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The Structure and Dynamics eJournal welcomes articles, book reviews, data, simulations, research material, and special issues that examine aspects of human evolution, social structure and behavior, culture, cognition, or related topics. Our goal is to advance the historic mission of anthropology in the broadest sense to describe and explain the range of variation in human biology, society, culture and civilization across time and space. Submissions of databases, software tutorials, programs, and teaching materials are welcomed, as are communications on research materials of interest to a wide variety of science and social science researchers, including networks, dynamical models, and complexity research and related genre.

Back to Kinship III

Articles

BACK TO KINSHIP III: A GENERAL INTRODUCTION

Back to Kinship III is the third Special Issue of the e-journal, Structure and Dynamics sponsored by the group, Kinship Circle. Each issue is dedicated to current kinship research.There are 5 articles in this Special Issue, covering a wide range of kinship research questions and topics The first two articles, by William Young and Warren Shapiro, respectively, employ ethnographic evidence as the reason for revising previous kinship ideas. The next two articles, by Robert Parkin and Dwight Read, respectively, focus on kinship terminology and revisit theoretical issues. The last article, by Alain Matthey de l’Etang, discusses theorizing by Dwight Read challenging the “received view” of kin terms being derived through a genealogical framework and proposing, in its place, that kin terms are structurally organized through a generative logic for the terminology

KINSHIP AND HISTORY: TRIBES, GENEALOGIES, AND SOCIAL CHANGE AMONG THE BEDOUIN OF THE EASTERN ARAB WORLD

Most scholars of tribal organization among the Bedouin of the eastern Arab world utilize a two-dimensional, hierarchical model of Bedouin kinship that represents only relations of descent and affinity. This model resembles a genealogy and shows how small descent units are enclosed by larger ones. It implies that tribes grow in size only through biological reproduction. Such a representation of the Bedouin tribe fails to distinguish politically central lineages from politically peripheral lineages and also ignores the processes through which foreign lineages become “attached” as clients to politically powerful, central lineages. To correct and supplement this genealogical model, the author presents a concentric model of Bedouin tribes that adds a “central/peripheral” distinction. This model also includes relations of political “attachment” that can affect the internal morphology and growth of Bedouin tribes in ways that are comparable to the effects of affinal and suckling kinship relations on internal organization. The proposed concentric model thus allows us to represent historical change more accurately and also brings us closer to Bedouin concepts of tribal organization.

RETHINKING NAVAJO SOCIAL THEORY

Hal Scheffler, in arguing that native concepts about procreation provide the basis for kin reckoning universally, presented considerable evidence for his argument, in addition to the extension rules for which he is best known, This essay applies this evidence to the Navajo materials and shows that a Schefflerian analysis is correct. By contrast, the analysis of Nava-jo kinship by Gary Witherspoon, indebted to David Schneider’s ideas, is shown to be wide of the mark. Scheffler also argued, in much the same logical vein, that gender classification around the world is bipartite, that claims of a “third sex” are without merit. The argument is applied to “third sex” claims by Wesley Thomas, which claims are shown to be baseless.

SUBSTITUTABILITY OF KIN AND THE CROW-OMAHA PROBLEM

The reasons for the existence of Crow-Omaha terminologies have long been debated because of difficulties in associating them with specific features of social organization or practice. However, by going back to the theories of earlier authorities like Josef Kohler, Radcliffe-Brown and Lévi-Strauss and using them to interpret some key ethnographies, it is possible to suggest why they exist. That is, from ego’s perspective, the vertical equations that define Crow-Omaha terminologies unite descent lines whose members in each generation can substitute for one another in relations with ego’s descent line, as marriage and other ties between those lines work themselves out over a time scale of, very often, several decades. Ultimately this can be linked to the long claimed links between Crow-Omaha terminologies and the prohibition of certain kin types in marriage, which typically act to delay the repetition of previous marriage alliances for one or more generations. It is suggested that Crow-Omaha terminologies have less to do with the prohibitions themselves than with these periods of delay.

