1. PRIMITIVE SOCIOLOGY
As an illustration of the sociological sophistication of a primitive people we may quote the conclusions of Claude Levi-Strauss writing in one of the UNESCO publications: (7)
2. GROOM TO LEAVE HOME
7. Levi-Strauss, Claude, Race and History, UNESCO publication, 1952, p.28.
It will be remembered
that Laban insisted that Jacob ought to remain with him in his
territory after marrying his two daughters.
8. Dawson, J. W., Fossil Men and Their
Modern Representatives, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1880,
The principle of adoption is very widely illustrated throughout the world. For example, Sir John Lubbock said: (12)
In speaking of kinship, Robert Lowie had this to say: (13)
By African custom
a man who could not possibly be the true father of a child is
rated as its parent provided he fulfills certain legal conditions
of fatherhood. In Jewish custom these conditions involved naming
the child officially and teaching him a trade.
12. Lubbock, Sir John, ref.5, p.100.
five or six years, to
be adopted by someone traced in the male line as a relative.
(16) The adopted
child's true family in the meantime adopts another child from
another family which bears an inverse relationship to themselves.
Thus the families are not really blood units at all, but there
are many bonds of association that tend toward cohesion.
4. PHYSICAL PATERNITY
It is not surprising, perhaps, that in days gone by, or in cultures where a knowledge of what takes place at conception was very hazy, people should naturally attribute the development of a child's body to the mother but be somewhat less certain about the part played by the father. In some societies it was questioned whether the father had any physical part to play at all. For example, the Trobrianders held that supernatural beings conceived the child, though only after the passage had been opened for them by the male. (20) The Australian aborigines held that the male sperm merely feeds the supernaturally conceived
16. McIlwraith, I., "Lectures in Social
Life of Pre-Literates," at University of Toronto, 1953.
conceived embryo in its
initial stages. (21)
If it is pointed out to either of these people that the child
sometimes bears a remarkable physical likeness to the father,
they account for it by pointing out that the father fondles and
plays with his children so much that it affects their appearance.
The Australian aborigines believe that the supernatural being
is a kind of spiritual animal of some particular recognized species.
If the animal happens, in a particular tribe to be a kangaroo
for example, then the spirit of the child is kangaroo, though
the body of course is human. The child grows up to believe he
is kin to the kangaroo family and he may not eat kangaroo
meat except on one very solemn occasion which is a kind of annual
memorial communion service.
21. Murdock, G. P., ref.11, p.34.
noted that since the
legitimate father is not considered as related in the way that
the mother is, he is to some extent treated as a stranger, yet
not entirely a stranger but rather a "special friend."
Resemblances are never denied but they are never made the basis
for speculation as to the possible role of the father in procreation.
5. MOTHER'S BROTHER
No matter how idyllic the total environment of a culture may be, children still have to be taught. And teaching, if it is to be effective, must involve sanctions of some kind. Since the father has such a delightful relationship with his children, it seems clear that the necessary discipline as a child grows up must be applied by someone else. All corrections and punishments are administered by the mother's brother, the uncle on the mother's side. This principle is also very widely observed in cultures all over the world, even -- though somewhat vaguely -- in our own. With us, as boys, uncles were invariably looked upon as sources of tips and surprise gifts in a way that the father was not. In English society many parents send their children to private school, partly because of their reluctance to risk the loss of warm associations by having to take disciplinary action. It is easier to have a governess discipline the children when they are very young and the school authorities as they grow up.
24. Jackson, Dugauld, C., "Engineering's
Part in the Development of Civilization," Science,
vol.89, 1939, p.234.
Speaking once again of the Trobianders, Malinowski (26) says that a child soon comes to look upon his mother's brother, one particular brother actually, as a very special person whom he calls his kada. This individual lives probably in the same locality, but he may live at some distance in another village. It makes no difference. Malinowski says, "The child (also) learns that the place where his kada resides is also his, the child's own village; that there, he has property and his other rights of citizenship; and that there his future career awaits him." The reason why the maternal uncle is so important will become apparent in the next section.
6. BROTHER-SISTER AND BRIDE PRICE
In the previous
section we qualified the word "uncle" as being a maternal
uncle; that is, a mother's brother rather than a father's brother.
But we also qualified the statement by saying that it is one
particular brother who acts in this special relationship.
26. Malinowski, Bronislaw, "The Relations Between the Sexes in Tribal Life," in The Making of Man, ref.19, p.569.
terms of household duties
performed. When she is taken away from the house, her husband
will benefit by her past training, whereas the father will be
sacrificing a pair of useful hands. Why, then, should he not
be "compensated"? The Chukchee argue that the daughter
who has served her father, when she is married, will end up by
serving her father-in-law and that therefore the father-in-law
should be required to contribute towards the bride price which
will go to the girl's father. (27) But this is only one part of the logic.
