kandahar vs. levittown

the walled family compounds of kandahar


…vs. the invisible boundaries of levittown


previously: there’s no place like home

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

“the fierce people”

the yąnomamö of brazil/venezuela:

these guys are the unsemai — from steven pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature:

“Helena Valero, a woman who had been abducted by the Yanomamö in the Venezuelan rain forest in the 1930s, recounted one of their raids:

“‘Meanwhile from all sides the women continued to arrive with their children, whom the other Karawetari had captured…. Then the men began to kill the children; little ones, bigger ones, they killed many of them. They tried to run away, but they caught them, and threw them on the ground, and stuck them with bows, which went through their bodies and rooted them to the ground. Taking the smallest by the feet, they beat them against the trees and rocks. . . . All the women wept.'”

yikes. =/

according to pinker, the annual yąnomamö death rate due to warfare was something like 275 out of 100,000 in the mid-twentieth century. definitely higher numbers than the semai:

pinker - war deaths per 100,000 people per year - the yanomamo

warfare here, of course, refers to battles between villages (perhaps, too, between alliances of villages — i don’t know — haven’t finished reading the book yet!). and because there is so much violence between villages, the yąnomamö have to be wary [pg. 131]:

“Daily activities begin early in a Yanomamo village. One can hear people chatting lazily and children crying long before it is light enough to see. Most people are awakened by the cold and build up the fire just before daybreak….

“The entrances are all covered with dry brush so that any attempt to get through them is heard all over the village. There is always a procession of people leaving the village at dawn to relieve themselves in the nearby garden, and the noise they make going in and out of the village usually awakens the others….

This is also the time of day when raiders strike, so people must be cautious when they leave the village at dawn. If there is some reason to suspect raiders, they do not leave the confines of the upright log palisade that surrounds the village. They wait instead until full light and leave the village in armed groups.”

would it surprise you to learn that the yąnomamö are pretty closely inbred? from pinker:

“Among the Yanomamo … two individuals picked at random from a village are related almost as closely as first cousins, and people who consider each other relatives are related, on average, even more closely.”

the yąnomamö prefer to marry their first cousins — specifically their cross cousins, outside their patrilineage, but within the village. from chagnon [pgs. 141, 144, & 150]:

“[M]en [can] marry only those women they put into the kinship category *suaboya.* By collecting genealogies that showed who was related to whom in specific ways, it was then possible to specify any man’s ‘nonmarriageable’ and ‘marriageable’ female kin. As it turned out, men could marry only those women who fell into the category of kin we would call ‘cross-cousin.’ These are, from a man’s point of view, the daughters of his mother’s brother or the daughters of his father’s sister…. The rule, therefore, is that the Yanomamo marry bilateral cross-cousins. Bilateral means ‘both sides,’ that is, father’s *and* mother’s side of the family. From their vantage, therefore, one of their marriage rules is, ‘Men should marry their *suaboya*.’ In a very real sense, this is like saying ‘We marry our wives,’ for men call their wives and their female cross-cousins suaboya. Thus, to ask, ‘Whom do you marry?’ seems somewhat peculiar to them. They marry their wives, as real people are supposed to do….

“The general Yanomamo rule about marriage, insofar as it can be phrased in terms of descent rule, is simply that everyone *must* marry outside of his or her own patrilineal group. The Yanomamo patrilineage is, therefore, an exogamic group: All members must marry outside of it into a different patrilineage…. In Yanomamo society, one’s cross-cousins will always belong to a different lineage but parallel cousins will belong to your own lineage….

“Each person belongs to the patrilineage of his or her father, and all men marry women who are *simultaneously* their Father’s Sister’s Daughters (hereafter FZD) *and* their Mother’s Brother’s Daughters (hereafter MBD). …

“The ‘ideal’ model presented above (Figure 4.8) represents each man as marrying a woman who is simultaneously his MBD and FZD. In actual practice, this rarely happens, largely because of physiological and demographic reasons…. What *does* happen is that men marry women who are sometimes FZDs or sometimes MBDs.

how long have they been mating like this? who knows?

read more about yąnomamö marriage patterns here.

now, excuse me a sec while i indulge my other pet interest: the types of houses that different peoples construct for themselves (and their families). we saw before that quite a few cousin marrying populations live in homes that exclude outsiders (courtyard houses, for instance), while non-cousin marrying populations like the english live in homes that sorta invite outsiders in (like around the village green).

what sort of houses do you think the yąnomamö live in (traditionally anyway — hint: a shabono — more cool pics via google)?:


from chagnon again [pg. 131]:

