Gender Related Social Groups

Although stated otherwise in some ethnographies (Chagnon, 1977; Lizot, 1988), the central Yanomami are not organized in patrilineages. As noted above, the pair— be it the brother-sister pair or the married couple—is the most important unit in the social structure. Family groups are formed around these pairs. Groups of bi-gendered siblings tend to intermarry and ideally form the cluster of a local group on the basis of affinal relationships. The strongest ties of political alliances are based on affinal relations, which means ultimately on marriage between bi-gendered siblings. In daily life affinity is constantly manifested by naming each other using classificatory kinship terms.

The high value of affinal relations is explicit in the term shori, which means both brother-in-law and friend. Sisters-in-law are also often very close to each other. Not only are sisters-in-law married to each other's brothers or first cousins, but they are prescriptive mothers-in-law of each other's children. Accordingly, they will most probably seek to marry their respective children to each other. This position gives them considerable power in the construction of the social and political group, which should not be hidden by the fact that it is mainly their husbands who make public speeches.

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