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RELATIVES, MOLECULES AND PARTICLES 

Abstract

The logical nature of kinship terminologies has been argued for from the beginning of kinship studies, starting with Morgan, and more recently, analysts have begun to appreciate the “mathematical beauty” of kin terminological systems. Application of insights from fields such as archaeology, linguistics and molecular genetics is taking kinship studies to levels never before reached. This paper on the kinship system of a Dravidian tribe, the Hill Madia of central India, may be seen as following a similar approach, and the reason being the advantages it gives in understanding this central Dravidian kinship. Most of the ideas and concepts used in the analysis of the Madia data are standard and conventional in the study of human kinship systems, but a few such as complementation, unification and supersymmetry are taken from the natural sciences. Using these concepts as key analytical tools has proven helpful in describing some vital aspects of the Madia kinship. 

We propose that the Madia kinship may be best understood using as paradigms two natural structures: the DNA (i.e. the deoxyribonucleic acid) molecule, and the physicists’ model of the early supersymmetric universe (known as SUSY). The Madia kinship in its sociocentric view is analogous to the DNA molecule while the same kinship in its egocentric view is configured like the elementary particles in the SUSY model of very early universe. This finding may have implications for social science and perhaps also for natural sciences – for social anthropology because it may have relevance for theories of origins and transformations of human kinship, and for natural sciences because it may imply that the DNA and the SUSY structures share a common mathematical construct. 

Since this paper is addressed to a primary audience of anthropologists (kinship scholars in particular), I had to describe in detail the essential features of the biological and cosmological structures for the sake of those who may not be all that familiar with these. However, for the sake of natural scientists who may be reading this, I have been easy on anthropological jargon, and at times explained key assumptions in kinship studies. Also, I have avoided serious theoretical discussions in this paper, hoping to do so in the future when the kinship systems of the other central Dravidian societies, such as Muria, Dhurwa, Bison-horn Madia, Gaitha and the Raj Gond have been studied. 

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