73. A. Anthropology questions answered

The following questions have been answered in this blog

1. b) “Marriage payments are an example of reciprocity between two social groups”. (Elaborate)1981
Q. 2. Endogamy and preferential marriage are characteristic of closed societies. Discuss. 1983
Q. 3. What are the various forms of preferential mating? Explain with Indian examples. 1986
Q. 3. Define Marriage. Describe its different forms with suitable examples as prevalent among the tribal people of India. Point out the functions of marriage. 1989
Q.2. Describe the problems of universal definition of marriage. Describe the different forms of marriage among the tribal people of India. 1991
2. Describe the various ways of getting mate in primitive society. Give examples from Indian context. 1994
No questions asked between 1998 and 2011.

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20 thoughts on “73. A. Anthropology questions answered

  1. 1. b) “Marriage payments are an example of reciprocity between two social groups”. (Elaborate)1981
    In many cultures marriage involves economic transactions. the bride price confers prestige on the woman and gives her security in case of desertion. Also in some cases since it may have to be returned, it contributes to stability of marriage. Where the married couple live with or near the husband’s parents, bride price is compensation for loss of labour to the bride’s family (Murdock). The Andamanese start exchanging gifts of food and other objects till the marriage is consummated. There is substantial transfer of goods from the bride’s family to the bride the groom or the groom’s family. Most often the gifts go to the bride. Often land is the major item in dowry. Bride price however is substantial. Bride price has no place among the HO. This has led to the lowering of the status of woman. Where the bridegroom is unable to pay (like among the Gonds or Baigas) he provides bride service or becomes a suitor servant (Lamanai; Gharia etc.) Yet another device of avoiding bride price is the practice of two families exchanging women. This is practically found in all parts of tribal India. Some tribes like Khasi, however prohibit such marriage (210 words)

  2. Q. 2. Endogamy and preferential marriage are characteristic of closed societies. Discuss. 1983
    Q. 3. What are the various forms of preferential mating? Explain with Indian examples. 1986Frame work for the answer
    1.What is a closed society?
    2. What is Endogamy and Exogamy?
    3. What are the regulations that promote preferential marriages?
    4. Incest regulations

  3. 1.There are many isolated forest tribes or island tribes. They do not have much contact with outsiders. Hence they carry on their own way of life, undisturbed for centuries. On the other hand the tribes living near Hindu societies or those converted to Christianity have changed many of their ways. There is a good lot of Sanskritisation and Christianization.

  4. 2. Tribal societies are characterized by Endogamy and Exogamy
    It is well known marriages are not open and coincidental. There are some factors that restrict freedom of selection of one’s mates.:
    1. Exogamy : An individual is supposed to marry outside a particular unit. That may be a family, village or clan. In India clan-exogamy is practised. Thus one has to marry outside one’s gotra. This is to prevent in-breeding. A. One should marry outside a particular kin-group or a particular village.
    Thus in Rani Khera 266 married women had come from 200 different villages averaging between twelve and twenty-four miles away. 220 local women had gone to 200 other villages. Thus Rani Khera was linked to 400 villages.
    B. People think that supernatural punishment or excommunication will follow if they do not observe the rule of exogamy.

  5. 2. Endogamy : An individual is supposed to marry within a unit. That may be village, region, religion or caste or tribe. This promotes tribal solidarity. The Khap Panchayats frown on marriage outside one’s caste. So too among the Tribes.
    3. Arranged Marriage : Furthermore within the above mentioned two categories, marriages are fixed by the kinsmen rather than individuals themselves. All over the world , most of the marriages are arranged.

  6. 4. In tribal regulations specify whom one may or may not marry. Perhaps the most rigid regulation, found in all cultures, is the incest taboo. Incest has been defined as the sexual transaction between blood relationships. Due to certain reasons this has been almost universally decried. This prohibition of sexual intercourse or marriage between mother and son, father-daughter, and brother and sister, is known as Incest Taboo. (There are exceptions like among royal families, the Parsis etc.,) (In the Upanishads, there is Yama-Yami Samvada wherein Yami the brother of Yama proposes marriage with her brother. Yama, the God of Dharma warns her sister against it. Incest is associated thus with death in Dharma)
    But barring a few exceptions, incest taboo is observed universally. A number of theories have been put forwarded by social scientists explaining this taboo . They may be classified into :psychological, biological, sociological, and anthropological explanations. We may now examine some of them.

