Bilateral descent

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The Himba of Namibia live under a tribal structure based on bilateral descent. Himba women.jpg
The Himba of Namibia live under a tribal structure based on bilateral descent.

Bilateral descent is a system of family lineage in which the relatives on the mother's side and father's side are equally important for emotional ties or for transfer of property or wealth. It is a family arrangement where descent and inheritance are passed equally through both parents. [1] Families who use this system trace descent through both parents simultaneously and recognize multiple ancestors, but unlike with cognatic descent it is not used to form descent groups. [2]

While bilateral descent is increasingly the norm in Western culture, traditionally it is only found among relatively few groups in West Africa, India, Australia, Indonesia, Melanesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Polynesia. Anthropologists believe that a tribal structure based on bilateral descent helps members live in extreme environments because it allows individuals to rely on two sets of families dispersed over a wide area. [3]

Under bilateral descent, every tribe member belongs to two clans, one through the father (a patriclan) and another through the mother (a matriclan). For example, among the Himba, clans are led by the eldest male in the clan. Sons live with their father's clan and when daughters marry they go to live with the clan of their husband. However inheritance of wealth does not follow the patriclan but is determined by the matriclan i.e. a son does not inherit his father's cattle but his maternal uncle's instead. [3] [ dead link ]

Javanese people, the largest ethnic group in Indonesia, also adopt a bilateral kinship system . [4] [5]

The Dimasa Kachari people of Northeast India has a system of dual family clan. The Urapmin people, a small tribe in Papua New Guinea, have a system of kinship classes known as tanum miit. The classes are inherited bilaterally from both parents. Since they also practice strict endogamy, most Urapmin belong to all of the major classes, creating great fluidity and doing little to differentiate individuals. [6]

See also

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Historical inheritance systems are different systems of inheritance among various people.

Detailed anthropological and sociological studies have been made about customs of patrilineal inheritance, where only male children can inherit. Some cultures also employ matrilineal succession, where property can only pass along the female line, most commonly going to the sister's sons of the decedent; but also, in some societies, from the mother to her daughters. Some ancient societies and most modern states employ egalitarian inheritance, without discrimination based on gender and/or birth order.

References

  1. Shepard, Jon; Greene, Robert W. (2003). Sociology and You. Ohio: Glencoe McGraw-Hill. pp. A–22. ISBN   0-07-828576-3. Archived from the original on 2010-03-08. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  2. Stone, Linda (2006). Kinship and Gender: An Introduction. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. pp.  168–169. ISBN   978-0-8133-4302-0.
  3. 1 2 Ezzell, Carol (June 2001). "The Himba and the Dam". Scientific American. 284 (6): 80–90. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0601-80. PMID   11396346. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2007-07-20.
  4. Ward, Kathryn B. (1990). Women workers and global restructuring . Cornell University Press. pp.  46. ISBN   978-0-87546-162-5.
  5. Emmerson, Donald K. (1999). Indonesia beyond Suharto: polity, economy, society, transition. M.E. Sharpe. p. 242. ISBN   978-1-56324-890-0.
  6. Robbins, Joel (2004). Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society. University of California Press. pp. 191–192. ISBN   0-520-23800-1.