UPSC MAINS SOCIOLOGY SYLLABUS
Paper 1 – Systems of Kinship:
(a) Family, household, marriage.
(b) Types and forms of family.
(c) Lineage and descent
(d) Patriarchy and sexual division of labour
(e) Contemporary trends
Paper 2 – (v) Systems of Kinship in India:
(a) Lineage and descent in India.
(b) Types of kinship systems.
(c) Family and marriage in India.
(d) Household dimensions of the family.
(e) Patriarchy, entitlements and sexual division of labour.
The kinship system refers to a set of persons recognized as relatives, either, by virtue of a blood relationship technically called consanguinity, or by virtue of a marriage relationship, that is through what is called affinal or conjugal relationship. Raymond Firth in his ‘Two Studies of Kinship in London, 1956’ makes a further distinction in terms of ‘effective kin’ and ‘non-effective kin’ based upon extent of regular contact between kinship members.
According to Murdock, “It is a structured system of relationship in which individuals are bound to one another by complex interlocking and ramifying ties”. Radcliffe-Brown says that Kinship system is a part of social structure and insists upon the study of kinship as a field of rights and obligations.
KINSHIP SYSTEM IN NORTH INDIA
The northern zone, according to Karve, lies between the Himalayas to the north and the Vindhya ranges to the south. In this region, the majority of the people speak languages derived from Sanskrit. Some of these languages are Hindi, Bihari, Sindhi, Punjabi, Assamese and Bengali. In such a large region, we cannot say that there is one kinship system. The differences of language, history and culture bring about a high degree of variation within the region.
We can say that broadly speaking kinship organisation in North India is based on unilineal descent groups. When the lineage membership group is traced on the basis of shared descent in one line, we call it a unilineal descent group. In North India, we have mostly patrilineal descent groups.This means that the descent is traced in the male line from father to son.
Members of a patrilineage cooperate in ritual and economic activities. They participate together in life cycle rituals. In settlement of disputes, the senior men of the lineage try to sort out the matter within the lineage.
From one generation to the next, transmission of status and property takes place according to certain rules. In North India, these generally pass in the male line. In other words, we have a predominantly patrilineal mode of inheritance in North India.
A lineage is an exogamous unit, i.e., a boy and a girl of the same lineage cannot marry. A larger exogamous category is called the clan. Among the Hindus, this category is known as gotra. Each person belongs to the clan of his/her father and cannot marry within the clan or gotra.
Besides lineages and clans, the kinship system operates Kinship within the families of the caste groups, living in one village or a nearby cluster of villages. As castes are endogamous, i.e., one marries within one’s caste, people belonging to one caste group are kinspersons in the sense that they are already related or can be potentially related to each other.
KINSHIP SYSTEM IN SOUTH INDIA
- In South India, just as in North India, relating to various categories of kin beyond one’s immediate family implies a close interaction with members of one’s patrilineage. The patrilocal residence amongst the lineage members provides the chances for frequent interaction and cooperation. Thus, the ties of descent and residence help in the formation of a kin group. Such a group is recognised in both South and North India.
- Opposed to the members of a patrilineage, we have the kin group of affinal relatives (those related through marriage). Beyond the patrilineage are the relatives who belong to the group in which one’s mother was born, as well as one’s wife. They are a person’s uterine (from mothers side) and affinal (from wife’s side) kin, commonly known as mama- machchinan. In this set of relatives are also included the groups in which a person’s sister and father’s sister are married. The nature of interaction between a patrilineage and its affines, as described by Dumont is always cordial and friendly.
- Regarding preferential marriages, In several castes in South India, the first preference is given to the marriage between a man and his elder sister’s daughter. Among the matrilineal societies like the Nayars, this is not allowed. Next category of preferred marriage is the marriage of a man with his father’s sister’s daughter. The third type of preferential marriage is between a man and his mother’s brother’s daughter.
- Matrilineal communities in India are confined to south-western and north-eastern regions only. In North-east India, the matrilineal social organisation is found among the Garo and Khasi tribes of Meghalaya and Assam. In South India, matriliny is found in Kerala, in parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. Among the matrilineal groups of both the Hindus and the Muslims in these regions property is inherited by daughters from their mother.
COMPARING NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN KINSHIP SYSTEMS
- In northern India there is a prevalence of the patriarchal kin system. In the south, however, there exist both patriarchal and matriarchal systems of kinship. The matriarchal kinship system is found in Kerala among the Nairs, Moppilas and Teeyyars.
- In the north sapinda marriage is prohibited, whereas in the south cross-cousin marriage has the status of a preferential marriage.
- Bride-price marriage is not recognized in the north. In the south it is a common practice in marriage.
- Normally, village endogamy is not preferred in the north. In the south, on the contrary there is no prohibition against endogamy, that is, one can marry from his own village.
- In the north, there is a specific kinship terminology for blood kin and marital kin. In the south, there is no difference in kinship terminology between these two groups.
The system of kinship, that is, the way in which relations between individuals and groups are organised, occupies a central place in all human societies. Radcliffe-Brown (1964) insisted on the study of a kinship system as a field of rights and obligations and saw it as part of the social structure. Evans-Pritchard’s study of the Nuer of the southern Sudan (1951) focused on kinship groups, particularly groups based on descent in the male line from known ancestor.