The Web of Kinship among the Tallensi: The Second Part of an Analysis of the Social Structure of a Trans-Volta Tribe

The Web of Kinship among the Tallensi: The Second Part of an Analysis of the Social Structure of a Trans-Volta Tribe

The Web of Kinship among the Tallensi: The Second Part of an Analysis of the Social Structure of a Trans-Volta Tribe

The Web of Kinship among the Tallensi: The Second Part of an Analysis of the Social Structure of a Trans-Volta Tribe

Excerpt

This book concludes the investigation of Tale social structure begun in The Dynamics of Clanship among the Tallensi, 1945. It carries the analysis into the domain of family life and the social ties that grow directly out of marriage and parenthood. This is the domain of kinship, in the current usage of social anthropology.

No subject in the whole range of anthropological studies has been so voluminously investigated and debated as kinship. It is no exaggeration to say that every anthropologist of repute has, at some time or another, written about kinship. Nor has this interest been confined to anthropologists. The marriage customs of primitive peoples, their modes of domestic organization, their rules of inheritance and descent, the laws, morals, and religious beliefs associated with family life among them, have furnished material for scholars of many kinds. It is nearly a hundred years since Bachofen's reconstruction of primordial mother-right and McLennan's theory of exogamy and endogamy upset long-standing beliefs about the nature of the human family. It is exactly a century since Lewis Morgan, who may justly be regarded as the father of the scientific study of kinship in primitive society, first wrote about the Iroquois clan. Since then psychologists and philosophers, sociologists, jurists, historians, and others have drawn constantly on the mounting quantity of data concerning primitive kinship to support their theories or confute their opponents.

Fortunately for the anthropologist who ventures to write about kinship, the vast mass of literature on the subject contains only a small amount of generalization that has stood the test of modern field research. But this alone would not excuse the omission of reference to the work of other students of the subject in a book on kinship. The chief reason why I have, in this book, referred only to those authorities whose writings have direct bearing on my material is because the general problems of kinship lie outside the scope of a descriptive monograph.

At the same time the truism that facts only acquire meaning for science in the light of an adequate theory is specially relevant to the study of kinship. 'No systematic thought has made progress apart from some adequately general working hypothesis, adapted to its special topic', says Whitehead. Kinship studies, right up to . . .

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