Cultural Anthropology 206 March 18th Viewing and Reading Only Freezing Cultures – Freezing Life

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Ghost Marriage

Ghost marriage is found in Sudan and China.

Ghost marriages take place when a wealthy or influential male member of a village dies without any living children. A woman will then marry his "ghost" at a ceremony, usually with the brother of the deceased as a stand-in. The wife is then said to be married to the ghost of the man, and can then have his children, using the brother to facilitate this. These children, although not biological children to the deceased, serve as heirs to his heritage and can inherit both his property and his status in a society. However, this means that the brother is usually left without any children of his own before he dies, and then he must have his children through a ghost marriage, creating a circle.

Chinese Ghost Marriage

In China ghost marriages also mean when a man is married to a deceased female, more likely currently due to the growing shortage of females, so that he maintains his status in this world. This can also help the deceased bride’s family from feeling the shame of an unwed daughter.

In China a ghost marriage is called Minghun. The practices of a Minghun are conditional to that of the Sudanese ghost marriage. In arranging a ghost marriage in China, families do not use a diviner or priest, but feel the groom is "chosen" for the deceased ghost-bride. A red envelope used for money or gifts are placed in the middle of the street where a stranger will come to pick it up. Meanwhile the family hides. At which time the stranger picks up the envelope the family reveals itself and announces that the stranger is the ghost-bride's groom.

Nuer Ghost Marriage

The Nuer live in southern Sudan and western Ethiopia.

The Nuer believed that a man who died without male heirs would leave an unsatisfied angry spirit behind to trouble his family. A woman would then be chosen to marry a family member of the dead man and the children produced by these two would be thought of as belonging to the man who died.

The woman who marries the dead man’s relative may have her own agenda.

A man may marry a woman as a stand-in for his deceased brother. The children that are born of this union will be considered descendants of the dead man -- the "ghost" is the socially recognized father. This allows the continuation of his family line and succession to an important social position. A Nuer woman of wealth may marry a deceased man to keep her wealth and power. Married Nuer women traditionally have no significant wealth -- it belongs to their husbands. With this form of "ghost marriage", there will be no living husband, though she may subsequently have children. She is, in effect, a widow who takes care of her husband's wealth and children until they are mature.
Among the Nuer it was the widow or the dead man’s sister who contracted with a woman to marry a male member of the dead man’s family.

Woman-Woman Marriage
This was another type of marriage in which two individuals of the same sex could marry. This had nothing to do with homosexuality. It was found among groups including the Nuer. This was the observed situation in the late 1940s.

[A]mong the Nuer … there is the institution of woman-marriage. In this case a woman can give bridewealth to the relatives of another women and marry her. She then has absolute control over this woman and her children, delegating to a male genitor the duties of procreation. In addition, the death of the spouse does not bring to an end the rights and obligations brought about by marriage.

This description gives perspective on why a woman would choose to marry another woman.
Some societies are flexible in allowing unconventional marriage arrangements. The cattle herding Nuer tribe of southern Sudan are an example. A woman who is unable to have children is sometimes married as a "husband" to another woman who then is impregnated by a secret boyfriend.  The barren woman becomes the socially recognized father and thereby adds members to her father's … kin group.

Forms of Marriage in Kenya
The following concerns the Kikuyu people in Kenya.
[When] a husband dies leaving a childless widow, who is past childbearing age, the widow may marry a wife. The widow pays a dowry – called ‘ruracio’ – to the family of the woman selected, and arranges for a man from the deceased husband’s age-set to be with [i.e. have sex with, the selected woman]. The resulting children are regarded as those of the woman’s husband.
The tribe discussed in this paragraph is also from Kenya but not identified.
One tribe allows a woman who has no sons to 'marry' another woman. This is usually after widowhood, but can be during the husband's lifetime. The 'bride' works for and looks after the elderly woman she has 'married' but is free to choose male partners as she pleases. After all, the purpose is to have sons. Any children born belong to the family group, and the sons will

inherit the property. In one case, a woman had 'married' two other women, who between them had produced seven or eight children. The woman's married daughters approved because they could not inherit anyway.

