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Culture, creation, and procreation: concepts of kinship in South Asian practice
 9781571819123, 9781571819116

Table of contents :
Frontmatter
List of Maps, Figures, and Tables (page vii)
Preface (page ix)
Introduction: Indigenous Models and Kinship Theories: An Introduction to a South Asian Perspective (Monika Böck and Aparna Rao, page 1)
Part One: Community and Person
Chapter 1: We, the Brothers of Tiger and Bamboo: On the Notions of Person and Kin in the Eastern Hills of Nepal (Charlotte Hardman, page 53)
Chapter 2: Village Bodies? Reflections on Locality, Constitution, and Affect in Rajasthani Kinship (Helen Lambert, page 81)
Chapter 3: Blood, Milk, and Mountains: Marriage Practice and Concepts of Predictability among the Bakkarwal of Jammu and Kashmir (Aparna Rao, page 101)
Chapter 4: Kinship, Creation, and Procreation among the Vagri of South India (Lukas Werth, page 135)
Chapter 5: Nature, Nurture, and Kinship: Body Fluids and Experience in the Social Organisation and Identity of a Peripatetic People (Joseph C. Berland, page 157)
Part Two: Gender and Change
Chapter 6: Kinship and Gender Identity: Some Notes on Marumakkathayam in Kerala (Marion H. G. den Uyl, page 177)
Chapter 7: Habitus and its Implications in Constructing Kinship Ties: Data from a Bangladesh Settlement in Britain (Sultana M. Khanum, page 199)
Chapter 8: Kinship and Marriage in the Construction of Identity and Group Boundaries among Indians in Mauritius (Oddvar Hollup, page 219)
Part Three: Shared Knowledge in Practice
Chapter 9: Theatre of Memory: Ritual Kinship Performances of the African Diaspora in Pakistan (Helene Basu, page 243)
Chapter 10: Kinship as Anger: Relations of Resentment in Kalasha Divination (Peter Parkes, page 271)
Chapter 11: Marriage Strategies in Lahore: Projections of a Model Marriage on Social Processes (Michael Fisher and Wenonah Lyon, page 297)
Chapter 12: Power and Fertility: Divine Kinship in South India (Anthony Good, page 323)
Epilogue (Sylvia Vatuk, page 357)
Notes on Contributors (page 367)
Index (page 371)

Citation preview

CULTURE, CREATION, AND PROCREATION

CULTURE, CREATION, AND PROCREATION Concepts of Kinship in South Asian Practice

Edited by Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

0, Berghaln Books New York ¢ Oxford

First published in 2000 by Berghahn Books www.BerghahnBooks.com ©2000 Monika Bock and Aparna Rao All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of Berghahn Books.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Culture, creation, and procreation : concepts of kinship in South Asian practice / edited by Monika Bock and Aparna Rao. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-57181-911-8 -- ISBN 1-57181-912-6 (alk. paper) 1. Kinship--South Asia. 2. South Asia--Social life and customs. I. Bock, Monika. Il. Rao, Aparna. GN635.857 C85 2000b

306.83'0954--dc21 O0-060885 British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Printed in the United States on acid-free paper

ISBN 1-57181-911-8 (hardback) | ISBN 1-57181-912-6 (paperback)

CONTENTS

Preface 1X

List of Maps, Figures, and Tables vil Introduction: Indigenous Models and Kinship Theories: An Introduction to a South Asian Perspective

Montka Bock and Aparna Rao ]

Part One: Community and Person , Chapter 1: We, the Brothers of Tiger and Bamboo: On the Notions of Person and Kin in the Eastern Hills of Nepal

Charlotte Hardman 53

Chapter 2: Village Bodies? Reflections on Locality, Constitution, and Affect in Rajasthani Kinship

Helen Lambert 8]

Chapter 3: Blood, Milk, and Mountains: Marriage Practice and Concepts of Predictability among the Bakkarwal of Jammu and Kashmir

Aparna Rao 101

Chapter 4: Kinship, Creation, and Procreation among the Vagri of South India

Lukas Werth 135

Chapter 5: Nature, Nurture, and Kinship: Body Fluids and Experience in the Social Organisation and Identity of a Peripatetic People

Joseph C. Berland 157

vi | Contents

Part Two: Gender and Change Chapter 6: Kinship and Gender Identity: Some Notes on Marumakkathayam in Kerala