27. McIlwraith, I., ref.16, quoting from W. Bogoras, The Chukchee, vol. 2, American Museum of Natural History Memoirs, 1904.
the T'honga, (28)
a people living on the border between Natal and Portuguese East
Africa, the collection of the bride price begins several years
before the ceremony. Much haranguing and argument accompanies
the discussions as to the proper amount between the in-laws.
The man may only be a lad when the process begins, when he obtains
a promise from his father of three cows, from his father's brother
of two cows and two goats. He may go to his father's brother's
son and get the promise of another six cows and an additional
seven sheep from his father's brother's son's son. In the meantime,
he has to accept gracefully long speeches of instruction, of
advice and precaution from the subscribing parties. Everyone
seeks to ensure that the lad will not come back to them again;
the longer the period of preparation, the greater the opportunity
each side has to expound the virtues of their respective offspring.
If the wife proves a bad one, he may divorce her and demand a
refund. She, then, has to go around and collect back from everyone
who shared in her bride price the goods which had been passed
on to them -- no mean process of recovery. It must, indeed, be
a very stabilizing factor.
28. McIlwraith, I., ref.16, quoting H. A.
Junod, Life of a South African Tribe, 2 vols., Neuchatel,
from home. Bogoras mentions this of the Chukchee. (31) And it happened to Jacob. According to P. Dobell, the custom is prevalent among the Karaikees (northeastern Asiatics). (32) If a young man should fall in love with a girl and he is not rich enough to obtain her by any other means, he enslaves himself to her father as a servant for three, four, five, or ten years, according to agreement, before he is permitted to marry her. When the term agreed upon expires, he is allowed to marry her and live with the father-in-law as if he were his own son. The same custom prevails among the Kamtchadales where the suitor of a particular maiden asks her parents permission to serve them for a time with a view to obtaining her as a wife.
7. MARRYING SISTERS
The practice of validating a marriage contract only after children have been born with the proviso that if the woman proves barren, the man must be fully compensated by the girl's family very naturally led to the principle that he might claim as a second wife one of her sisters to bear him children. According to Schapera, (33) at the present time the Tswana in South Africa require the family of a barren bride to substitute or provide in addition the next older sister. There was always the possibility, of course, and it must have happened upon occasion that even the second sister failed to provide him with a child. It was very seldom that the man himself was suspected of being to blame, though in one or two societies this possibility was recognized. On the whole, it was customary to allow for this contingency and to "hold" the other sisters for the husband of the eldest one. Even if children were born to the first wife, it was often felt quite proper for all the other sisters to join his household, since in the event of her death prematurely he could still claim one of the sisters. According to Briffault, (34) in some Indian tribes a widower could demand as a "replacement" wife her next oldest sister even if she was already married to someone else! According to the same authority, in the Central Celebes Islands, a man cannot marry a younger sister unless he has first married the elder. In the Philippines, generally, a man usually took as wives all the sisters of the family. In the Marshall Islands when a man marries a woman, he is automatically regarded as married to all her sisters. In fact, if the husband
31. Bogoras, W., ref.27, p.579.
does not find it convenient
to take charge of all the sisters, there is no alternative for
the latter than to contract casual alliances, they become in
fact what we would call prostitutes. In the Marquesas a man had
marital rights over all his wife's sisters, whether these subsequently
married other men or not. The substitution of a sister for a
wife who has died prematurely is extremely widespread, being
found among the Tartars, the Kalmuks, and many other Siberian
peoples. Among the Wabemba of the Congo, if a man's wife dies
and all her sisters are married, the husband of one of them must
allow his wife to cohabit on specified occasions with the widower.
If the sister happens to be an infant she is nevertheless handed
over to the widower but a slave girl is sent with her to act
as a substitute until she comes of age. Among the Kaikari of
Central India, a man may marry his deceased wife's younger sister
but may not marry her older sister. The principle, far from being
distasteful, is therefore found all over the world.
