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BSOC-109: Sociology of Kinship

BSOC-109: Sociology of Kinship

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2022-23

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Assignment Code: BSOC-109/ASST /TMA / July 2022-Jan 2023

Course Code: BSOC-109

Assignment Name: Sociology of Kinship

Year: 2022-2023

Verification Status: Verified by Professor


Assignment A


Answer the following in about 500 words each. 2×20


1. Critically examine the descent approach to the study of kinship

Ans) The wellbeing of an individual and a community depends on kinship. The principles governing kinship are sometimes explicitly stated in law and sometimes they aren't because different communities define kindred differently. The theory of descent was proposed as the fundamental organising principle for the social structure by anthropologists in the 19th century in an effort to comprehend the composition of society. Let's look at the development of the descent approach in this section, as well as some of the main arguments made by descent theorists.


Evolution of Descent Approach

In the early years of the development of the discipline of anthropology, functionalist anthropologists were looking for an answer to the question of what ties society together. The integration of the social structure was found in the kinship system since the prehistoric civilizations that anthropologists investigated were thought to be based on kinship. As social units, groups could only be united if kinship organisation was based on a unilinear principal. Only the group created by Radcliffe-Brown using unilinear descent did not overlap. Understanding unilineal decent groups is therefore crucial for the development and maintenance of social structure. The majority of anthropological writing from this century dealt with societies whose social organisation was based on unilineal lineage, giving the idea that descent served as the organising principle.


The theoretical issues brought up by anthropologists in the 19th century, primarily Maine and Morgan, were transformed into the descent approach. The relationship between kinship and territory, as well as the distinction between family as a bilateral group and clan as a unilateral group, were of interest to these early anthropologists. The primary goal was to examine the political system and structure of prehistoric society. The group of unilineal descent was used as the standard for policing interpersonal relationships and ensuring the group's stability. Maine asserts that the earliest records of prehistoric culture show that the political system was built on extensive geographical links. Morgan shared the view that all governmental structures can be divided into two groups: society, or "societas," and state.


In contrast to their predecessors, British anthropologists weren't concerned in how society developed. They were more focused on the structure's composition and the interactions between its many components. As a result, society was thought to have a methodical order brought about by the interdependence and dependence of its sections. These anthropologists came to the conclusion that residence/territory and descent coexisted in the same community on the basis of the ethnographic investigation. This served as the theoretical underpinning for the patrilineal descent group, which is thought to consist of all male agnates descended from the same line. The matrilineal group was composed entirely of uterine cells. In all situations, group integration was supported by descent.


Features of Descent Principal

The main characteristics of the descent principle as found in anthropologists' theories that employ the descent approach include:

  1. The norms of post-marriage residency follow the principles of descent: children reside in the husband's neighbourhood. Found most frequently with patrilineal descent. and their offspring reside in the matrilineal community of the wife

  2. Descent rules are used to categorise people into groups, roles, and social categories based on inherited status. They can also be used to determine parenthood and trace lineage.

  3. The descent theories made reference to genealogical charts that assisted in tracing relationships between kin in the development of the philosophy of family and kinship.

  4. The descent concept assisted in dividing up duties and responsibilities among the members of a specific group, and kinship terminology was useful in denoting the distribution.


2. Examine the feminist contributions to the study of kinship

Ans) Since the 1990s, kinship studies have taken a new turn, putting more of an emphasis on research on gender, personhood, homosexual families, new reproductive technologies, and other related topics. The publications "Towards an Anthropology of Women" by Reiter and "Women, Culture and Society" by Rodaldo and Lamphere introduced the dynamics of power relations to the comprehension of kinship. It was believed that relationships between members of society are influenced by power interactions as well as kinship and marital ties.


Linda Stone argued that kinship should not be viewed as an abstract system of alliance and descent but rather as a dynamic structure of power interactions and negotiation. In addition to rights and obligations, kinship came to be understood in terms of authority, subordination, and methods for advancing one's status in society. Collier's work on the patrilineal system placed an emphasis on women as strategists and stated that wives are connected to the patrilocal domestic group, advancing their interests while they fight through their sons and husband to break free of the domesticity.


In his book "The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State," Fredrick Engel links the emergence of private property as the cause of patriarchy and women's inferior status. He made the case that the societal separation into classes and the growth of the stat were related to the oppression of women. Engel claims that pre-capitalist society was egalitarian and that when economic conditions improved, gender disparity increased. In opposition to Engel's view,


Karen Sacks contends that the advantages enjoyed by the men of the ruling class—who persisted even during the early days of communism—are to blame for the deterioration of women's standing. Men have an advantage since they are free from home work when choosing producers of commodities and values from the ruling class. Women are prevented from developing into full adult members and begin to depend on males as a result of the split between domestic work performed by women and productive activity performed by men. Feminists also questioned some of the presumptions regarding the place and role of women in various social groups. Malinowski's disregard for women's exchange networks was criticised in Annette Weiner's book Women of Value, Men of Renown.