Marion H.G. den Uyl 177

Chapter 7: Habitus and its Implications in Constructing Kinship Ties: Data from a Bangladesh Settlement in Britain

Sultana M. Khanum 199

Chapter 8: Kinship and Marriage in the Construction of Identity and Group Boundaries among Indians in Mauritius

Oddvar Hollup 219

Part Three: Shared Knowledge in Practice Chapter 9: Theatre of Memory: Ritual Kinship Performances of the African Diaspora in Pakistan

Helene Basu 243 Peter Parkes 271

Chapter 10: Kinship as Anger: Relations of Resentment in Kalasha Divination

Chapter 11: Marriage Strategies in Lahore: Projections of a Model Marriage on Social Processes

Michael Fischer and Wenonah Lyon 297

Chapter 12: Power and Fertility: Divine Kinship in South India

Anthony Good 323

Sylvia Vatuk 357 Notes on Contributors 367 Epilogue

Index 37]

LIST OF MAPS, FIGURES AND TABLES

DIPS Chapter 1:

Map 1.1: | Lohorung and their Neighbouring Tribes 55 Figure 1.1: Kiranti Groups as Classified by Lohorung Rai 57

Figure 1.2: Clans in Angla 71 Chapter 2:

Table 2.1: A Guide to Different Forms of Relatedness 83 Chapter 3:

Batri 109

Figure 3.1: The Gender-Specific Transmission of Rag and

Figure 3.2: Properties Transmitted by Rang 113

Figure 3.3: The Basic Connotations of High Altitude 116 Figure 3.4: Endogamy and Exogamy among the Bakkarwal,

According to Zat Size (in percent) 125

Table 3.1: | Concepts of Male versus Female Procreative Oppositions among the Bakkarwal and in

certain other Neighbouring Societies 110

Table 3.2: Frequency of Endogamous and Exogamous First Marriages of 187 Women in Relation to

Chapter 4: | and Raman 150

Size of their Paternal Zat 124

Figure 4.1: The Relations between the Families of Maydili

Chapter 8:

Figure 8.1: Ethnic Categories in Mauritius 220

vili | List of Maps, Figures, and Tables

Chapter 10: Figure 10.1: Deceased Grandmother Afflicts Granddaughter 283

Figure 10.2: Agnate Afflicts Lineage Aunt 284

Figure 10.3: Agnate Afflicts Lineage Sister (first case) 284 Figure 10.4: Agnate Afflicts Lineage Sister (second case) 285

Figure 10.5: Grandfather Afflicts Daughter’s Child 286 Chapter 11: Table 11.1: Marriages Contracted in Greentown by

Relationship 1976-1990 304

Table 11.2: Rank of Preferences for First Cousins in

Marriage in Greentown 1983 306

Table 11.3: The Distribution of First Cousin Marriages in

Greentown 1976-1990 306

PREFACE

DIPS This book has grown out of the ongoing debate in the social sciences on notions of well-being and the person, and the more gen-

eral discussion on structure and agency. Conversations with various colleagues encouraged us to place the discussion of native models of well-being within a broader framework of kinship studies, in which renewed interest is now evident.

Ideas about ‘consanguinity’, ‘genealogical relations’, and ‘genetic connections’ appear primordial in the perception and structuring of kin relations in Western societies. A Western native may argue that ‘blood is thicker than water’, and from this point

of view human reproduction is central to kinship. In Western models of kinship an ethnoscientific version of procreation plays a major role: the story of coming into human being is regarded as a biological process entailing heterosexual intercourse (or fertilisation in a test tube); persons come into existence at conception, and this biological phenomenon is taken as the primary fact that causes them to be. Hence in Western societies biological facts seem to constitute the primary bonds between parents and their

offspring, and the concept of heredity is stressed by Western natives when children resemble their parents or when siblings resemble each other in looks, habits or character. It has been pointed out that these facts of nature develop their ideological power in Western discourses about gender relations, concepts of the body, reproduction, and the construction of personhood.

