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Proscriptive features of unilateral cross-cousin marriage Kobrinsky, Vernon Harris

Abstract

This essay offers an analysis of the phenomena of normative matrilateral and patrilateral cross-cousin marriage. The review of prior literature is confined to studies which appear to be significantly opposed in approach to my own; the "exchange theories" of Levi-Strauss, Leach and Needham. Therefore, the review is conducted in the context of a discussion of some epistemological questions important to contemporary social anthropology. The major points of departure between the exchange theories and my own views center upon the question as to what we are to take as our analytic units: de facto corporate units or idealogically explicit social divisions. Whereas I opt for the former, explanatory propositions employ a concept of whole "groups" as their subject element only in an elliptical sense; "group" means a set of human actors. This view implies that, where human actors are our subject-element, it is not merely reasonable but is desirable to predicate phenomena of a motivational nature to them. Thus, both conscious decision-making and unconscious dispositions, admittedly in some sense "psychological", are valid forms of sociological analysis. Indeed, to my way of thinking they are the most powerful conceptions that we can presently form. In the last analysis I regard the predications of the exchange theories to be of precisely this order. My complaint is that this mode of predication is inconsistent with the confinement of our analytic subject-element to idealogical social divisions: whole-descent-groups. That approach, I argue, severely delimits our explanatory powers, especially in a context of structural change. These arguments are illustrated in an analysis of Purum data. My own models are based upon a series of concepts having to do with processes of role identification between personnel of adjacent generations. These processes, though not verbalized, find formal expression in the distribution of Ego's sexual cum marital privileges and taboos. This encompasses Ego's relations with many personnel, thereby extending the implications of the models' theoretical premises considerably beyond the cousin relationships taken as the initial problem. This extension in the scope of deductions permits the formulation of empirically testable hypotheses of value in the verification of the theoretical premises. The concepts and methods developed are illustrated and tested I think successfully against Murngin data.

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