walled family compounds of kandahar…
…vs. the invisible boundaries of levittown…
previously: there’s no place like home
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from the christian science monitor:
“Mexico City is studying a plan to introduce ‘temporary’ marriage licenses – letting couples choose after two years to split or renew the license for life – in an effort to mitigate the effects of divorce….
“The left-leaning assembly is studying a new initiative to introduce temporary marriage licenses that would expire after two years if the couple so desires.
“The proposal, intended to reduce the bureaucratic costs and emotional toll of divorce, has garnered as many fans as foes: Some see it as a pragmatic alternative, while others, including the Roman Catholic Church, see it as an attack on family values. It comes as Mexico grapples with its own culture war in the world’s second-largest Catholic country.
“‘The centrality of family in Mexico is changing,’ says Norma Ojeda, a sociologist at the San Diego State University who has studied the evolution of marriage in Mexico since the 1970s. ‘That is something that is part of a global social change in many countries.’
“To its authors, the proposal reflects social changes in Mexico City, where they say most divorces occur in the first two years. If after two years, couples decide to until ‘death do us part,’ they can renew their licenses. If not, the proposal specifies how children and property are handled.
“‘The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationship is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends,’ Leonel Luna, the assemblyman who co-wrote the bill, told Reuters. ‘You wouldn’t have to go through the tortuous process of divorce.'”
plenty of societies have or had laws providing for temporary marriages. many muslim societies (primarily shi’a ones?) have a temporary form of marriage known as nikah mut’ah. it can be used as a way of covering up prostitution (“get yer four hour marriages!”), but that’s not the only reason the practice exists.
“The adaltrach [one type of wife in early medieval ireland] may not have brought much property at all, since in many cases, the primary intention of the union was merely to achieve social acceptance of a sexual relationship and its progeny. Another goal was to set up a temporary working relationship, in which the man supplied the farm and the woman supplied the labor. Where CL [Cain Lanamna, ‘the law of marriage’] discusses spouses who were brought in to live on another’s farm, it emphasized the labor aspect of the spouse’s relationship; this was as true of a man supported on a woman’s farm as it was of a woman supported on a man’s property. CL #28 depicts the woman in this case as keeping half her handiwork, and one-ninth of the milk, corn and bacon produced during the time the couple lived together. The relationship envisaged as likely to end at Beltene, the spring festival of May 1, which was also the time many women traditionally moved with the livestock to the summer pastures. The departing woman was supposed to have ‘a sack (of produce) for every month’ she had spent on the man’s farm.”
the thing is, tho, that no society with temporary marriages ever invented things like science or succeeded with liberal democracy. those seem, for complex reasons, to go along with strong monogamy (not to mention a relatively high iq).
mating practices affect the patterns of genetic relatedness amongst the members in any given society; and those patterns, in turn, affect the historical and evolutionary trajectories of societies.
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it was a dark and stormy night … there was a knock at the door … no, more of a scraping sound. the scraping of nails … or … fangs on the wood. it could only be one thing … the vrykolakas! come to dole out righteous retribution to its incestuous descendants…. eeek! [pg. 545]:
“The ‘return’ of the blood to the kindred, the ominous reversing of this right-handed spiral movement of the blood, has close parallels in the fatal return of the vampire to its own kin, although I only once heard such a connection between these two ideas being consciously made by villagers. Its occasion was, however, significant; for it arose in a discussion by two women of a marriage between second cousins which had taken place in the village some years before. The women were agreeing that for a marriage to be propitious the participants had to go to ‘strange blood’ (xeno aima) — a statment which is frequently heard and which is the mirror image of the doctrine … that, in cases of the union of similar blood, ‘the blood returns’, bringing catastrophe. In this context the comment then uttered takes on a startling significance, for, said as an aside and half under the breath, it took the form of a well-known proverb: ‘The vampire hunts its own kindred’ (vrykolakas to soi kynigaei). The image of the vampire returning from the grave to hunt its own kin sprang intuitively to mind in the context of blood which in second cousin marriage returns to destroy its originators.”
greeks don’t marry their first-cousins because the practice is not permitted by the greek orthodox church. they also, though, don’t marry their second-cousins by custom (except occasionally, like in the story above, for instance). i wondered before how the traditions of different people — like the ethiopian amhara (and ethiopian jews) — work to stop whatever incestuous practices a people consider to be wrong without the overt power of an authority like a church or civil laws against incestuous marriage. scary, supersitious beliefs like the one above might certainly work in many places. bad luck, bad karma, vampires — frightening stuff!
