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Open Access Publications from the University of California

World Cultures eJournal

UC Irvine


The World Cultures eJournal welcomes articles, data, and comparative research material dealing with any aspect of human behavior. Publication of any comparative database, regional or worldwide, will be considered. Submissions of programs and teaching materials are welcomed, as are communications on research, coding, sources, and other materials of interests to comparative researchers.


On Brothers and Sisters: South Asian and Japanese Idea Systems and their Consequences

The role expectations of cross siblings varies across culture. Such expectations, while not rigidly prescribing actual behaviors nevertheless influences relations between brothers and sisters in observable ways. In South Asia, a cultural rhetoric of sororal sacrifice and support coupled with fraternal protection are commonplace. While such noble sibling roles are regularly transgressed they remain powerful idioms of the relationship and transgressions require appropriate cultural justification. In contrast, Japanese rhetorical roles lack such explicit sacrifice-protection expectations between cross sibling interactions and instead include more competitive and conflictual idealized models of cross sibling behaviors. Looking at narrative accounts of cross siblings in ancient texts in South Asia and Japan as well as contemporary rituals and observed sibling interactions, this paper argues that the cross sibling relationship must be understood as part of an assemblage of cultural idea systems which inform behaviors, beliefs and attitudes in individuals.