6 4 Kinship Notation


Now let’s introduce kinship notation and diagrams.
These help us to visualize systems of kinship, residence, marriage, and descent, which can
get very complicated and unwieldy. They also help us to map kinship relations
and to compare these with other kinship systems. Kinship Notation can be used to chart kinship
relations, residence, marriage, and descent. All kinship diagrams are viewed from the reference
of EGO, the person from whose point of view we are tracing the relationship. Here are the standard kinship symbols most
anthropologists use to chart kinship. Please take a moment to study these as you’ll
need them for upcoming exercises. Males are represented by small triangles
Females by circles Marriage by an equal sign
Divorce by an unequal sign A vertical line represents relations between
parents and children A horizontal line with short vertical lines
connects siblings A backslash through a triangle or circle represented
a deceased individual Eight key relationship serve for generic kinship
charts: M for mother, F for Father, S for Son, D for Daughter, B for brother, Z for
sister, H for husband and W for wife. Here’s another chart summarizing basic kinship
notation. Please pause for a moment to make sure you’ve
got it. We use generic kinship notation symbols to
label any kin or affinal relationship in relation to EGO. I won’t cite all of the kin relationship on
this list, but generic kinship notation can be more precise, at least from an etic or
external point of view, than standard kinship terminology. In American English for example all of the
following relationships are referred to as aunt: Father’s sister (FZ)
Father’s brother’s wife (FBW) Mother’s sister (MZ)
Mother’s brother’s wife (MBW) In
many societies, these are considered to be
distinct types of kin and have different names. Among the Fang people of Gabon where I work,
Father’s Sister is called female father (esanga) whereas mother’s sister is called, simply
mother (nane). It would be inappropriate to call your mother’s sister you aunt.
Here is a basic generic kinship diagram with EGO’s generation and EGO’s parents generation.
Starting from EGO, it’s easy to trace EGO’s relationship to everyone on the chart. Number
1, for example is Father’s sister (FZ). Number 18 is Mother’s Brother’s Daughter (MBD). Please pause for a moment to verify that you’ve
understood how this works. Here’s a practice kinship chart. See if you
can identify the relationship of each circle or triangle to EGO. Also, note that kinship
charts are not necessarily complete. We see EGO as the father of 31 and 32, but we do
not see their mother, for example. 1 on this chart is EGO’s Mother’s Mother’s
Father (MMF). 28 is EGO’s Father’s Sister’s Son (FZS). 35 is EGO’s Daughter’s Daughter
(DD). Let’s shift to Post-marital Residence Patterns
and Households. Residence is culturally shaped by inheritance
patterns and economic forces. Influences which kinship relationships will
be most emphasized in a society. If as a male, you and your wife live in your father’s household
after marriage, you will tend to emphasize paternal kinship. In the US, where we tend
to establish independent households after marriage, we emphasize the nuclear family. Here are five of the most frequent postmarital
residence patterns. In patrilocal residence, couples live with
or near the husband’s father. In matrilocal residence, couples live with
or near the wife’s mother. In ambilocal residence, postmarital residence
is optional between either the wife’s or the husband’s kin.
In neolocal residence, widely practiced in North America, couples live apart from both
parents, establishing a separate dwelling and independent household.
Avunculocal will strike most of you as a bit unusual. The term avuncular means relating
to an uncle. In anthropology it refers to the relationship between men and their sister’s
children. In avunculocal residence, couples live with husband’s mother’s brother (HMB).
This residence pattern exists only in matrilineal societies. Note that in matrilineal societies,
sister’s sons (ZS) frequently inherit from their Mother’s Brother’s (MB). Therefore it
makes sense for them to live with their maternal uncles. Globally 69 percent of married couples practice
patrilocal residence. Patrilocal residence is widespread throughout Africa and Asia. 13 percent of couples practice matrilocal
residence. We can also use kinship diagrams to show residence
patterns. Here we have diagrams of patrilocal, matrilocal,
and ambilocal extended households. In the first diagram, we see that sons, their wives,
and their children live in the son’s father’s household. In the second, daughters, their
husbands, and their children live in the mother’s household. In the third, sons and daughter
have the option to stay or to live in their spouse’s parent’s household.
In neolocal residence, adult children ten to set up their own household. Here, we see
that couple A and B have their own household. Their son, labeled as C is married to E; they
too have set up their own household. C’s sister D is unmarried, but nonetheless lives in her
own household. Neolocal residence requires a lot of resources and therefore tends to
exist in societies such as the US, where independence is valued and where people have the opportunity
to make sufficient salaries to afford their own household. It also means that families
tend to be smaller and more isolated from their extended families. Imagine sharing a
house with your adult siblings, their spouses, and children. If you pooled your resources,
you could afford a big house. You’d only need one lawn mower, refrigerator, and washing
machine. You could also share expenses, household labor, and childcare. But, when I ask students
if they’re up for this, most say Yuck. Our neolocal values and independence make it difficult
even to imagine this option. In Avunculocal Residence, we see that D does
not live with his father. Instead he lives with his mother’s brother, A. But A’s own
son, B does not live with him. He, too, lives with his mother’s brother.

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