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.
Volume 3, Issue 1, 2008
Marriage payments: a fundamental reconsideration
Abstract This paper is a constructive critique of the well-known book by Jack Goody and Stanley Tambiah (1973), Bridewealth and Dowry. Given the general acceptance of Goody’s framework in contemporary studies of marriage and marriage payments, it is essential that we refer to this framework as we advance new theoretical concepts of marriage-related socio-economic processes. As some reviews of this paper have observed, this critique is certainly overdue.
In the course of this discussion we shall set forth analytical conceptions of wealth and consumption goods that we find to be foundational to an understanding of marriage payments and other economic processes; and we provide consistent criteria for studying the cross-cultural incidence of payments, gifts, bequests and inheritance that are often associated with marriage.
For cross-cultural analysis it is important that the dimensions of social process be clearly delineated, in spite of confusion that arises at the level of common discourse. Unfortunately, the Goody-Tambiah presentation amplifies this confusion in the interest of an ethnocentric evolutionary scheme. And in the context of the study of marriage payments in China, Goody’s construction of the “indirect dowry” is particularly unfortunate.
Tatau, tatau pé, katoa tatau ‘the same, just the same, all the same,’ is the phrase most Tongan villagers used when asked if any person within the village groups they had just mentioned was mahu'inga taha ‘most important.’ Such forceful insistence on equality among villagers seems incongruous in the context of a monarchial political system, the Kingdom of Tonga, the only surviving Polynesian monarchy.
At the head of this highly stratified society is King George Tupou V, heir of a dynasty that goes back at least a millennium. How can we reconcile the stated lack of local stratification with the overt positive feelings toward a monarchy and its aristocracy?
We used social network analysis to investigate the structure and sources of influence in this Tongan village. The results of the analysis reveals a nuanced local influence structure generated by a combination of traditional kinship status characteristics as well as some based in the emerging cash economy. Thus, the descriptive statements used by villagers, ‘we are all the same’, do not adequately represent the empirical nature of the local influence structure.