Advocates of cultural constructivism have objected to the anthropological concept of kinship being severely biased by these Western ideas. David Schneider’s approach to kinship in particu-

lar gave an impetus to ethnosociological studies of South Asia, and stimulated the construction of an alternative system of social science using indigenous categories. This symbolic approach has, however, been rejected by some scholars as being plagued by the

x | Preface

problems of the analytical separation of ideology from practice, of largely overlooking relations of dominance, and of ignoring the questions of shared knowledge and choice. This anthology is basically the outcome of a workshop called Culture, Creation and Procreation: Indigenous Models of Kinship in South Asian Contexts, held at the Thirteenth European Conference of Modern South Asian Studies at Toulouse in August-September 1994. The authors who participated were asked to address them-

selves to one or more of the following themes: How do South Asians construct their notions of kinship? Which variances appear when dealing with models of kinship in different social, religious, and historical contexts? What is the relationship between ideologies inherent in these indigenous models and social practice? How do South Asians construct natural, biological, cultural, nurtural,

or divine facts? How significant are concepts of procreation to indigenous views of kinship? Are there other mechanisms or activities through which kinship ties are constituted? At the core of many kinship models presented at the workshop are concepts about the transmission of life, of capacities, character traits, rights, and duties. As such, these models are linked to jural concepts regarding transmission of property, just as much as to notions of ethnicity concerning transmission of identity. The question of who can and does transmit what to whom is important, also when gender relations are considered. Studies from many — though certainly not all — parts of South Asia come up with local models in which body fluids play a major role in constituting kinship. This stress on body fluids may indeed appear to contradict Schneider’s thesis that the idea of kinship as determined by biological substances is primarily a Western one. But several chapters in this volume discuss the constitution of kinship in South Asia also through adoption, divine and spiritual ties, commensality, co-residence, emotional bonds in general between persons, or relationships between persons and places — a concept summed up by the term ‘locationism’. They also consider those aspects of the cultural construction of gender and personhood which concern the essence and origins of human beings. In many of the chapters problems of methodology are also dealt with at some length. All contributors address the relationship between ideology and practice, and several discuss questions of contextualisation and coherence of knowledge, flexibility of models, decision making, and the general problem of the fuzziness of analytical categories, especially in the context of change. Discussions of method and the problems of analysis dealt with here

Preface | xi

make this volume of topical value not only for those working on South Asian social organisation, but also for all those interested in the relationship between ideology and practice. While the introduction attempts a brief review of the various theoretical approaches, each of the thirteen chapters presents as yet unpublished results of empirical studies among various South Asian communities, in South Asia and beyond. In her afterword Sylvia Vatuk assesses the present state of South Asian kinship studies and outlines future perspectives.

We are grateful to Michael J. Casimir, Hartmut Lang, and Thomas Helmig for initial ideas and discussions, which led to the workshop at Toulouse and culminated in this volume. We would like to thank Ute Dieckmann and Goetz Leineweber for their help in preparing the manuscript. Aparna Rao Monika Bock

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INDIGENOUS MODELS AND KINSHIP THEORIES: An Introduction to a South Asian Perspective

Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

AIFS Kinship was for long one of the most favoured topics in anthropology. Along with its parent discipline, this sub-discipline, a product of colonialism and the colonial perspective, divided societies into

‘primitive’, non-Western ones, where kinship determined social and political behaviour, and ‘modern’, Western ones, where it was ‘relegated to the margins of the private domain’ (Bestard-Camps 1991: 11; also see Kuper 1988). In the post-colonial world, however, and especially in the 1960s, anthropologists began to distance themselves, first from the paradigmatic models in use until then, and increasingly thereafter from the study of kinship itself. This rejection took place in the context of the general criticism of structuralist and functionalist theories, but was not restricted to the usual debates about the advantages or disadvantages of specific approaches to kinship. In these discussions the basic assumptions of

kinship studies, their axiomatic framework, even their very exis-

tence were called into question. ‘What is kinship all about?’ (Schneider 1972) was the provocative question raised, and it turned out to be the clarion call to rethink and revise the analytical premises of large chunks of theory on social organisation. Schneider’s radical criticism of the kinship perspective as ‘the

artefact of the anthropologist’ (1984: vii) dealt what seemed at the time to be the final blow to the field of kinship studies in the social sciences. Yet interest in this branch was resurrected when research turned to the domain of gender studies towards the close of the 1980s (Collier and Yanagisako 1987; see also Peletz 1995). As recently as in 1994 at the EASA Conference in Oslo, an entire