ok. now i have to go turn on all the lights in the house. (^_^)
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“For most polemicists, the only possible motivation of ecclesiastical authorities in creating and maintaining such a system [in which minors could marry without their parents’ permission] was sheer avarice. In addition to charging for the various dispensations (most commonly for cases of third- or fourth-degree consanguinity), bishops and officials made money from all related marital litigation, such as dissolution and separation cases. Outraged by such abuses, reformers attacked both the law and its enforcement with a brutality rivaled only by related anticlerical tracts on concubinage and simony. Luther castigated Church legal authorities as ‘[sellers] of vulvas and genitals — merchandise indeed most worthy of such merchants, grown altogether filthy and obscene through greed and godlessness.’ As far as he could see, the only purpose of creating the ‘snares’ of impediments was to ‘catch’ money — sentiments echoed by Johann Brenz: ‘Perhaps [the pope] had his eye on money and filling the coffers, and for that reason forbade certain degrees, so that they could be dissolved again if one had the money.'”
previously: guess when and where!
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in response to the post on inbreeding in pakistan, j asked: “Many peoples discovered that inbreeding causes birth defects and they imposed social rules to avoid it. How is that these Pakistanis are not aware of the danger and on the contrary, they enforce it?”
well, really, endogamy of some sort seems to be the default setting for non-hunter-gatherer groups of humans, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when we come across a group that is rather fond of inbreeding. the rates of consanguineous marriages for pakistan (and places like saudi arabia, et. al.) are really extraordinary, tho; and in some areas of pakistan endogamous marriages (cousin marriage + marriage within the patrilineage) can reach levels like 90% of all marriages.
but why aren’t pakistanis (and other groups) put off all these close marriages by the negative side-effects like congenital disorders? some of it seems to be that they’re just not informed enough on the matter (so i suppose that they never figured out the connection on their own either?) — and some of it seems to be that they’re just resigned to their fate. pakistanis have decided that the benefits (e.g. keeping the property in the family) outweighs the drawbacks, i guess.
here from a paper entitled “Cosmopolitan Knowledge and Indigenous Perceptions of Congenital Diseases Among the Cousin Marriage Practitioners in Kabirwala Community – Pakistan” (which was read at quad-e-azam university, islamabad, but i’ll be d*mned if i can find where i got this paper from! – this is the author though):
“For the Pakistani communities, it is rather a matter of destiny and luck than a medical concern.”
“Mehboob [the names have been changed to protect the innocent], a 57-year-old male lawyer is married to his cousin Rubia, 42 years old. Rubia has 5 years schooling. The couple has 9 children (2 sons and 7 daughters), one of which died within his first month. Among the 9 children, two are blind and one has hearing problems…. However, the couple call it taqdeer (destiny) and argue that two children are blind due to their own sins and that one has died because ‘us kay din poray ho gaye that’ (He has completed his life period). It is believed that God has given a specific life to every person at the birth of a child. According to local belief, the child has to spend only the prescribed life which God has given. When I mentioned a genetic problem as a possible interpretation during the interview, the parents said that it was ‘God’s will’, that this was the reason for their son’s death. According to the couple, Islam does not forbid cousin marriage. Therefore, there is no need to argue the issue on the basis of genetics. It is a matter of luck and destiny. Genetics have a minor role to play.”
c’est la vie, eh?
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oktoberfest has started! yaaaaaaaaaaay! (wait. it’s only september…?)
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from a foreign policy photo essay:
“Above, Damascenes relax in this pristine example of an Ottoman courtyard-style home around the turn of the 20th century. Although it was likely built much later, the building’s architecture hearkens back to a more glorious medieval Islamic era. The black and white horizontal stripes on the far wall are typical of the 14th-century Mamluk period, and the rear mosaics inside the domed alcove are intended to mimic the Abbasid palatial style of the eighth and ninth centuries.
“In the modern era, courtyard homes are gradually disappearing from Damascus — a result of rapid population growth crowding out available land and declining economic prospects.”
previously: there’s no place like home
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the two anthropologists that i quoted at length in my recent posts about kinship in greece made some interesting confessions in the introductions to their respective publications — they both admitted that, at the outset of their research, they didn’t want to have anything at all to do with kinship studies. they thought either that kinship was an out-dated area of research or just simply irrelevant. it was only after they plunked themselves down in the middle of greek society that they realized how important kinship is to greeks. (kudos to them both for acknowledging so and not letting some silly preconceived notion or paradigm mislead their research.)