8. NAMING AFTER THE MOTHER
In cultures other than our own, names are apt to have somewhat wider significance. There are at least three different kinds of names. First, there is the name which is inherited in the sense that it identifies the lineage of the child in terms of blood relationships. It has chiefly social significance and because the identity of the father is not always as clear as the identity of the mother, this kind of name reflects the mother's rather than the father's line. The second kind of name is psychological, one might say personal. This kind of name is usually given by the family, who after consultation decide that they wish some ancestor to return to be with them in the household, taking up residence in the child so named. The third kind of name has more a magical connotation. Anyone who can "get hold of it" has, by doing so, a powerful insight into the character of the person to whom it is given. It gives one power over an individual to know
35. Gordon, C. A., "Notes on Philosophy
and Medical Knowledge in Ancient India," Transactions
of the Victoria Institute, London, vol.25, 1891-92:, p.236.
what this name is, and
consequently it is kept very secret. The Indians of North America
were either allotted this name privately by an individual specially
appointed as "Keeper of Names," or they went out and
sought it in a kind of private religious ordeal which might involve
some self-mutilation and entering into an ecstatic trance. It
was only shared thereafter with certain very personal friends.
According to McIlwraith, (37) the Bella Coola added names to individuals occasioned
by some personal experience, so that men or women might often
have ten or even twenty names. And knowing these was like knowing
their personal history. In England two or three generations ago,
one did not address an individual by his given name until he
had established a certain intimacy -- except where class distinction
so set a gulf between two individuals that they either would
not or could not take advantage of it. Looking back on my own
public school days, I'm quite sure that I never learned the given
name of any one of the many boys with whom I lived and played
and studied for eight years or so. It was not considered proper
to address a fellow by his Christian name.
37. McIlwraith, I., ref.16.
name, nothing had any
real existence. Thus the great Sumerian Creation Epic speaks
of past eternity as a time when "Heaven was not named, Below
to the earth no name was given." (40)
9. ROMANTIC LOVE
It is difficult for us to realize that our accumulated social wisdom does not mark the high point in history but may reflect rather a retrograde view. We find it almost impossible to see how a society could operate without "discovering" the excitement of falling in love. Nevertheless, many societies know nothing of this particular form of cultural behaviour. It is certainly not, apparently, one of the so-called "universals." Some societies recognize it as a possibility and reject it outright as being stupid. Twenty-five years ago, and perhaps even today, in China, a man who falls in love is considered insane. (43) And I learned recently that even today American films with a romantic theme are tremendously popular with Mongolian audiences because they treat them as comedies. The Samoans laugh incredulously at tales involving jealousy due to love. (44) According to Haimendorf, (45) among the Reddi of the Bison Hills the individuals concerned in a proposed marriage not only have no choice in the matter, the selection being entirely a parental affair, but the couple are virtually not even interested. One might suppose that such an indifferent union between the newlyweds might seem likely to poison their feelings
40. Barton, George A., ref.6, p.287.
toward their children and thus make them feel unwanted. Contrary to psychological doctrine, this does not appear to be the case at all. The children in such cultures appear to live remarkably happy lives. Frank Speck, (46) speaking of the Naskapi Indians in Canada says that although marriage is based entirely on convenience, "the children are quiet and well behaved, and are well loved. There is no corporal punishment but a spirit of real comradeship." This is a constant refrain in the literature of anthropology which deals with patterns of culture. It suggests that some of our conclusions that the waywardness of children is due to lack of discipline or the absence of love between the parents may require some revision. Certainly photographs of Naskapi children reflect their sunny dispositions. A notable exception is found among a people whom we have referred to more than once previously, the Trobrianders. Malinowski, who made these people his special interest, says that permanent attachments between boys and girls spring out of passion, genuine affection, and intellectual companionship. As soon as this occurs, the girl is "seen" with the boy during the day and is then considered married. In a sense we reverse this process.
It may truthfully
be said that there is an almost universal "horror"
of incest, that is to say, the marriage of a brother and sister
who are children of the same mother, or of a mother and son.
These two are singled out in particular by virtually all societies.
But, there are many cultures which do not consider the marriage
of a man to his daughter as incest since it is not felt that
the daughter received her body from him. Similarly, it is not
felt to be incest when a brother and sister who are children
of one father but not of one mother, are married -- for the same
reason. One only has to remember that it is believed that the
mother supplies the body and it is the uniting of two bodies
from the same source which is viewed with such distaste.
46. Speck, Frank G., Naskapi Indians, 1935.
fact that in many primitive or older high cultures, whenever a brother-sister marriage which was by definition incestuous could be "got away with" without ill effect on the offspring, the family was generally considered to be superior stock just on this account . . . as indeed they may very well have been. Such families gained this advantage over others, namely, that all wealth, privileges, rights, and titles remained undivided within the family. The two circumstances combined, the reputation for being superior stock and the accumulation of wealth, afforded the family aristocratic rank. The Inca chiefs married their sisters, and the Ptolemies of Egypt married their sisters. (47) It will be remembered that Cleopatra was the seventh generation of brother-sister marriages, and there was certainly nothing inferior about her, though her younger brother appears to have been less notable, indeed perhaps even slightly imbecile. It may be that the superior stock was already beginning to lose its genetic excellence.
