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Re: NYTimes.com Article: Iraqi Family Ties Complicate American Efforts for Change
by William Fisher
29 September 2003 09:36 UTC
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In many cultures, marriages between cross cousins are extremely common, i.e. with mother's brother's children or father's sister's children. Parallel cousin marriages are rare since father's brother's children and mother's sister's children are most commonly classified as one's siblings in most of the known systems of kinship terminology.
Marriage with the parallel patrilateral cousin is therefore uncommon in a structural sense. Where there are descent groups it may make sense as a pattern of marriage that keeps family loyalties and patrimony almost synonymous with a patri-lineage, that is, as a strategy for manipulating kin ties and maintaining control over land and some common patrimony. This is not a question of statistics for anthropologists since an expressed preference or even a prescription of a certain kind of marriage does not guarantee that this always happens in practice. However, whether or not such marriages are in a statistical majority, such preferences are important indicators of the systematic organization of cultural categories and cultural associations between kinship and the larger world, including all those things necessary for the organization of production, such as land, herds and how and by whom resources may be accessed.
Those on the list with a copy of Bourdieu's "The Logic of Practice" can check out his chapter entitled "the social uses of kinship" for more information on what he calls the "strategies of social reproduction" common among Arab and Berber peoples.

On Sunday, Sep 28, 2003, at 21:36 US/Eastern, Charles Jannuzi wrote:

Her reaction was typical in a country where nearly
half of marriages are between first or second cousins,
a statistic that is one of the more important and
least understood differences between Iraq and America.
The extraordinarily strong family bonds complicate
virtually everything Americans are trying to do here,
from finding Saddam Hussein to changing women's status
to creating a liberal democracy.<<

Then someone in the article goes on to describe the
cousin marriages as 'unusual'--I guess they mean by
'world standards'. But I don't see an actual stat
here. I'd like to know how many of the marriages are
'first' cousin and how many are 'second' cousin. You
could get away with what this writer just did if 99%
of the cousin marriages are second cousin, so this is
not even a stat, let alone a useful one.

I'm going to ask a colleague about this.

C. Jannuzi
Fukui, Japan



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