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BSOE-146: Marriage, Family and Kinship

BSOE-146: Marriage, Family and Kinship

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2023

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Assignment Code: BSOE-146/ASST/TMA/2022-23

Course Code: BSOE-146

Assignment Name: Marriage, Family and Kinship

Year: 2022-2023

Verification Status: Verified by Professor


Assignment A


Answer the following in about 500 words each.


Q1) Critically examine the descent approach to the study of kinship [20]

Ans) Kinship is important to a person and a community's well-being. Because different societies define kinship differently, they also set the rules governing kinship, which are sometimes legally defined and sometimes implied. The descent approach to the study of kinship focuses on tracing biological relatedness through generations, typically through a father's or mother's line. This approach views kinship as a biological relationship and emphasizes the importance of blood ties and genealogy in defining family relationships. One of the key assumptions of the descent approach is the notion of unilineal descent, where descent is traced through either the father's or mother's line, and family relationships are defined based on biological ties. This approach has been widely adopted in the study of anthropology and has been used to understand the social and cultural significance of family relationships in various cultures and societies.


However, the descent approach has been criticized for its narrow focus on biological relatedness and its disregard for the social, cultural, and emotional dimensions of familial relationships. Critics argue that this approach oversimplifies the complexities of family relationships and ignores the ways in which cultural norms, values, and practices shape familial relationships. It has also been criticized for its Eurocentric perspective, as it reflects Western notions of family and biological relatedness that may not be relevant or applicable in other cultures and societies. Another limitation of the descent approach is its failure to account for the role of adoption, surrogacy, and other forms of non-biological relatedness in shaping family relationships. The descent approach assumes that family relationships are exclusively defined by biological ties, ignoring the importance of social, cultural, and emotional ties in shaping family relationships.


The key features of descent principal as found in the theories of anthropologist using descent approach are:


1) Descent principles have parallel rules of post-marital residence- Patrilocality is when married couples and their children live in the husband's community, which is common with patrilineal descent. Matrilocality is when married couples and their children live in the wife's community, which is common with matrilineal descent.

2) Descent rules are used to determine parenthood, identify ancestry, and assign people to social categories, groups, and roles based on their inheritance status. The descent approach emphasis on the formation of social groups also called descent group. These groups have been described to exhibit certain traits:

a) Descent groups are permanent social units, who claim to have common ancestry. The membership of the group is determined at birth and stays in for life. The descent group stays together even though its members change over time.

b) Descent groups function successfully as long-term joint property owners and economic production teams.

c) Descent groups take up important corporate roles such as land ownership, political representation and helping and supporting each other.

d) In societies without a government, political order was kept by descent groups. The principle was used to trace lines of inheritance and succession as chieftain.

3) In the development of theory of family and kinship, the descent theories made reference to genealogical charts that helped trace connections between kin.

4) The descent principle helped in allocating roles and responsibility among the members of a group, term ‘kinship’ was relevant in indicating the allocation.


Q2) ‘Cultural approach focuses on kinship as cultural’. Discuss [20]

Ans) Due to the limitation of both descent and alliance theory that focussed on blood relation and marriage, there was a cardinal change in the way kinship was studied. The cultural approach emerged in the 1970s stressed on the fluid and everchanging nature of kinship relations. The reference to biology was seen as nothing more than ethnocentric view of kinship, derived from European culture. Now, kinship was to be understood with reference to cultural practices of every society.


Such an approach had a strong influence on subsequent studies. These studies have highlighted the new and emerging forms of kinship in the West. Some of the issues brought into the body of kinship studies are instability. and divorce in heterosexual marriage, the advent of same-sex marriage, gender equality, gay rights, falling fertility rates, increasing numbers of people living on their own and so on.


Kinship according to Schneider is cultural. Schneider tends to look into the underlying meanings, symbols of a concrete action and how they inter-relate and form a single, coherent, interrelated system of symbols and meanings.


Schneider’s cultural approach to the study of kinship focuses on viewing kinship as a cultural construct rather than a biological one. This approach emphasizes the ways in which cultural norms, values, beliefs, and practices shape and influence the relationships between family members. According to the cultural approach, kinship is not simply a matter of biological relatedness, but a social and cultural relationship that is defined by shared norms, values, and practices. These relationships are shaped by cultural beliefs about family and the roles and responsibilities of family members and can vary greatly across different cultures and societies.


It was utilized the most by feminists who used the approach to deconstruct the understanding of gender. They argued that gender was a cultural construct and its meaning differed from society to society. The feminists put gender at the centre of analysis and emphasized the dynamics of power relations rather than on descent and alliance.