2 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

workshop was organised by Adam Kuper around the theme ‘What is kinship?’to assess the relevance of kinship studies today (also see Bouquet 1996: 63 note 1). Here we shall take a closer look at more recent kinship studies

in South Asia, especially those featuring so-called ‘cultural’ accounts. This focus appears especially interesting, since these studies tried to apply Schneider’s concepts to contexts which till then had been conceived of as largely determined by descent and

alliance. We shall touch only very briefly upon structuralism, which, mediated through the writings of Dumont, greatly influenced the study of South Asian kinship (e.g., Mayer 1960; Srinivas 1962; Madan 1965; Parry 1979), and refer the reader to Uberoi’s (1994) valuable introduction. We begin by a discussion of the human body, bodily substances, indigenous models of procreation, and the roles which ethnophysiological notions play in the process of becoming a person and in establishing various ties

of social relationships. The section on the social dimensions of kinship addresses various forms of non-genealogical kinship attested in South Asian contexts. The more general discussion of the construction of meaning then leads us to ‘kinship in practice’ and ‘the diachronic perspective’. The latter considers change within South Asia, and among South Asian communities in other parts of the world. It is our explicit endeavour to place the entire discussion in a comparative, partially cross-cultural framework. This not only does justice to Schneider’s approach, which was applied in a variety of cultural contexts (e.g., Yap, the United States, Melanesia, and South Asia), but is an expression of our attempt to search for both the uniqueness and the universalities of South Asian concepts and practices of kinship. We conclude this introductory chapter with a brief discussion of the general problem of coherence and incoherence of knowledge and the determinacy and indeterminacy of behaviour especially in the field of kinship. The different chapters with the rich data they present illustrate the wide span of perspectives on the topic and can be seen, in some ways, as grappling with many of the questions raised in Ost6r, Fruzzetti, and Barnett (1982).

The Human Body and Bodily Substances Within the structural-functional paradigm in the colonial and immediate post-colonial eras the term kinship referred to two kinds of human relationships, depending on the framework used. In the

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 3

narrower of these two frameworks it referred to connections between parents and children and to the networks of relationships resulting from these links of filiation. In this restricted sense ‘kinship’ was seen in contrast to marriage, which created relations of affinity. In the broader of the two frameworks, however, the term ‘kinship’ was used ‘to refer to the whole conceptual and social field’

(Keesing 1975: 22) that embraced both filiation and affinity. Human emotions played a decisive part in all these discussions about the ‘nature’ of kinship. The ‘instinctive’ love of a mother for her child is one such example which was assumed to be ‘natural’ and used to ‘explain’ the ‘natural ties of kinship’. Another equally frequent assumption pertained to the ‘bonds of paternity’, but one was still a long way away from, for example, Hewlett’s (1992) perceptive observations about the relationship between specific pater-

nal participation in child care and demographic constraints. Strangely enough, the human body never figured prominently in all these discussions of sexual reproduction (Lock 1993). That the human (and especially female) body was ignored is all the more surprising, since in the history of our discipline the body

had in the beginning played a central role. The idea of bodily transmissions, whether translated into the concepts of heredity and ‘race’ (see Synott and Howes 1992), or into the more sociocultural ones of symbolism (Mauss 1973; Hertz 1973), rites of passage (Van Gennep 1960) and socialisation (Mead 1973) had always existed. But in the most obvious of contexts, namely that of kinship theory, the body had been largely left out. The question of ‘transmission’ was dealt with primarily in the context of property and institutions, and the role of bodily substances in procre-

ation was entirely overlooked. Schneider’s study of American kinship (1968) introduced bodily substances as a central topic in kinship studies. Schneider (1968: 101) argued that American kinship is defined by two symbolic features: inherited, natural bodily substances (‘blood’ or ‘biogenetic substance’) and a moral code

for conduct demanding ‘diffuse enduring solidarity’. Inden and Nicholas (1977: xiv) adapted this basic model for Bengalis and suggested that here ‘the code for conduct ... is thought to be embedded in the bodily substance shared by the persons of each genus and to be inherited by birth. As a consequence ... no distinction is made as in American culture, between an order of “nature”, defined by shared biogenetic substance, and an order of “law”, defined by code for conduct’. The concept of the essentially universalistic patterns of thought postulated by scholars such as Lévi-Strauss was now laid to rest