11. CROSS COUSINS AND PARALLEL COUSINS
It should be underscored that while the concept of a cross cousin as the "ideal" marriage partner is exceedingly common all over the world, it is not the only acceptable cousin marriage relationship. By contrast with the cross cousin relationship, there is what is known as a parallel-cousin, by which is meant the mother's sister's daughter or the father's brother's daughter as opposed to the mother's brother's daughter or the father's sister's daughter. To marry one's mother's sister's daughter would be to all intents and purposes by definition incest in some cultures. In fact, it is incest but one generation removed since the couple are then children of two sisters who in turn derived their bodies from the same mother. This incest principle is not, however, applied to the marriage of a father's brother's daughter. It applies only to bodily or blood relationships, not to such spiritual relationships as are felt to exist in fatherhood. Female incestual relationships of this kind have never been favoured in any society. What is found among the Hebrew and the Muti-Ali (an Arab people), and not altogether unexpectedly, is the marriage of parallel cousins who are the children of brothers, since this is not considered to involve incest by their definition. (48) In short, I, as a son, would marry my father's brother's daughter. This is much more allowable because our two bodies will almost certainly be derived from two different mothers.
47. Murdock, G. P., ref.11, p.417. See also,
J. G. Frazer, Adonis, Attis, and Osiris, London, 1906,
p.323; and Gordon Brown, Melanesians and Polynesians,
C. S. Coon (49) notes that as the Israelites became more settled and well-to-do after the conquest of Canaan, they tended to favour a cross-cousin relationship, whereas previously they had favoured the parallel-cousin relationship adopted chiefly by the Arabs. Among the representative people who marry cross-cousins are the Reddi of the Bison Hills in India, the Hopi of Southwestern United States, the Nunivak Eskimo, the Chukchee of Siberia.
12. LEVIRATE MARRIAGE
that marriage is a contract which is broken if the wife dies
while the man might still hope for children, in which case the
dead wife's sister substitutes for her, is in some societies
paralleled by a reverse agreement. In other words, if it is the
husband who dies at a time when the wife is still young enough
to have children, then it is her turn to be compensated, and
this compensation is not guaranteed by her being given her dead
husband's brother as a "private" husband, but she is
allowed to claim her dead husband's brother as a father not only
to the children she already has but as a "substitute"
husband to provide her with more children. By this means she
can raise a family without her children being illegitimate. This
practice, which is not only found in the Bible but found among
primitive people occasionally (the Nunivak Eskimo, for instance),
is an example of the somewhat rare acknowledgment in other cultures
of the equality of the wife with the husband in terms of the
marriage contract. Although it is a mistake to suppose that the
term bride price signifies that the wife was little more than
a chattel, a purchased possession as it were, for quite other
reasons women have tended to be treated as such by their husbands
in many cultures. The Levirate, wherever it is found, is a recognition
of the right of the woman to enjoy the raising of a family for
her own protection and provision, just as the provision of a
substitute sister recognized the right of the man to raise a
family of his own. It provides for the birth of legitimate children
to a partner of a contract whose rights are not otherwise protected.
49. Coon, C. S., "Race Concept and Human Races," Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology, vol.15, 1950, p.251.
man and his sister-in-law,
(50) i.e., between
a man and his brother's wife. Among the Nahma Hottentots, the
relationship exists between cross cousins. (51) To my knowledge wherever a joking relationship is
recognized in a society, it exists always between two people
who may become man and wife. In the case of the cross cousins,
it exists primarily between cross cousins who are most likely
to end up as man and wife. Not all cross cousins will do so,
of course. In the case of the man and his brother's wife, the
same potential exists; namely, in the event of the brother's
death. It is a kind of privileged relationship of familiarity,
which may perhaps be not altogether unlike the familiarity which
used to exist in England between a boy and a girl in their childhood,
who in the normal course of events might be expected to marry
when they grew up.
I suppose that
polygyny is most commonly associated in the mind of the White
Man with Africa, and perhaps it is here that the phenomenon is
most frequently observed. As a matter of fact, when large parts
of Africa were under British Colonial administration, every administrator
when he visited a village would immediately look for the central
house or hut which had the largest number of huts adjoined to
it. For this was a sure sign of a man with many wives, who could
be pretty safely judged to be, as a consequence, an able administrator
like himself. It takes a good man, as one of my professors used
to say, to run a women's college successfully!
