The Family among the Australian Aborigines: A Sociological Study

By B. Malinowski | Go to book overview
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THE aim of the foregoing pages was to give a correct description of the Australian individual family.1 The chief practical difficulties lay in the methodological treatment of the evidence; in other words, in making the fullest possible use of the material, without inadvertently introducing conjectural elements. We established the necessity of our task by pointing out the following facts: (1) The contradictions, incompleteness and lack of precision in the descriptions of the individual family, given by field ethnographers, who sometimes even go so far as to deny the existence of this institution, such denials being based not upon observation, but upon speculative inference. (2) The discussion of the problem in question or of parts of it (marriage, relationship, descent, etc.), as usually found in ethnographical and sociological works, relates chiefly to the earlier stages of this institution, and as a rule leaves out of sight a series of important points, concerning its actual working, to draw attention to which was in part the aim of the present investigations. Now considering that ethnological material, especially that from the Australian continent, plays a very important rôle in all general speculations on the history of marriage and the family--Australia being the best-known and the most extensive country inhabited by a very primitive race--it seemed that a careful examination of the facts of family life in Australia would be useful. (3) In the third place it appeared that a minute investigation in this direction might be interesting as an example of a correct sociological definition of the individual family in a given society. To give it, there had to

See p. 290, note 1.


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