Avunculocal Residence

Now that we understand more about the differences between matrilineal and patrilineal systems, the puzzling form of residence called avunculocal may be understandable. Recall that in this form of residence the couple lives with the husband's mother's brother. Or, to put it the opposite way, we could say that a man takes his sister's son and wife to live with him. This is precisely the dyad that forms the basis of political succession in a matrilineal system. It is also a way of localizing men who are matrilineally, rather than patrilineally, related. Not surprisingly, all avunculocal societies have matrilineal descent (M. Ember, 1974, p. 251). But most matrilineal societies are matrilo-cal, so why should some be avunculocal?

M. Ember (1974, pp. 250-251) suggested that avunculocal residence may be favored by the same condition that favors patrilocal residence—internal warfare. Normally, purely external warfare is characteristic of matrilocal societies. But if warfare in such societies should switch from purely external to at least sometimes internal, the matrilineal descent groups that are present might want to keep their males (i.e., their warriors) in the same place after they are married. Avunculocal residence would do that. Consistent with this theory, that avunculo-cality develops in a previous matrilineal society that started to fight internally, all societies with either invariably avunculocal residence or alternatively avunculocal residence have at least some internal warfare (M. Ember, 1974). There are no exceptions in this correlation.

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