The Rules of Kinship

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The Rules of Kinship

Kinship usages or the rules of kinship play an important role in understanding the kinship system. They create groups or special groups of kin such as families, extended families, clans etc. These rules govern the role of relationships between relatives for example how should a woman behave with her husband’s elder brother etc. They define the acceptable role of relationships. They guide the interactions among the members of the social group. We can say that it regulates the social life of an individual.

Rules of kinship (pic- Findmypast)

Some of the kinship usages are as follows-

Avoidance

Joking relationship

Teknonymy

Avunculate

Amitate

Couvade

Avoidance

In some societies excessive mutual interaction between two or more relatives is culturally prohibited, this is called avoidance. Like staying away from each other, the purdah system, not talking to each other, not addressing directly, not taking names, etc. Avoidance relationship usually involves a person of opposite sexes.

This type of avoidance is mainly found between a man and his daughter-in-law, a woman and his son-in-law, a woman and her husband’s elder brother etc.

Reasons of Avoidance

According to Frazer, avoidance is due to sexual taboos.

According to Tylor, avoidance is due to matriarchy. (Matriarchy is a social system where a woman has complete authority over her family members and descent is traced through the female line).

According to Freud, avoidance of kinship usage is to avoid sexual relationships.

According to Malinowski, avoidance behaviour is probably followed to give special respect to such relations.

Joking relationship

It is just the opposite of avoidance. The joking relationship brings two people very close where they both give each other the right to laugh and joke. Sometimes it is demanded from them that they harass the other party, make fun of them, humiliate them, cause them physical pain, harm them financially and have a sexual relationship, and the other party does not feel bad about it.

Examples- a joking relationship found between a man and her sister-in-law, a woman and her husband’s younger brother, a woman and her nephew, a man and her niece and a man and her granddaughter.

Teknonymy

This term was first mentioned by Tylor. In this type of practice, many times some relations are addressed indirectly instead of addressing them directly. For example, throughout rural India, and in some tribal groups, a wife does not name her husband, but refers to him as the father of so-and-so. The husband also refers to his wife or calls her the mother of so-and-so in the presence of others.

Examples- Tharu tribe, Khasi tribe, traditional Hindu family

Avunculate

The word avunculate refers to a custom that regulates the family relations of the maternal uncle with his sister’s children in a particular way. Here the maternal uncle is more important than the father. It is common in matrilineal societies (descent is traced through female lines). In some tribes, the maternal uncle’s house is considered a second heaven.

In the Hopi and Zuni tribes, the son remains in his father’s house until he attains the age of marriage. At this age, he goes to his maternal uncle’s house and his maternal uncle gets him married and accepts him as their family.

Patrilineal vs Matrilineal (pic- DNAeXplained)

Amitate

In this type of tradition, the role of the father’s sister is more important. It is usually found in patrilineal families (descent is traced through male lines). Sometimes father’s sister is also known as the female father. Father’s sister also has a lot of authority in Indian families.

Couvade

According to this practice, it is also necessary for the husband that whenever his wife is going to have a child, he should also experience those troubles and behave in much the same way and spend the day as a woman does. At the time of delivery, it is customary for both to cry or shout together. Along with the women, the husband also has to follow those rules.

Examples- Toda tribe of Nilgiri hills and the Khasi tribe of Assam (India)

Here husband shares his wife’s pain during pregnancy and post-pregnancy. In this type of work, the husband proves his paternity, there is a transfer of rights between the father and the son.

According to Malinowski, by following this custom, the husband expresses his feelings of love towards his wife and children, as a result of which his family relations are strengthened.

References

Kinship

Essay on the meaning of avoidance and joking relationship

KINSHIP

Kinship

Read more

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