The Family among the Australian Aborigines: A Sociological Study

By B. Malinowski | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

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

____________________
1
See p. 290, note 1.

-292-

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The Family among the Australian Aborigines: A Sociological Study
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction xi
  • Chapter I - Exposition of the Problem and Method 1
  • Chapter II - Modes of Obtaining Wives 34
  • Chapter III - Husband and Wife 67
  • Chapter IV - Sexual Aspect of Marriage 89
  • Chapter V - Mode of Living 132
  • Chapter VI - Discussion of Kinship 168
  • Chapter VII - Parents and Children 234
  • Chapter VIII - Economics 274
  • Chapter IX - Summary and Conclusions 292
  • Addenda 305
  • References and Reading List 310
  • Index 313
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