Family, Kinship and Marriage

  • Joy Hendry


Within the subject of social anthropology, kinship and marriage are among the oldest and most debated topics. It is within a family group of some sort that most of us are reared, and therefore where most of us learn about social relationships. As we discussed briefly in Chapter 1, it is here that we learn to classify other human beings, and how we should behave towards them. Because these distinctions are learned so early, they are hard to dislodge, and, as we shall see, they tend to colour our views of other peoples, and their relations. We may or may not see much of our close relatives, but it is with these that we celebrate important life crises such as birth, marriage and death, and it is to these people that we may well turn in times of need.


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  1. Beattie, John (1964) Other Cultures (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul).Google Scholar
  2. Leach, E. R. (1954) Political Systems of Highland Burma (London: Athlone).Google Scholar
  3. Needham, Rodney (ed.) (1971) Rethinking Kinship and Marriage (London: Tavi-stock).Google Scholar
  4. Reynell, Josephine (1991) ‘Women and the Reproduction of the Jain Community’, in Carrithers, Michael and Caroline Humphrey (eds), The Assembly of Listeners: Jains in Society (Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
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Further Reading

  1. Bremen, Jan van (1998) ‘Death Rites in Japan in the Twentieth Century’, in Joy Hendry (ed.), Interpreting Japanese Society, 2nd edn (London: Routledge) pp. 131–44.Google Scholar
  2. Franklin, Sarah (1997) Embodied Progress: a cultural account of assisted conception (London: Routledge).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Goody, Jack and S.J. Tambiah (1973)Bridewealth and Dowry (Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  4. Holy, Ladislav (1996) Anthropological Perspectives on Kinship (London and Chicago: Pluto).Google Scholar
  5. Shore, Cris (1992) ‘Virgin Births and Sterile Debates: Anthropology and the New Reproductive Technologies’, Current Anthropology, 33: 295–314 (including com-ments).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Simpson, Bob (1994) ‘Bringing the “unclear” family into focus: divorce and re-marriage in contemporary Britain’, Man, 29: 831–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Strathern, Marilyn (1992) Reproducing the Future: Anthropology, Kinship and the New Reproductive Technologies (Manchester University Press).Google Scholar

Novels and Other Works of Interest

  1. Achebe, Chinua Things fall Apart (London: Heinemann, 1962).Google Scholar
  2. Ariyoshi Sawako, The River Ki (trans. Mildred Tahara, Tokyo: Kodansha, 1981) is a moving tale about several generations of a Japanese family.Google Scholar
  3. Jung Chang, Wild Swans (London: HarperCollins, 1991) is the much celebrated account of three generations of Chinese women who lived most actively through the tremendous changes of the cultural revolution.Google Scholar
  4. Tanizaki, Junichiro, The Makioka Sisters (London: Mandarin, 1993) is a novel which details the problems which arise for a Japanese family trying to arrange appropriate marriages for a group of four sisters.Google Scholar


  1. Life Chances: Four Families in a Greek Cypriot Village (Peter Loizos, 1974) is a classic film about social change and its effect on families living in a Greek community in Cyprus.Google Scholar
  2. Secrets and Lies (Mike Leigh, 1995) is a feature film illustrating problems which can arise when people reared in an adoptive family take steps to make contact with their parents of birth.Google Scholar
  3. Strangers Abroad: Everything is Relatives (André Singer, 1985) is a film about the anthropologist W. H. R. Rivers, whose work we discussed in Chapter 1, focusing on his study of kinship and genealogy among the various people with whom he worked.Google Scholar
  4. Under the Sun: The Dragon Bride (Joanna Head, 1993) depicts the preparations and marriage of a 16-year-old girl of the Nyinba people of Nepal to four brothers from another village. Personal interviews flesh out and illustrate this unusual example of fraternal polyandry.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Joy Hendry 1999

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  • Joy Hendry

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