Marriage

Anthropology has provided a literature on marriage so extensive that it cannot be summarized briefly. Included are intricate arguments concerning the definition of marriage (complicated by unusual customs such as woman-woman marriage among the Nandi of East Africa [Oboler,1985]) and a rich descriptive literature concerning wedding rituals and the many forms that marriage can take (e.g., Stockard, 2002). The study of weddings and marriage is further complicated by the existence of various gradations of marriage within a single society. Thus a first marriage is typically elaborate and celebrated very fully, whereas subsequent marriages and leviratical marriages (see below) are minor events in those societies that practice polygyny. In societies without a great deal of storable wealth in forms such as cowrie shells, cattle, pigs, and (more recently) bolts of cloth and money, the property exchanged as well as the ceremonial activity at marriage tends to be minimal or a marriage may be established by an exchange of sisters between two men. In some societies, the wedding can take years to complete, being fully recognized only after repeated ritual activity, extensive exchange of property, and even the arrival of children. Benedict (1934/1959) reports that marriage ceremonials were essentially lifelong events among the Kwakiutl of the Northwest Coast of North America. Payments between father-in-law and son-in-law, in the form of prerogatives and wealth continued, throughout life, marking the birth and the maturity of a couple's children.

In most but not all nonindustrial societies, marriages are arranged by the elder generation (aided by a go-between in some parts of the world). If there are objections, those of a young woman are more likely to be disregarded than those of a prospective groom. As the structuralist theorists have pointed out, marriage creates relationships among groups, and such weighty decisions are not left to the personal inclinations of young people. Furthermore, young people do not typically own the large amounts of property required for the exchanges that legitimate a marriage. As a result of this dependence on their parents, young people are respectful and polite toward their elders to an extent unknown in postindustrial societies.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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