  7. A. Child-Familiarity Theory : This theory was given by Westermark in the early 1920’s. It was widely accepted at that time. However, later on it was abandoned. Talmon’s study reveals that the people reared together firmly believe that over-familiarity breeds sexual disinterest. The evidence further reveals that not only the onset of disinterest and even sexual antipathy among children reared together, but a correspondingly heightened fascination with newcomers of outsiders, particularly for their `mystery.’
    B. Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory : According to Freud, incest taboo is a reaction against unconscious, unacceptable desires. He referred to “Oedipus Complex” meaning love of the son for the mother and “Electra Complex” involving love between father and daughter. (Elaborate briefly) Ember and Ember say (1990), the desire to possess the mother continues to exist in the unconsciousness, and the horror of incest is a reaction to or a defence against, the forbidden unconscious impulse. Although Freudian theory can explain the aversion toward parent-child incest yet it does not explain why societies openly make rules regarding incest taboo.

  8. C. Family-Disruption Theory : Bronislaw Malinowski put forward this theory in 1927 in his book, “Sex and Repression in Savage Society.” This is considered to be the first societal explanation of the taboo. He was of the view that sexual competition within the family would affect the viability of the family as a social unit. As the smooth functioning of the family is of paramount importance for the survival of society, no society can afford this rivalry and tension within the family. This is considered to be the functional approach towards explanation of taboo. However, it has been criticised for its inconsistencies. The most important criticism levelled against this theory is that society could have framed regulations to avoid the rivalry and tension

  9. D. Cooperation Theory : Initially this theory was given by Edward B. Taylor and was later on elaborated by Leslie A.White and Claude Levi-Strauss. According to this theory, incest taboo facilitated inter-group marriages at the first instance and avoids/defuses tension between different groups and secondly, it promotes mutual ties of cooperation. This theory takes incest-taboo as an answer to the choice “between marrying out and being killed out” (Quoted in Leslie A White, The Science of Culture). This theory has also been criticised on various grounds. First, this takes for granted the constant situation of conflict between different groups. Second, societies could allow incest and still practise the rule of marrying outside the family.

  10. E. Inbreeding Theory : This theory is considered to be the most scientific explanation of incest taboo. It was proposed quite early and it focuses on the potentially harmful recessive genes that are likely to be transmitted to the progeny and which may be more vulnerable to death. For many decades, this theory was not accepted as many exceptions were mentioned to reject it. However, Anthropology now has a good deal of proof, from animals as well as humans, that in-breeding is generally damaging. In-breeding is, probably `particularly harmful’ among humans as they produce few offspring at a time, since this species cannot afford unnecessary deaths.
    Thus, among all the theories mentioned above, the last seems to be most plausible as it is based on scientific explanation. However we might ask whether people in the past were really aware of the effects of inbreeding.
    Prohibited Categories
    Besides prohibiting marriage from within the family, there are some other categories also where marriage is not allowed. This can be considered as an extension of incest taboo. However, before we go ahead, the difference between `incest’ and `marriage’ must be made clear. “Incest” refers to sexual relation where “marriage” refers to “affinal” / “jural” relations.

  11. Preferential Forms of Marriage
    Everywhere there is a custom whereby some particular kins are preferred for establishing matrimonial relationship. In such cases, marriage is a means for uniting two families for the welfare of both. Such types of marriage are no doubt, without certain advantages in terms of new relationship and adjustment and respect in the new family. According to Claude Levi Strauss” Preferential marriage exists for its main purpose, the strengthening of solidarity within the tribe…” The rules regarding preferential marriages are not written but assume the following forms:

  12. i) Cousin marriage : Cousin marriages may be of two types i.e., Cross-Cousin marriage and Parallel-Cousin marriage.
    When offspring of real brother and sister marry, it is cross-cousin marriage. In India such marriages are prevalent among the Kuki tribe of Manipur. Among Gonds, this type of marriage is invitable. According to Grigson, 54 percent of marriages among Gonds are of this type. Similar custom is prevalent in Kharia, Oraon, Khasi, Kadar Tribes, the Mikir tribe of Assa and the Bhils of central India. In M.P., this custom is so prevalent that if one likes to have this prescription waived, a compensation has to be paid to the losing party. Infact, it is device for avoiding too high bride price, and also for maintaining property in the household (Majumdar). Among Gond, this custom is called “dooth loutawa” (return of milk) meaning that the bride price, and also for maintaining property in the household (Majumdar). Among Gond, this custom is called “dooth loutawa” (return of milk) meaning that the bride price paid to a wife’s family is returned by it. Thus a person who marries in a family gives his daughter in marriage to that family so that the balance is restored.
    When the offspring of two brothers or sisters marry it is known as parallel-cousin marriage. In Indian tribes such types of marriages are generally prohibited, however, and among Muslims such marriages have wide acceptance and are sanctioned by religion.