Kaobawa’s village is oval shaped. His house is located among those of his agnatic kinsmen, that is, men related through males ties. The occupy a continuous arc along one side of the village. Each builds his own section of the village, but in such a way that the roofs coincided and could be attached by simply extending the thatching. When completed, the village looked like a continuous, oval-shaped lean-to because of the way in which the roofs of the discrete houses were attached. Each house, however, is owned by the family that built it. Shararaiwa, Kaobawa’s youngest brother, helped build Kaobaw’s house and shares it with him. He also shares Koamashima, Kaobawa’s younger wife….”

apparently, there can be several shabonos in one village. the way that the extended family/clan’s houses all open on to the family’s central yard, and the houses’ backs face out to the world in a very uninviting way to strangers, reminds me of other inbred groups’ clan houses — like the hakka walled villages of southern china. those two — the shabonos and the hakka walled villages — are both even defensive in nature — the shabonos have a pallisade around them.

h/t henry harpending. (^_^)

previously: when did you stop beating your wife? and the semai and there’s no place like home

(note: comments do not require an email. yąnomamö kid.)

irish travellers

chris (thnx, chris!) drew my attention to an interesting looking documentary called Knuckle (ouch!) about the tradition of bare-knuckle fighting amongst the irish travellers.

the irish travellers are a bunch of gypsy-like people in/from ireland, but they’re not related to the “roma” people. they are instead an indigenous irish group with a nomadic lifestyle. north, et. al., found that genetically:

“[T]he Travellers clustered with several heterogeneous counties in Ireland, including Wexford and Westmeath. Therefore, these data support that the origin of the Travellers was not a sudden event; rather a gradual formation of populations. Indeed, the Travellers probably originated with craftsmen and artisans forced to leave their monasteries (Crawford 1975). Later, their population grew as they were joined by various Irish groups that were forced to leave their homes because of various calamities and political upheavals (i.e. the potato famine and the repression of British occupation) (Crawford 1975). However, the timing of the Traveller origin is not certain and may have predated the historical period (e.g. Ni Shuinear 1996).”

so these travellers have no relation to gypsies, but are, rather, native irish people gone feral. it’s not clear when exactly this happened (sounds like there are some indications that their wanderings may have started around the end of the medieval period) — and it seems that different irish people from around the island have joined up with the travellers over the course of time — but they are definitely a native group.

what they have in common with gypsies, however, besides the wandering lifestyle, is frequently being on the wrong side of the law. and they also, as the documentary shows, like to fight. with each other. here from the nyt:

“[T]he documentary ‘Knuckle,’ a rib-cracking look at the brutal fistfights long used to settle feuds between clans of Irish travelers — nomadic families that go back centuries in Ireland….

“‘Knuckle’ is fueled by the personality of this big man, who is undefeated in fighting for his family name against the Joyce and Nevin clans.

Never mind that the three clans themselves are interrelated with, as the film puts it, ‘brothers and cousins fighting brothers and cousins….’

“The feud in the film was supposedly started by a torched tinker’s cart at a horse fair, and renewed in 1992 by a deadly fight outside a pub, for which Mr. Quinn McDonagh’s brother Patty served prison time for manslaughter.

“In the film, Mr. Quinn McDonagh is derided as Baldy James by rival clan members who send taunting videotaped challenges, a modern wrinkle on this centuries-old tradition….”

a study from 1970/1986 found that 71.6% of travellers in one part of ireland were married to either first- or second-cousins [see pg. 11 here]. another study from 1989 found that 65.5% of irish travellers in northern ireland were married to either first- or second-cousins. that’s a LOT of inbreeding. it’s hard to know for how long they’ve been inbreeding to these degrees, but on the whole the group’s mating practices have been very endogamous probably for centuries, excepting of course the individuals from the broader population who joined up with them every now and again.

the travellers are clannish — they really do have clans! (and they have their own language, too, which will really set you off as a separate group from “the others.”) north, et. al., describe how they travel (or travelled traditionally) “in patrilineally related groups of two to four families.”

the question is: are these travellers more clannish than the rest of the irish were before they (the irish) started to seriously outbreed (whenever that was — sometime after the eleventh century but before the mid-twentieth — i know, that really narrows it down!)? or are the travellers just behaving like all the irish used to do when they were clannish, too? from Ireland — Land, Politics, and People [pgs. 57-58]:

“The outrage reports for pre-famine Cloone confirm the importance of ‘neighbourhood and kinship ties’ in aligning the factions involved in ‘party fights’. Thus at Drimna, in 1838, ‘a faction fight took place between two hostile parties, named Deignan’s and Mullin’s, respecting the right to the possession of a small portion of land’. Other such confrontations were of a ritual rather than material character, providing an occasion for ‘long-tailed’ families to assert their corporate identity and importance through trials of strength. Indeed market-day brawls could be provoked merely by the affirmation of family affiliation, as when a certain Cooke of Carrigallen ‘retreated towards a Public House where a party of his friends were drinking and when near it he called out ‘Who dared say anything against a Cooke…?’ It is clear that the ceremonial grappling of factions became unusual after the Famine, despite occasional reports throughout the century…. Familial networks, though, in less overt fashion, never ceased to lend cohesion to rural associations ranging from the Society of Ribbonmen to the United Irish League or Sinn Fein.”