In kinship theory, it was the responsibility of feminist anthropologists to reject some of the dichotomies that were employed, which in some ways rendered women and their position invisible. The private-public dichotomy was the most significant one to be rejected. As a result, the contrast between the two spheres has lasted a very long time. It can be found in studies of marriage transactions, alliance theory, and descent theory. For instance, the notion of an unchanging mother-child relationship is the foundation of the descent theory.


They contend that this relationship exists whether a society is patrilineal or matrilineal and is therefore universal. The mother-child relationship, which is based on moral and emotional convictions, belongs to the domestic unit, while a person's line of ancestry belongs to the political and legal realm. The dichotomy was used to explain gender relations, with the assumption that the domestic sphere, which is focused on sexuality and childrearing, is primarily associated with women, while the "public" sphere, which is focused on legal regulations and legitimate authority, is primarily associated with men.


Assignment B


Answer the following questions in about 250 words each. 3×10



3. How is marriage defined in kinship studies and what are its types?

Ans) However, marriage as an institution has underwent modifications as a result of shifting standards for what counts as acceptable kinds of intimacy and sexuality. In any event, defining marriage as a notion has proven difficult for sociologists and anthropologists. In her paper on marriage, Kathleen Gough asserts that one concept of marriage might be appropriate in one society but not in another. In order for the children born to the woman to be recognised as the legitimate offspring of both parents, she uses her definition of marriage as an example. She cites the Nuer culture as an example where this term would be appropriate because among the Nuers, women married women. When a woman is unable to conceive children, she marries another woman—even if she has already been married—acting as the "husband" and having children with the "wife" through a clan member who impregnates her. The well-known Gillin and Gillin definition states that marriage "is a socially sanctioned manner of establishing a family of procreation."


Types of Marriage


Monogamy: Monogamy limits a person to only one spouse at a time. A man is only allowed to have one wife under this system, and a woman is only allowed to have one spouse. Every society has a high prevalence of monogamy, which is almost the norm in all advanced industrial nations. Even in places where polygamy is legal, monogamy is more common in everyday life. Most people who live in polygamous societies are unable to have more than one spouse at a time due to financial limitations and a nearly equal distribution of men and women in the population.


Polygamy: Marriage to multiple partners at once is referred to as polygamy, which can be either polygyny or polyandry. While polygamy, in the form of polygyny, is permissible in all societies, it is desired in some of them. According to Murdock's study, which examined 283 cultures, 193 of them exhibited polygyny, while 43 were monogamous, and only 2 engaged in polyandry.


4. What are the distinctive features of North Indian kinship?

Ans) The Sindhi, Punjabi, Hindi, Bihari, Bengali, Assamese, and Nepali regions make up the northern zone. In North India, groupings of patrilineal descent form the basis of kinship. This indicates that the male line is followed to track the succession from father to son, as well as the transmission of rank and property. They inherit via patrilineal mode, in other words.


Caste endogamy, clan exogamy, and incest are completely prohibited in this area when it comes to sexual connections between first-degree relatives. A man is not permitted to wed a daughter of his patriline. Lineage links in North India are often remembered for up to five or six generations, and marriage alliances are not permitted within this range. The commonly used Sanskrit term "Gotra" refers to an exogamous group. A man is not allowed to marry a lady from his father's gotra, his mother's gotra, his father's mother's gotra, or his mother's gotra. These are known as the "four-gotra restrictions."


In north India, these laws are usually followed, especially by the Brahmins and other elite castes. However, a few intermediate castes and the majority of lower castes stay away from gotras that solely include the parents. The word used to describe familial relationships is called kinship terminology. In the instance of north India, a descriptive terminology system is employed to describe the relationship from the speaker's perspective.


The north Indian terminology for kinship are highly explicit, in contrast to the English equivalents, uncle, aunty, and cousin, which do not indicate age or patrilineal or matrilineal ties. Chachera bhai, for instance, denotes the son of the father's younger brother. Similarly, memra bhai denotes the son of the mother's brother.


5. Write a note on New Reproductive Technologies

Ans) For those who are unable to conceive naturally or opt for family formation methods other than biological conception, reproductive technologies provide a glimmer of hope. Married infertile couples are an example of the former, while the queer community and people who want to be single parents are examples of the latter. Thus, under the influence of reproductive technologies, technology is redefining ideas of family, parenthood, gender roles, and marriage within kinship studies. NRT have made it obvious that kinship is formed on more than only descent and affinity.