  13. ii) Levirate : When a woman marries her deceased husband’s brother this type of marriage is called levirate. It may be of two types : Junior levirate and senior levirate. When a woman marries her deceased husband’s younger brother, it is junior levirate. It is senior levirate when marriage is with the deceased husband’s elder brother. Levirate is of paramount importance when it occurs in non-polyandrous societies because in the case of her husband’s death, the widow finds a guardian, husband and patron while the children get a man as their father. Among some tribes, a degree of laxity is allowed in the matter of intimate social relations and sexual liaison between a woman and her husband’s brother as prelude to the coming event. This type of situation may be turned as anticipatory levirate.
    iii) Sororate : It is a form of marriage in which a man marry his deceased wife’s sister/sisters. It may occur after the death of his wife or even while she is living. In the latter case, it is called simultaneous sororate. On the other hand, if the marriage is performed after the death of the wife, it is known as restricted sororate. Both these types of marriage are prevalent due to economic and compassionate reasons.


  14. What are the Features of Marriage :
    1. A socially approved sexual and economic union.
    2. More or less permanent with reciprocal rights. No one starts a marriage with divorce in mind.
    3. Marriage is not a mere sexual union; such unions exist even without marriage. It is not a mere economic union; brother- sister partnership could exist for economic union. Marriage is both a sexual and an economic union.
    4. The event that marks marriage may vary. Thus the Winnenbago bride just walks into the house.
    5. Among tribals normally only adults marry. Hindu influence however has led to some child marriages.
    6. Marriage fosters social solidarity.

  15. Ways of acquiring mates :
    1. Among the Indian tribes marriage is a contract but under the influence of Hinduism there are also religious ceremonies. e.g. as among the Ho.
    2. Eight forms of marriage reported from Tribal India.
    A. Probationary marriage : e.g. The Kukis permit the boy and the girl to live together for weeks. If they are happy they marry. Otherwise the boy leaves after giving compensation.
    B. Marriage by capture. Prohibited by law now. Fear of raids led to female infanticide. The practice still exists among the Ho , the Gond and a few other pre-Dravidian tribes. Sometimes capture is only a pretense and is a mere ceremonial. The Kharia and the Bhir youngman waits for his girl in the market place and applies vermilion mixed with oil on her forehead. She is then said to be married to him. Among the Gonds if it is difficult to marry off the girl, a cross cousin is asked to take her away forcibly. Many instances of tribes in Assam practising marriage by capture have been reported.

  16. C. Marriage by trial : e.g. Bhils. The young man is tested for his courage and daring. (Coconut and Jaggery are placed on a pole – he is asked to climb and eat but others try to forcibly prevent him. If he succeeds he is declared fit for marrriage).
    D. Marriage by Purchase :
    i. Found all over India.
    ii. Bride price should not be regarded sale and purchase of the bride. There is no hint of slavery in this practice. The bride is not sold but bride price enhances her prestige in her new family. Lowie.

  17. iii. Bride price however is substantial. As a result many among the Ho do not marry. Some get into debt to borrow and pay bride price; or indulge in illegal liaisons or resort to capture. Hence bride price has no place among the HO.
    iv. However absence of bride price among the HO and the Angami has led to the lowering of the status of woman.
    v. Among Rengma Nagas it has worked well. So also in Chota Nagpur
    vi. Where the bridegroom is unable to pay (like among the Gonds or Baigas) he provides bride service or becomes a suitor servant (Lamanai; Gharia etc.) Among the Birhor the father- in- law advances the money which is repaid in installments later.
    The Gurkha labourers work as agricultural labourers among the Jaunsar Khasa on condition that after completion of a stipulated period, they would be made sons-in-law.
    vii. Among some tribes there is an exchange of women to avoid bride price. However some like the Khasi, prohibit it.

  18. E. Marriage by mutual consent and elopement. When parents do not consent, the couple elope. After some time, marriage is accepted by parents.
    F. Marriage by intrusion. This is the opposite of marriage by capture where-in the girl thrusts herself. When she persists endlessly she is accepted.
    G. Marriage by inheritance of widows in order to inherit the property of the father. E.g. Sema Nagas. Also a convenient form when a person is unable to pay bride price.

  19. XVI. Extra marital relations :
    1. Common among tribals.
    2. The bride may move in with her children.
    3. But where it leads to pregnancy when the girl is about to be married off, no bride price is paid.
    4. Among the Muria Gonds the girls are expected to train the boys in a dormitory in sex life.
    5. Among the Khasa there is polyandry. The wife has to be loyal to her husbands but when she goes to her parent’s home she is allowed free sex.

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