Categories Anthropology I

I.2.5 Forms of descent groups (lineage, clan, phratry, moiety and kindred);

Descent groups – lineages
When unilineal descent principle (traces descent only through a single line of ancestors,
male or female) is applied people become members of multigenerational groups of close relatives called lineages.

Types- depending on whether links are traced through women or men.

  1. Matrilineages
  2. Patrilineages

Members of a lineage can actually trace links back to common ancestor.

Descent groups –Clan

  • Societies with lineages often define larger, more inclusive kin groups called clans – groups of people who claim descent from a common ancestor but cannot specify all actual links.
  • Ancestor is often genealogically so remote that he/she is thought of as a mythical being.
  • Such distant, non-human ancestors become identifying symbols of the clan, or totems.

Descent groups – phratries.

Some unilineal societies group clans into even larger-scale unilineal descent groups called phratries.
Actual genealogical links are not clear – phratry ancestors are usually mythical.

Descent groups – Moieties

  • Entire societies may be divided into two large unilineal descent groups that have reciprocal responsibilities.
  • Moieties are intended to produce a balanced opposition within society – linked pairs assume complementary positions & functions.
  • Constantly reinforced social & economic exchanges encourages economic equality & political stability.
  • Moieties are usually exogamous.
  • Each moiety takes husbands & wives from matched group.
  • Moiety members cannot demonstrate descent links back to supposed common ancestor.

Descent groups – Kindred

A kindred is an ephemeral grouping which is neither permanent nor a continuing one through generations in any fixed pattern. A kindred is  not ancestor-focused but ego-centred grouping which changes with the change in time, space and ego .

The reckoning of kindred changes with the individual who reckons his/her cicle of relatives. This is because the members of any particular kindred do not have nor reckon an ancestor in common to all of them ;instead what they all have or recognize in common is ego.

Every individual in a society has a kindred and the kindred of each individual will overlap with his/her next of kin.No kindred is common for any two individuals besides siblings.

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