“If I may start with an autobiographical note: When, in 1977, I began field work in Spartohori, one of three villages on the tiny island of Meganisi (administratively attached to the Ionian island of Lefkada), I had little enthusiasm for the study of kinship and family. Doubtless prejudice played a greater part than reason, but inasmuch as my reluctance had basis, it involved the following (not entirely consistent) reflections. First, in the 1970s there was a widespread feeling that kinship, for so long anthropology’s sacred cow, might well be ready for poleaxing and that its centrality was perhaps no more than the fetishized product of the discipline’s own history. Second, even supposing the importance of kinship studies could be defended, the very structure of Mediterranean (and European) kinship — or perhaps one should say its lack of structure — seemd to preclude the sort of interest aroused by the study of the formal intricacies of more ‘exotic’ systems. Last, and for me most cogent, had not the whole subject of Greek kinship been more than ably dealt with by those who had gone before? The prospect of making any significant addition to the work of Peristiany, Campbell, du Boulay, and others seemed depressingly remote. In sum, I thought it advisable to leave kinship and family alone and, as contemporary wisdom then enjoined, to explore the more ‘relevant’ issues of politics, economics, and, of course, class.
“It did not, however, take long to discover that my mentors’ interests had not been misplaced. It was impossible to understand anything about the village without first understanding something about kinship. The values of kinship seemed to permeate almost every aspect of village life — from where one shopped to whom one voted for, from the forms of local economic cooperation to the adventures of overseas migration. Moreover, it was impossible to avoid the rhetoric of kinship: ‘My uncle in Lefkada who will help you’; ‘My brother-in-law, the best man in the village.’ Certainly if there were any one thing around which an ethnography of the village could be centered, any one thing that would provide a constant point of reference, a continual series of links between one aspect of village life and another, then it was the Spartohoriots’ concern with kinship and family.”
“As later chapters of this book demonstrate, much of the way in which Methanites have experienced their landscape, its history, the patterns of ownerships, especially of their houses and plots of land — and those adjacent to their own — and the locations which they visit within the landscape, has been set within a kinship idiom. However, rather like Just [the author quoted above], my original intention when embarking on ethnographic fieldwork was to have as little as possible to do with studying kinship. My undergraduate degree was technically in Archaeology and Anthropology, but the formal complexities, and (to my mind at the time) irrelevancies of the anthropological study of kinship persuaded me to concentrate on archaeology. Likewise, as a graduate student taking a compulsory taught course on kinship, I felt that kinship studies preferred to categorise and typologise abstract concepts rather than to understand the essentials of peoples’ everyday lives. Cultural ecology, which allowed me to study other societies with my feet and research topic firmly on the ground, persuaded me that ethnographic fieldwork was a viable option. Choosing a European fieldwork location also seemed ideal for minimising time spent on establishing how the kinship system worked: European kinship did not excite the complexitites of anthropological interest that kinship among more ‘exotic’ societies did.
“This brief foray into autobiography is more than an anecdotal digression. Given the centrality of the study of kinship in cultural anthropology, the reader might be excused for believing that the centrality of kinship in explaining Methana landscapes derives from the core beliefs of the researcher rather than the realities of Methanites’ own lives. However, in my Ph.D. thesis, kinship was largely subsumed within discussion of property transfer — inheritance and dowry — and to an appendix specifically requested by a member of my thesis committee. It was only as I came to explore the deeper meanings of their landscapes for Methanites and to consider issues of identity and belonging that I was forced to conclude that my teachers had been wiser than I thought: kinship was indeed a crucial feature in Methanites’ lives.“
that both of these guys initially thought that kinship wasn’t so important in studying greek people might’ve simply had to do with the thinking of the times in anthropology — i.e. all that stuff that the old boys did in anthropology, well, that’s just so out-of-date. (neither of these researchers seems to know anything about inclusive fitness and mating patterns and kinship, but that’s ok.)
i think, tho, that their willful ignorance of the importance of kinship — especially to greeks! — might also have had to do with how difficult it is to understand other people. it’s hard enough to understand where another individual is “coming from” — never mind trying to get what whole groups of other people are about.
most northern europeans (and their decendants in the u.s.) — and just and forbes fit that bill, i think — probably really don’t get the importance of kinship and extended families because kinship and extended families are not really important in their lives. it’s hard to imagine what these things might mean to other peoples and how strongly they affect other peoples’ lives. northern europeans are not inbred, so those powerful inclusive fitness drives to help near kin are just not there — or, at least, they’re not as powerful. it’s hard for not-so-inbred people to know how inbred people feel towards their relatives.
this wouldn’t matter so much if we were just talking about a couple of anthropologists in some ivory towers somewhere. but we’re not. the problem is we’re also talking about people who want to “bring democracy” to the iraqis and afghanis — something most iraqis and afghanis probably couldn’t care less about. (not to mention all the people who want greeks to “just say no” to corruption. heh!)
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