Kinship as a Mechanism for Social Integrating
It is often demonstrated in many anthropological studies that kinship acts as an
important means for social integrating in a given society. But is it a fair
generalization to say that kinship always functions as a mechanism for social
Kinship refers to the relationships established through marriage or descent
groups that has been proven in some societies to lead to social integrating, or
the process of interaction with other individuals. When researching the case
studies we have explored, I found that two main events that utilized kinship for
social integrating were death and marriage.
In the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea, in the northern Kiriwina Island,
is where the Trobrianders, studied by Anette Wiener(1988), live. Death in the
Trobrianders is a momentous event full of mourning and economical organization.
The death of someone is a detailed example of how kinship can lead to social
integrating. Wiener explains, " The message of death spreads rapidly to other
villages where the dead person has relatives or friends," showing that death is
not only uses kinship to integrate individuals, but entire villages too. The
Trobrianders are a matrilineal society, meaning that all descent groups and
kinship recognition are passed through the mother. They are organize into dalas,
matrilineal descent groups and kumilas, one of four named matrilineal clans.
During Wiener's fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands, she experienced the death of
an old chief, Uwelasi. The preparation of the burial of a dead person is a
complicated division of responsibilities. These roles of obligation are filled
by those in Uwelasi's dala and his kumila. All these people must come together,
from other villages sometimes, to help with he planning of this event. A large
part of Uwelasi's death was the distribution of his possessions, this involved
the people from his dala assisted by those from his kumila as toliuli (workers)
and those who were related to him through marriage or patrilineally as toliyouwa.
The toliuli and toliyouwa are united through the man's death because of their
cooperation and common responsibilities they share towards Uwelasi as his
Marriage, in the Trobrianders society is also a means of social integrating.
Marriage can take place out side your village or inside your village, making
integrating through kinship possible between individuals in a village and
between two villages. When a young woman marries she must move to her husband's
house. The parents of the wife bring food to the parents of the groom to make
the make the arrangement official. First exchanges at marriage involve the two
families and the offering of yams, beku, kuliya, etc.. These exchanges between
respective matrilineal kinsmen is a cause of integrating brought about by
possible future kinship.
The roles of marriage and death are obviously signification...