Question Two:
How do these two types of Kenyan marriages compare to the two types of marriage we looked at above among the Nuer?

Bride Price and Bride Service

Bride price is a compensation paid by the groom or his family to the bride's family upon marriage. 

Bride service is a designated period of time after marriage during which the groom works for the bride's family.
Bride Service and the Micmac
The following discussion concerns the Micmac (or Mikmaq) of the eastern shoreline of Canada. The following link shows their traditional location:
Micmaq Map
Bride service among the Micmac does not match the definition above. Among the Micmac, bride service was when a perspective groom spent a probationary prenuptial year or so living and foraging with his future bride’s family.
When a couple was to be married for the first time (i.e. not remarried), the man (usually in his 20’s) would live in the wikwam (a type of traditional house sleeping from 10 to 20 people) of his prospective father-in-law for two or more years. During that time he worked and hunted under the older man’s direction. He had to prove he could take care of the daughter. During this time, there was no sex between the young man and the girl (who might only be 14 or 15 years old). When the trial period ended, there was a feast. If he had showed he was worthy, they were married.

Week 7, Day 32 (Friday February 18) ***Reading and Assignment

Types of Post-Marriage Residence

Patrilocal residence is the pattern that the married couple lives in the locality of the husband's father's relatives. 

Matrilocal residence is the pattern where the married couple lives in the wife's relative's locality. 

Ambilocal residence [aka bilocal] is the pattern where the married couple lives in either family's locality. 

Neolocal residence is a pattern in which a married couple form a household in a location that has no connection with either the husband or the wife's families. 

Avunculocal residence is the pattern where the married couple live with the husband's mother's brother.
Here is a sample marriage question.
What is endogamy?


It refers to the rules that dictate marriage outside a group to which a person belongs.


It is synonymous with cross-cousin marriage.


It refers to the rules that dictate marriage within a group to which a person belongs.


It refers to forbidden sexual relations with a close relative.


It refers to the custom by which the children of two brothers or two sisters marry.

Family and Household
The discussion here concerns the kibbutz in Israel. A kibbutz (Hebrew for ‘gathering’, ‘clustering’) is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Kibbutzim began as utopian communities, a combination of socialism and Zionism. They are an example of officially organized communes.
Follow these links to view some aspects of life on a kibbutz (2 minutes + 5 minutes).
The following link takes you to my lecture notes that focus on a particular type of kibbutz that was around in the late 1950s.
Left-Wing Kibbutz
Question Three:
a. The Marxist kibbutz is a continuing social unit but one that lacks some of the usual attributes of a family. What qualities does it lack (try to list at least three)?

b. What evidence is there that indicates that this type of kibbutz functioned as a family?

Residence Patterns
The following link takes you to my lecture notes on postmarital residence. After a general look, discussion with focus on the Nayar of southwestern India.
Nayar Marriage and Residence
Question Four:
Has the girl’s family changed after marriage? How might this alter the definition of marriage?

Day 33, Week 7 (Tuesday February 22) Read and Assignment
Rules of incest is something else that is determined by culture. The following link takes you to my lecture notes on one type of marriage that was found on Taiwan. This marriage between a boy and his adopted sister might be found to be incestuous in other cultures.
Taiwan Marriage
Kinship and Descent
Open these links to read my notes on terminology for kinship types and descent.
Part One Part Two
This link will take you to a practice exam question on kinship. Answer the matching questions based on your reading of the kinship portion of your text book.
Study Activities – Kinship Vocabulary Check
Question Five:
a. List your answers to the questions in a single line. For example, t, s, v, u, w, z.

Extra Credit:
b. Are there one or more questions that don’t fit in well with your text book?

c. Do you have a similar matching question on kinship that you like? If so, list both the term or phrase and the corresponding answer.
Directory: nthompson -> Anth206

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