For example, the cultural approach highlights the ways in which cultural beliefs about gender and sexuality shape familial relationships. In many cultures, patriarchal norms and values reinforce the subjugation of women and girls, while in others, matriarchal structures and values place women in positions of power and authority within the family. Also, the gay/lesbian couple seek to displace biogenetic identity from the definition of reproductive kinship. This is an instance of cultural understanding of family and kinship, where relationships are not given but constructed and negotiated in everyday situations.


The cultural approach also acknowledges the diversity of family structures and the ways in which they are shaped by cultural and historical contexts. For example, family structures in some cultures may be extended, with multiple generations living together in a single household, while in others, nuclear families are more common. Moreover, it also highlights the role of cultural practices and rituals in shaping familial relationships. For example, rituals surrounding birth, marriage, and death play an important role in defining and reinforcing family relationships and the roles and responsibilities of family members.


In conclusion, the cultural approach to the study of kinship emphasizes the importance of understanding the cultural, social, and historical contexts that shape familial relationships. This approach provides a critical perspective that challenges dominant narratives about the nature of family and reveals the diversity of family structures, relationships, and experiences across cultures and societies. By focusing on kinship as a cultural construct, the cultural approach offers a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of familial relationships and the ways in which they are shaped by cultural norms, values, and practices.


Assignment B


Answer the following questions in about 250 words each.


Q3) How is family different from household? [10]

Ans) Family and household are related but distinct concepts. While a family is a group of individuals who are related by blood, marriage, adoption, or other forms of social ties, a household is a group of individuals who live together in a common dwelling unit. The family is based on the principles of kinship whose members usually share a common residence. They reside in a house. This residential unit is called the household. The members of a household have a set of relational ties amongst them. These ties are linked with the statuses held and the corroborating role complexes members of the family are expected to constitute. The household is a commensal and co-resident group/ unit. Residence rules distinguish between family and household. The household is an extension of family.

A family can be composed of multiple households, and households can consist of individuals who are not related by family ties. For example, a family can consist of a married couple and their children, who live in separate households, such as when the children have moved out and formed their own households.  A group of people can live together, regardless of whether there are any kinship ties. For example, flat mates, people living on their own, multiple-occupancy homes for migrant workers, etc. Family along with being a functional unit is more of an ideological and emotional unit, whereas household may be described as more of a functional unit. It is more apt to take ‘household’ as the unit of analysis to understand Indian social structure rather than ‘family’. Family is a grouping of households of agnatically related men, their wives and unmarried sisters and daughters. The distinction between family and household helps us to understand the changes taking place in family in India, in terms of composition. 


Q4) Explain the caste and gender inter-sectionality in kinship. [10]

Ans) Intersectionality refers to the interconnected nature of social categories such as race, class, gender, and sexuality, and how they intersect and shape experiences of oppression and privilege. In the context of kinship, caste and gender are two important social categories that intersect and shape familial relationships. The caste system in India has historically determined one's status, rights, and opportunities, with individuals from lower castes facing discrimination and exclusion from dominant caste groups. This hierarchy is perpetuated through marriage and family relationships, where individuals are expected to marry within their caste and maintain the purity of their caste through endogamous marriages.


Gender also plays a significant role in shaping familial relationships in India, with patriarchal norms and values reinforcing the subjugation of women and girls. This is evident in the prevalence of dowry, the expectation of women to be homemakers and caregivers, and the limited decision-making power that women have in household and familial matters. The intersection of caste and gender creates unique and complex experiences for women from lower castes, who face both caste-based discrimination and gender-based oppression. This includes limitations on their mobility, access to education and employment, and decision-making power within the family.


Additionally, the intersection of caste and gender also affects how families are structured and the roles and responsibilities of family members. For example, women from lower castes may be expected to undertake a larger share of care-giving and domestic labour, reinforcing their subordinate position within the family.


In conclusion, the intersection of caste and gender in kinship highlights the importance of recognizing the interplay of multiple social categories in shaping familial relationships and experiences. Understanding this intersectionality is crucial for developing a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of familial relationships and the ways in which power and oppression operate within these relationships. 


Q5) Write a note on the feminist contributions to kinship studies [10]

Ans) Feminist contributions to kinship studies have played a significant role in reshaping the way in which the relationships between family members, communities, and cultures are understood. Prior to the advent of feminist approaches to the study of kinship, the field was dominated by male-centric perspectives that viewed family relationships as rigid and biologically determined. Feminist scholars challenged these views and brought attention to the ways in which gender, race, and class interact to shape familial relationships and dynamics. They argued that kinship should be understood as a social and cultural construct rather than a biological one and emphasized the importance of exploring the experiences of women and marginalized groups in understanding these relationships.