4 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

by these anthropologists. Just as American kinship was culturally, and specifically, constituted, so also were ‘South Asian norms’ now found not to be basically universalistic, but particulate, and ‘shown to be more probably a product of culturally specific moral and biological concerns’ (Appadurai 1986: 755). A major para-

digm in the field of South Asian studies (Dumont and Pocock 1957; but also see Bailey 1959) now resurrected thanks to this approach was that of ‘Indian ethnosociology’ (Marriott 1989). The basic argument here is ‘the indivisibility of the moral and the biological orders, the fluidity of biomoral substances’ (Appadurai

1986: 755). ‘The Hindu’ way of thinking was seen not only as homogeneous, but also as fundamentally different from ‘the

Western’ way of making dichotomous distinctions. ‘Hindu thought’ came to be characterised by a cognitive ‘non-duality’ (Marriott 1976: 1097f.).

The model of the Chicago School was primarily a reaction to Dumont’s theories about the Indian caste system, wherein he saw the ‘Hindu ideology of purity and pollution as the superordinate or “encompassing” criterion’ (McGilvray 1982: 34). Marriott’s model of ‘coded bodily substances’ pointed to the cognitive structure underlying this ideology, as well as to the daily practice of negotiating the fluid boundaries of ‘un-bounded entities’. With this, kinship in South Asia came to be generally conceived of in the context of relations between unbounded, ‘open beings’ (Moffatt 1990: 220), affected not only by social and moral forces but also by bio-physical ones. Unlike Western persons, ‘Hindu persons’ then, were considered as constituted in an eternally openended and indeterminate way, by such things as the soil they lived on, the persons they interacted with, the food they ate, the configuration of the planets, the conjunction of the seasons, etc. (Daniel 1984; Appadurai 1986: 756; Lock 1993: 138). The complexity of the concepts of the person in South Asia was perhaps best illustrated by the extremely valuable collection of papers

edited by Ostor, Fruzzetti, and Barnett (1982). Taking both Dumont and Schneider as points of reference, these papers also attest to the broad spectrum of opinion obtaining on the subject. In South Asia the body was henceforth increasingly thematised in theories of action, insofar as dominant norms and values are experienced through the body, par excellence the ‘experiencing agent’ (Csordas 1994: 3). Since Foucault’s seminal work (1979) it increasingly appears, however, that in all societies the human body has a historical dimension, that nowhere can it still ‘be considered a “bounded entity”’ (Csordas 1994: 2). It is and

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 5

always has been constructed, to a certain extent, by political discourse. This would suggest that not only South Asians, but most

humans do not radically separate ‘act from actor ... code from substance ... law from nature, norm from behaviour ...’ (Marriott 1976: 110). We shall turn to the problematic elements of Marriott’s argument later in this chapter. Increasingly, studies of concepts of person stress the processual aspects and the life course perspective has come to the fore. Logically then, kin-relations must also be perceived of as constituted

not only through procreation, but as a continuous process in which, for example, acts of feeding, blessing, naming (Bock 1998) and co-residence (Moore 1985; Rao this volume; Khanum this volume) interact and constitute each other. These interactions involve the ‘pervasive negotiation of biological instability and moral risk’ (Appadurai 1986: 755); hence predictability must be an important

factor in both ideology and practice. In their papers Fischer and Lyon, and Rao present data which show that many South Asians consider interpersonal transactions potentially risky propositions, and in their attempt to increase predictability and minimise this risk

they search for equality and similarity. On the strength of ethnographic data on indigenous perceptions of kinship, some of the papers in this volume question many of the axioms still taken for granted. In their papers Fischer and Lyon, Hollup, Lambert, and Khanum all address the question of ‘what constitutes kinship?’ While Rao, Berland, Parkes, and Good discuss the roles indigenous concepts of biology, physiology, emotions, and the body in general

play in the constitution and perception of kinship in different South Asian communities, Hardman, Basu, Werth, and Good emphasise the relationship between kinship and mythology/religion, and Den Uyl focuses on kinship and gender.