WHY CAN HUNTER-GATHERER GROUPS BE ORGANIZED SIMLARLY FOR RESOURCE PROCUREMENT, BUT THEIR KINSHIP TERMINOLOGIES ARE STRIKINGLY DISSIMILAR: A CHALLENGE FOR FUTURE CROSS-CULTURAL RESEARCH

Cross-cultural research involves explanatory arguments framed at the meta-level of a cohort of societies, each with its own historical development as an internally structured and organized system. Historically, cross-cultural research on hunter-gatherer groups initially was in accord with the general anthropological interest in determining the ideational basis for differences in systems of social organization, but more recent work has shifted emphasis to the phenomenal level of factors affecting the mode of adaptation to an external environment. This has left a major lacuna in our understanding of the reasons for cross-cultural differences among ideational systems such as kinship terminologies in hunter-gatherer societies. I address this lacuna in this article through cross-cultural comparison of hunter-gatherer kinship terminologies at an ideational, qualitative level. The means for so doing is first worked out using the kinship terminology of the Hadza, an East African hunter-gather group. Next, comparison of the Hadza and their kinship terminology with two other hunter-gatherer groups prominent in the anthropological literature, along with their kinship terminologies, makes evident a major disjunction between, on the one hand, the similarity of hunter-gatherer societies at the phenomenal level of activities such as food procurement and, on the other hand, striking differences among the same groups at the ideational level of the structural organization of their kinship terminologies. The reason for the striking differences between the ideational and the phenomenal levels is not immediately evident and remains a topic to be addressed in future cross-cultural research.

CHAPTER 8: DWIGHT READ: TOWARDS A NEW PARADIGM: FOLLOWED BY A DISCUSSION BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND DWIGHT READ

Here I report on Dwight Read’s theory for a paradigm change in kinship anthropology which entails kinship terminologies being interpreted as symbolic computational systems based on kin-term products. I also report on how Read argues that different conceptualizations of sibling, either sibling resulting by descent from parent, or sibling viewed in terms of shared parentage, two cultural conceptions that are rendered – here exemplifying the masculine side – by the kin-term products, S o F = B [son of fatherbrother] or F o B = F [father of brotherfather), lead to respectively building up a descriptive or a classificatory terminology. The chapter also deals with how Dwight Read accounts for the relationship between genealogical tracing and the working out of kin terms using kin-term products and how the logic of kin-term products is consistent with the extension of kin terms to kin-type categories beyond the primary ones.

The paper also reports on a discussion between Dwight Read and the author, initiated by questions and observations from the latter, regarding different aspects of Read’s reasoning. Not exhaustively, to be mentioned here is the way kin relationships are concretely worked out using kin-term products, the model of the family space and the nuclear family, group marriage,  how the conceptualization of sibling in terms of shared parentage expressed through the kin-term product F BF [fatherbrotherfather] relates to ethnographic data, the nature of the logic of kinship terminologies, the status of the structural equation S o F = B [sonfatherbrother] when used within the context of a classificatory terminology, the axiomatic nature of a number of kin-term products pertaining to specific kin terminologies, the equations pertaining to classificatory kinship terminologies that are  likely to algebraically reduce chains of kin-terms products, mapped from corresponding kin type strings, like “son of son of father of father of father” (S o S o F o F o F) is mapped from the collateral genealogical relations, father’s father’s father’s son’s son (fffss or fffbss) to an irreducible kin term, here father, which is the one native speakers use for the said genealogical connection.

The discussion also addresses, taking the example of ancient Chinese dialects, the question of what should be the structural prerequisites for a transition from classificatory (Dravidian) terminologies into bifurcate collateral and descriptive terminologies, a transition that is often posited by a number of linguists and anthropologists. Finally, the discussion deals with the question as to whether the kinship terminologies of the world all ultimately derive from a pre-dispersal African Proto-Sapiens kinship terminology. Throughout these lines of discussion, the central question is raised as to why different cultural choices on how siblings are conceptualized were made that led to different human kinship terminologies and social structures.