Feminist researchers have also highlighted the ways in which power and control operate within family structures, and the ways in which patriarchal norms and values are reinforced through these relationships. Through their work, they have revealed the ways in which women's experiences of motherhood, care-giving, and domestic labour are socially constructed and how these experiences vary across different cultures and societies. Additionally, feminist scholars have explored the role of gender and sexuality in shaping family dynamics and relationships. They have challenged the notion that families are inherently heterosexual and shown how non-normative forms of family, such as same-sex partnerships, can provide alternative models for understanding family relationships.


In conclusion, feminist contributions to the study of kinship have provided a critical perspective that has expanded and deepened our understanding of the social, cultural, and political dimensions of family relationships. They have challenged dominant narratives and helped to create a more inclusive and equitable understanding of familial relationships.


Assignment C


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


Q6) Descent [6]

Ans) Descent refers to the system of tracing family relationships and determining lineage or ancestry. Descent systems are important in many cultures as they help to define individuals' identities and determine their place in society. There are two main types of descent systems: patrilineal and matrilineal. In a patrilineal descent system, ancestry and family relationships are traced through the father's line, while in a matrilineal descent system, ancestry and family relationships are traced through the mother's line. Descent systems can also be bilateral, meaning that they recognize both the mother's and father's line or can also be based on a combination of patrilineal and matrilineal principles.


Descent systems can have a significant impact on individuals' lives, as it can affect their social status, access to resources, and opportunities. In some societies, descent can also determine who is eligible to hold certain positions of power or to inherit property.


Q7) Cross-cousin marriage [6]

Ans) Cross-cousin marriage refers to the practice of marrying someone who is the offspring of one's mother's or father's sibling that is when a man marries his mother’s brother’s daughter or his father’s sister’s daughter. Such type of marriage is practiced among the Gonds of Madhya Pradesh and the Oraon and Kharia tribes of Jharkhand. Such type of marriage is also found in the Southern India.  Cross-cousin marriage can serve as a way to strengthen family ties, maintain cultural traditions, and preserve the family's gene pool. In some societies, cross-cousin marriage is seen as ideal, as it is believed to create a bond between families and prevent disputes over property and other assets.

However, cross-cousin marriage can also lead to an increased risk of genetic disorders and birth defects, as it often results in close genetic relationships between partners and can limit the pool of potential partners leading to a lack of diversity in a population.


Q8) Live-in relationship [6]

Ans) Live-in relationships are different from the traditional family units created by marriage, and many people now prefer them. Live-in relationships, also called cohabitation, are when two adults decide to live together long-term in a relationship that is emotionally and sexually close but not married. There is no legal protection for partners in a live-in relationship. Both heterosexual and homosexual couples can have a live-in relationship. People may prefer live-in relationships as it is based on the idea that each person has a basic right to choose who he/she wants to be with. Many use it as a way to figure out if they are compatible or to establish financial security before marriage. Some people see it as a threat to the traditional family and marriage as it encourages sexual freedom. Also, children born of these relationships are thought to have less secured future. Even though live-in relationships and children born from them are legal, the children cannot inherit ancestral property and can only claim a share in the parents' self-earned property.


Q9) NRT [6]

Ans) New Reproductive Technologies (NRTs) refer to a group of advanced medical procedures used to assist in fertility and reproduction. It requires the intervention of human, machine, and medical professional to make reproductive choices available to individuals. NRTs include assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT). NRTs have revolutionized the field of infertility treatment and have helped many couples and individuals who have not been able to conceive naturally. NRTs have also allowed for the development of new techniques such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which can be used to screen embryos for genetic disorders before they are implanted. The NRT has been put into three main groups:

  1. Management technologies, which include the management of pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and birth.

  2. Contraceptive technologies, such as diaphragms, condoms, hormone suppressants, intrauterine devices, and sterilisation.

  3. Conceptive technologies, such as artificial insemination, surrogacy, fertility drugs, embryo donation, and in-vitro fertilisation.


Q10) Family of choice [6]

Ans) Family of choice refers to a group of individuals who have chosen each other as their own family, regardless of their biological relationship. It often includes close friends, adopted children, partners, and other individuals who are significant in their lives. These families are built on love, trust, and mutual support, and are just as important as biological families. Family of choice can provide a sense of belonging, comfort, and support for individuals who may not have a strong relationship with their biological family. It also allows people to create their own families, based on shared values and experiences, regardless of their background. Additionally, family of choice can offer support for individuals who may be dealing with challenges such as LGBTQ+ discrimination or rejection from their biological family. Thus, it is a vital concept that highlights the importance of chosen relationships in our lives.

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