Indigenous Models of Procreation ‘What is kinship if it is not about reproduction?’ (Starr and Collier 1989: 5)

Schneider once wrote (1992: 629) that the Western concept of the union of male sperm and female egg conjoining to form offspring is an ‘ethnocentric view ... not shared by all cultures’. In most South Asian cultures, however, it appears that not only do physiological concepts lay the basis for ideas about biological pro-

creation, but that they go further to influence broad aspects of

6 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

social organisation and world views. The intergenerational, i.e. hereditary, transmission of traits is an idea encountered among different religious and social communities in the subcontinent. How this transmission takes place, and its relevance for our topic here will now be discussed. In many parts of contemporary South Asia, a child is held to take after its father in all major aspects (cf. Inden 1976: 95). In the

Vedic, and to a certain extent Puranic, periods the son was considered to be the ‘father himself born again’ (Sutherland 1990: 87), and the Manusmrti (IX, 8) states that ‘the husband, after conception by his wife, becomes an embryo and is born again of her’. As Saul Migron (1988) shows this concept was common to most ancient Indo-European cultures; in India it perhaps came to be metaphorised by the term vamsa, the bamboo which reproduces itself through numerous offshoots from the original stock. The notion of basic similarity between those engendered by the same

male is beautifully underlined in the Panduan, a localised, Himalayan version of the Mahabharata when Arjuna referring to Bhima says, ‘I am his brother, his cousin, his offspring, as also his ancestor’ (Zoller pers. comm. 1993). The story of Andhaka in the Mahabharata suggests that even temporary states (here, his geni-

tor’s being blindfolded) are transmittable along the male line. ‘Heredity ... in the Mahabharata’, as Kakar (1979: 17) remarks, ‘... is not simply a matter of biology. Together with the father’s “seed”, the karmic balance from the previous life gives the child certain predispositions that are all-determining in their impact on

individual behaviour.’ No wonder then, that the qualities of the genitor were considered decisive; they influenced not just one succeeding generation, but all generations to come. At least among some South Asians this influence is still considered to be not just physiognomic or physical; for example the Muslim Khalifas, traditional musicians originally from Gujarat but now living in the United Kingdom, ‘believe that they have inherited this musicality from their forefathers, through “the blood”’ (Baily 1993: 4). Kakar observes (1979: 17) that according to the Mahabharata, the ‘contribution of “nurture” during ... childhood ... [is] negligible’. If this is so, can we meaningfully distinguish here between biological and social fathers? Is then, the pater-genitor debate (e.g., Barnes 1961; Ingold 1991: 360f.) meaningful in the South Asian context? Having established that male transmission is crucial to concepts of procreation, we may now ask what roles, if any, female trans-

missions are thought to play. Some males are apparently so

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 7

potent, that no female is required for either conception or birth; thus according to one story (cf. the Skanda Purana), Siva brought a son into the world without the help of his spouse, Parvati. Less dramatic but more contemporary symbols of male potency and female marginality in the wider sphere of reproduction and marriage are provided by certain communities among whom objects belonging to males represent their virility; the sword representing a Rajput groom at his wedding is one of the better known examples of this notion. Descent can also be reckoned through intermediaries. Hutton (1980: 56) for example, reports that ‘whereas among Brahmans the gotra represents actual descent from the original rishi, in other castes the descent is from an individual for whom such a rishi acted as family priest’. One of the apocryphal stories about Kabir’s birth points to similar ideas: ‘It is said that

there lived a Brahmin at Varanasi who was a devotee of Ramanand. The Brahmin had a daughter who was a virgin-

widow. ... Her father, one day, took the girl along with him (to pay homage to Ramanand). As she prostrated before Ramanand and touched his feet, the master blessed her with a son. Considering that the girl was a virgin-widow, the Brahmin was in a ... predicament. Ramanand’s words, however, could not be recalled. In due course the girl gave birth to ason ...’ (Das 1992: 1).

Although there are individual stories of virginbirth (e.g., Karna’s mother Kunti, or Buddha’s mother Maya), sexual activity

and reproduction were clearly linked. This is evident not only from numerous texts (some of which mention arduous sexual abstinence and self-abnegation in order ultimately to receive prog-

eny, as in the story of Savitri’s birth), but also from the fact that male impotency remained a tabooed subject (Chakravarti 1995: 13). The prohibition of widow remarriage among the upper castes, as well as the existence of levirate underlines this relationship between sexuality and reproduction, whereby a woman once

married, remains her entire life identified as the passive bearer/transmitter of the husband’s or his family’s/lineage’s offspring and reproductive powers. Indeed, in all these contexts what is stressed by author after author is that generally in South Asia, and especially in most parts of northern, central, and eastern India women are held to play a passive role in the creative process — that ‘the blood of a female child ... can not be transmitted’ (Dube 1986: 22). Hence, it is only with its father — and not with its mother —

that a child ‘shares its blood ... A male child has the potential of being the transmitter of the same blood to the next generation. A female has ... to join a man of another blood line and produce