The term "new reproductive technology" describes innovations that affect the biological process of reproduction. The process of reproduction, including childbirth, contraception, abortion, and antenatal testing, can be facilitated, prevented, or affected. Another name for NRT is assisted reproduction.  NRT has been divided into three major groups:

  1. management technology, such as those used to manage conception, pregnancy, and delivery.

  2. Utilizing hormone suppressants, intrauterine devices, sterilisation, or non-interventionist methods like the diaphragm or condom are all examples of contraceptive technology.

  3. conception-related technologies, such as in-vitro fertilisation, surrogacy, fertility medicines, and donation of embryos.


In-vitro Fertilization is the primary resource for comprehending NRT (IVF). During this treatment, eggs are surgically taken from one woman's ovaries and placed in the womb of another woman in order to facilitate conception. NRT is a facility that permits the "formation of parenthood, so paving the way for novel types of procreation," in addition to being a medical device (Heritier 1985). In order to give people, the option of choosing how to reproduce, NRT needs the assistance of humans, machines, and medical professionals. The idea of kinship has been altered by the inherent need for a third party in reproduction.


Assignment C


Write a note on the following in about 100 words each. 5×6


6. Patrilineage

Ans) Patrilineality, also known as the male line, the spear side[1] or agnatic kinship, is a common kinship system in which an individual's family membership derives from and is recorded through their father's lineage. It generally involves the inheritance of property, rights, names, or titles by persons related through male kin. This is sometimes distinguished from cognate [2] kinship, through the mother's lineage, also called the spindle side or the distaff side. A patriline "father line" is a person's father, and additional ancestors, as traced only through males. Traditionally and historically people would identify the person's ethnicity with the father's heritage and ignore the maternal ancestry in the ethnic factor.


7. Relatedness

Ans) In the 1990s, the concept of relatedness was introduced in the context of kinship studies to challenge definitions that limited the requirements for claiming kinship to consanguinity or affinity. Janet Carsten coined the phrase in her article "Culture of Relatedness," in which she made the case that kinship could not be understood solely in terms of biology and reproduction. According to relatedness, kinship is more social in the sense that relationships are built through sharing and caring for things that are not biological. The change from formal or constrictive notions of kinship based on blood connections and alliance to an informal relationship created by being related was mirrored in this.


 By creating kinship connections amongst strangers, relatedness can be proven. It also encompasses relationships created outside of marriage and biological ties. It is flexible and subject to modification. The term "fictive kinship" refers to these interactions that realign kinship with made-up family ties and customs while distancing it from blood, marriage, and property. It would be preferable, in Janet Carsten's opinion, to categorise how people act and feel in relation to one another. This makes it possible to create a fresh and more adaptable kinship study in anthropology.


8. Descriptive Kinship terms

Ans) The kinship terms play a significant role in deciphering the features of a given kinship system. Say for instance; in the way people are referred to in any system, tell us a lot about the prescriptions and taboos in that system, roles people acquire and to which category of kins they belong to. The former set of terms are those which people use in addressing each other. The latter are those, with which people refer to particular relationships. Though, sometimes these two types may be expressed using one term only.


Descriptive North: In north, the kinship terms are used as such to describe the kinship relation from the standpoint of the speaker. The descriptive character of such terminologies is so strong that in just a few terms, even the most distant kin can be appropriately described.


Classificatory South: The Dravidian kinship terms, remain classificatory because it divides the speaker’s own generation into the following two categories. One group consists of all the brothers and sisters, including one’s parallel cousins and the children of the father’s parallel cousins 


9. Joint family

Ans) Joint family, family in which members of a unilineal descent group a group in which descent through either the female or the male line is emphasized live together with their spouses and offspring in one homestead and under the authority of one of the members. The joint family is an extension of the nuclear family parents and dependent children, and it typically grows when children of one sex do not leave their parents’ home at marriage but bring their spouses to live with them. Thus, a patrilineal joint family might consist of an older man and his wife, his sons and unmarried daughters, his sons’ wives and children, and so forth. For a man in the middle generation, belonging to a joint family means joining his conjugal family to his family of orientation i.e., into which he was born.


10. Levi-Strauss’ understanding of alliance

Ans) A distinctive feature of Claude Levi-Strauss' contribution to the field of kinship studies is his emphasis on examining the structural importance of links underpinning marriage and alliance. The exchange of women through marriage is a concept Levi-Strauss discusses in his book, Elementary Structures of Kinship. He held that each community had a unique system of kinship, and that each society's kinship system should be kept apart from its other facets. He added, "Kinship systems, marriage laws, and descent groups comprise a coordinated whole, the goal of which is to maintain the social group by intertwining consanguineous and affinal links. They might be seen as the design for a system that "pumps" women out of their consanguineous families and distributes them around affinal groupings, with the end result that new consanguineous groups are formed, and so on.

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