so, clan fights were still fairly common in ireland during the early 1800s, but seem to have pretty much ceased after ca. 1850. except amonst the travellers. is that because the travellers are more inbred nowadays than the irish ever were, or are they just the last remaining (inbreeding) clans in ireland?

btw, this isn’t about travellers but rather about gypsies — from The Traveller-Gypsies [pgs. 88-89]:

“When Gypsies choose the layout [of their campsite], they often place the trailers in a circle, with a single entrance. The main windows, usually the towing bar end, face inwards. Every trailer and its occupants can be seen by everyone else…. Few draw curtains, even at night. Within this circle of group solidarity there can be no secrets — domestic quarrels are for all to see, the centre is a place for chatting, and a safe enclave for children to play…. The single entry to the circle is a deterrent to Gorgio [non-gypsy] visitors. Outsider are enclosed as if in a trap.”

remember my post about inbreeding and outbreeding and inward facing versus outward facing houses? mmmm-hmmm.

previously: inbreeding in europe’s periphery and inbreeding in ireland in modern times

(note: comments do not require an email. american irish travellers.)

damascus courtyard house

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

(note: comments do not require an email. there’s no place like home. woof!)

there’s no place like home

changing gears for a sec (kinda): peoples who inbreed regularly build different types of houses than people who do not (or maybe that should be the other way around). particularly — or maybe mostly — those that live in urban areas.

if you’re a bedouin and your whole clan lives in tents and travels together and marries one another, the following prolly doesn’t apply since you don’t normally encounter other, unrelated people on a daily basis, so there’s no need to wall yourself in. however, if you and your clan are inbreeders and you live in a place where you’re likely to encounter unrelated people quite often, your response will prolly be to build…

…a courtyard house:

“A courtyard house is a type of house — often a large house — where the main part of the building is disposed around a central courtyard. The main rooms of a courtyard houses often open onto the courtyard, and the exterior walls may be windowless and/or semi-fortified and/or surrounded by a moat…. Courtyard houses consisting of multiple separate residences have been built in many regions and eras, including the earliest Chinese dynasties and the Inca period…. In Ancient Roman architecture courtyard houses were built around an atrium. Courtyard houses are also common in Islamic architecture. Courtyard houses are also a form of dwelling built in the British Isles late in the Iron Age.”

lots o’ inbreeders on that list.

the point of the courtyard house — well, there are many reasons to build a courtyard house, but the main point anyway — is to keep out unrelated folks. you don’t even want them looking in to your domain in any way. no front yard. no backyard — definitely not one that is barely separated from your neighbor’s backyard! — your neighbor with whom you share hardly any genetic ties whatsoever! and, like the wikipedia description says, maybe not even any outside windows. if you’ve ever been to the greek isles, you know what they’re talking about. in islamic countries, part of the point of the courtyard house is so that women may observe purdah.

here’s a model of a chinese siheyuan (courtyard house):

and here’s the sort of thing that will greet you in the front (this is from a rather wealthy home, according to wikipedia):

a wall with a door in it. it’s a very nice looking wall with a door in it, but it’s still a wall with a door in it.

here’s a machiya house in japan (kyoto) — the front as passersby would encounter it:

and the family’s courtyard:

here’s the front entranceway to a courtyard house in india:

interior of traditional courtyard house in iran (it was under renovation, apparently):

traditional courtyard home in turkey:

and one in morocco (this one’s a vacation rental, so next time you’re in marrakesh…!):

these are all really different from, say, a typical swiss village where all the houses have large windows — and barely any boundaries separating them from neighboring houses at all!:

courtyard houses are also very different from traditional houses found in english villages which typically are oriented toward a common village green:

and they’re very unlike these houses which, again, have large windows, are oriented out towards the street, and have no boudaries between the front lawns (there might be fences between the backyards — and maybe a particularly tall one or two depending on how the neighbors get along (~_^) ):

the ultimate in insular clan housing, tho, must be the hakka walled villages of southern china. entire clans — hundreds of families — could literally hole up in one of these! again, there’s a central courtyard with apartments around the perimeter for all the nuclear families that made up the clan — and not many windows facing outwards — maybe only a few high up:

the interior of one:

further reading (one of these days i might even read these myself!): Courtyard housing: past, present and future and Riyadh’s Vanishing Courtyard Houses. for more on the chinese siheyuan, see here.

update: see also damascus courtyard house

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