50. Murdock, G. P., ref.11, p.273.
to barrenness, enough has already been said to indicate that
since marriage is not for the gratification of sex, but is rather
a contract wherein the man undertakes to care for the woman and
the woman undertakes to provide the man with children to continue
his line and his name, it follows that virtually without exception
a childless wife is considered a contract breaker with respect
to her husband, a disturber of normal behaviour with respect
to her society, and a source of great potential embarrassment
to her family. The last stems from the fact that having broken
her contract, the husband can claim back her bride price, a circumstance
which can be disastrous to a family since the gifts may already
have been widely distributed -- even slaughtered and eaten in
fact. And in terms of the social organization of the community,
the groom's gifts to the bride's parents may already have been
used by her special brother for the "procurement" of
his wife. In short, reverberations are likely to occur throughout
the whole community. It is therefore no won
15. BIRTH OF TWINS
On the whole,
pastoral people, who have many flocks of sheep, can employ their
children usefully at an earlier age than those societies which
are either hunters or farmers. Hunters clearly would be handicapped
by very small children (while engaged in hunting), and farmers
who must do hard physical work cannot employ very young children
either. But those who herd animals can and do use children at
a very young age indeed. Such societies tend to welcome children
born under any circumstance whatever.
52. Garbar, Clark, "Eskimo Infanticide," Scientific Monthly, 1947, p.100.
have foods, apart from
the mother's milk, which are suitable for exceedingly small infants.
An Eskimo mother will nurse her child anywhere from four to six
years. She cannot nurse two children and infanticide is therefore
practiced (or used to be practiced) not only when twins were
born but if children appeared in too short an interval. It is
important to realize that the Eskimo, like the Chukchee and many
other primitive people, do not believe that the infant has a
soul until it has received a name. To them a nameless baby is
almost, though not quite, a thing. The mother may show
no grief when she puts the unnamed baby out in the snow to die.
Mother love is not found in all societies.
16. HONOURING PARENTS
The principle of crediting to the father the goodness of his son or blaming him for his wickedness is found very widely in non-Western cultures. It is a principle of great importance where it is observed, and the Westerner does well to heed it when in their
53. Lubbock, Sir John, ref.5, p.34.
forces in the Middle East have on more than one occasion run
into unexpected problems by personally rewarding some young Arab
who performed them a kindness. This was taken as an insult to
the father who believed that he should have received the reward
directly, and it was distasteful to the village because it undermined
their system of cultural values by improperly paying attention
to one of the younger members of the society. The result has
been to alienate the whole village by an act which was supposed
to do precisely the opposite. If the father had been rewarded
instead, as would have been proper, everyone would have been
happy: the father because he would have been richer, the son
because he would have maintained a reputation as dutiful, and
the village as a whole because the outsider's behaviour would
have been a tacit recognition of the reasonableness of their
culture pattern which they themselves took for granted.
Almost all societies
except our own have a tendency to adopt a comparatively simple
and comparatively stable diet. Some live on maize (American Indians),
some live on rice (Chinese), some live on potatoes (Aymara of
Peru), others live on the meat of a single species (reindeer:
Chukchee), and so forth, and in most cases very little change
or embellishment of the diet is either desired or possible. The
consequence of this food stabilization is that a characteristic
body odour is developed in association with each particular diet.
This body odour becomes pleasant by familiarity and is preferred
or considered "natural" by all those who happen to
share it. All foreigners or strangers who do not share it, or
who may happen to have no detectable body odour at all, are considered
distasteful in this respect. (60)
59. Murdock, G. P., ref.11, p.61.
children's clothing in order to breathe deeply the familiar body odour of home. It is just possible that the European habit of touching cheeks as a form of greeting is not a form of the kiss of welcome but a less demonstrative remnant of the habit of "falling upon the neck."
18. DIVISION OF INHERITANCE
of Western man has attached great importance to the accumulation
of wealth by "usury," the gathering of interest with
time without any further expenditure of energy by the possessor.
The longer this kind of wealth is kept in the position where
it can accumulate interest, the more valuable it becomes when
it is finally transferred to a new owner. Since a father not
unnaturally desired that his children shall have the maximum
benefit of his wealth and at the same time he is likely to be
convinced that he is the best judge of how to invest it, he is
apt to retain control of it as long as he possibly can. With
this kind of system, an inheritance normally is only passed on
to the children when the benefactor can have no further interest
61. Maine: quoted by Sir John Lubbock, ref. 5, p.464. Since this passage was largely responsible for initiating the thread of the argument in the first part of this Paper, we merely refer the reader to Part I and Part II-2 without further comment here.