Kinship as a Mechanism for Social Integrating

Joey Rahimi

It is often demonstrated in many anthropological studies that kinship acts as an
important means for social integrating in a given society. But is it a fair
generalization to say that kinship always functions as a mechanism for social

Kinship refers to the relationships established through marriage or descent
groups that has been proven in some societies to lead to social integrating, or
the process of interaction with other individuals. When researching the case
studies we have explored, I found that two main events that utilized kinship for
social integrating were death and marriage.

In the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea, in the northern Kiriwina Island,
is where the Trobrianders, studied by Anette Wiener(1988), live. Death in the
Trobrianders is a momentous event full of mourning and economical organization.
The death of someone is a detailed example of how kinship can lead to social
integrating. Wiener explains, " The message of death spreads rapidly to other
villages where the dead person has relatives or friends," showing that death is
not only uses kinship to integrate individuals, but entire villages too. The
Trobrianders are a matrilineal society, meaning that all descent groups and
kinship recognition are passed through the mother. They are organize into dalas,
matrilineal descent groups and kumilas, one of four named matrilineal clans.
During Wiener\'s fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands, she experienced the death of
an old chief, Uwelasi. The preparation of the burial of a dead person is a
complicated division of responsibilities. These roles of obligation are filled
by those in Uwelasi\'s dala and his kumila. All these people must come together,
from other villages sometimes, to help with he planning of this event. A large
part of Uwelasi\'s death was the distribution of his possessions, this involved
the people from his dala assisted by those from his kumila as toliuli (workers)
and those who were related to him through marriage or patrilineally as toliyouwa.
The toliuli and toliyouwa are united through the man\'s death because of their
cooperation and common responsibilities they share towards Uwelasi as his

Marriage, in the Trobrianders society is also a means of social integrating.
Marriage can take place out side your village or inside your village, making
integrating through kinship possible between individuals in a village and
between two villages. When a young woman marries she must move to her husband\'s
house. The parents of the wife bring food to the parents of the groom to make
the make the arrangement official. First exchanges at marriage involve the two
families and the offering of yams, beku, kuliya, etc.. These exchanges between
respective matrilineal kinsmen is a cause of integrating brought about by
possible future kinship.

The roles of marriage and death are obviously signification the Trobriand
Islander\'s society but perhaps death more so than marriage. In contrast with the
society of the Yanomamo marriage appears to play a more prominent role than in
the Trobrianders.

The Yanomamo as studied by Napoleon Chagnon( ) located in the Venezuela,
Brazilian border, use kinship through the fundamentals of marriage to develop
social integrating. The Yanomano are a patrilineal society meaning that all
descent groups and kinship recognition are passed through the father. Kinsmen
have two names in a Patrilineal society, affines if they are marriage related
and agnates if they are in your patrilineage, (father, brother, etc.). The
Yanomamo practice reciprocal exogamy, a matrimonial idea of the trade of sisters
between brothers for marriage. For example, a brother from village A who has a
sister can trade his sister, as a wife, to another brother from village B for
his sister, as a wife *diagram. This is balance trade of women between two
individuals from separate villages; what relates this to kinship is the
relationship of affines between marriage partners. The offering of women as
wives, (affines) is also a means to established alliances between the
neighboring villages.

Although, these are examples of kinship as mechanism to bring about social
integration in the society, this is not always the case. The Yanomano axe
fight that took place in the village of Mishimishimaboweiteri ( pop. 270),
clearly is an example of how kinship can create hostile intention between
villages and individuals. The people involved in the axe fight initially were
Simabimi from the host village and Moheshiwa a visitor. The argument began when
Moheshiwa demanded plaintains from Simabimi, when she refused he beat her.
Simabimi\'s brother Uuha, (agnate and also a host) confronted Moheshiwa
accompanied by his younger brother, sister, and mother, (hosts) this is when
the was fight established. Later as the fight escalated, Simabimi\'s husband,
(host) became involved and so did the