8 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

children for him ...’ (Dube 1986: 22). In other words the mother’s

role is limited to ‘augment[ing] what the womb has received, through her own blood which provides warmth (incubation) and nourishment ...” (Dube 1986: 22). This view is said to be attested in patrilineal Hindu communities, while in matrilineal societies it is described as being the opposite (Dube 1986: 32f.; Nongbri 1994; also see BOck 1998).

Whether by analogy or homology, another common theme is that of woman and her womb being the earth and the man and his semen representing the seed to be sown: ‘The husband who put his semen into his wife, is indeed a farmer sowing his ground’ (Garuda Purana II: 32.17, in Filippi 1996: 39). In many Hindu texts

semen and blood are equated, and the Rg-Veda at least mentions the use of blood for manuring (Nagar 1963: 131). According to classical Hindu and Buddhist theory ‘woman is the mere “field” in

which the seed is sown, not an active partner in the process’ (O'Flaherty 1980: 29; also see Dube 1986; Diemberger 1993: 108; David 1973), and Jones (1974: 118, 120) reported a Nuristani man as commenting, ‘a wife is like a field; you plant seed in more than

one field.’ Such concepts are basically also in keeping with the Qoranic ‘your women are your tilth, so come into your tillage how you choose’ (II: 223), and many of the views noted among Hindus of South Asia are also adhered to by certain South Asian Muslims, who hold that ‘blood comes through the male line’ (Donnan 1988:

88; Jeffery 1979: 10). Much like the offshoots of the bamboo in South Asia, it is the height and girth of the genealogical tree, which in the Middle East provide proof of ‘authentic origin’ and ‘good birth’ (e.g., Hammoudi 1980) — and it is said that ideally, the

branches must all be male. But the Qoran has another verse too: ‘He it is who created you from the earth, then from a clot, then from congealed blood, then He brings you forth a child ...’ (XL: 67-69). The ‘congealed blood’ is the womb, and in another passage (LXXXVI: 5) it is even more explicitly said that humans are created from ‘water poured forth, that comes out from between

the loins [of the man] and the breast bones [of the woman]’. West-Afghan Pashtuns may well refer to this concept when they say that the mother, rather than the father, plays a central role in determining the properties a child is born with (Casimir, pers.

com.), and among Durrani Pashtuns of northern Afghanistan ‘women are the source of descent (nasab)’ and are also perceived to ‘pass on personal traits to their offspring’ (Tapper and Tapper

1982: 160). Among Muslim women in Bangladesh opinions diverge somewhat as to the respective roles of genitor and gen-

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 9

etrix, and Blanchet (1984/87: 70) writes: ‘Of the women who believe that the mother contributes “seed” to the child, a majority said she contributes less than the father ... One informant ... claimed ... “from the father, comes the brain ... and the bones ... from the mother, the blood ... and the flesh ... ” Only one informant held the view that, although the mother contributes no seed to the child, she “makes” the child in her womb with the drop of “blood” provided by the father ..." Apparently a high degree of consensus existed among Blanchet’s female informants; nevertheless her example also raises the question of idiosyncratic and con-

text-dependent usages of a shared model of procreation — a phenomenon addressed by Good in his chapter here. But even classical Hindu texts are not as unequivocal about the roles of genitor and genetrix as has been generally suggested, and we must not lose sight of the context specific distinctions between the rather passive bharya (she who has borne) and the more active jaya (she who procreates) (ci. Roy 1996: 22). Ayurvedic sources (e.g., Susruta Samhita III: 1.16, 3.3; Caraka Samhita IV: 4.5 in Keswani 1963: 212) and several other texts mention the importance of the female in the processes of conception and reproduction. “Would that I had a wife, then I would procreate’, is the wish

in the beginning of the world, according to the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (1: 4.17, in Hume 1958: 85); and the Taittirtya Upanishad

(I: 3.3) states clearly, ‘with regard to offspring, the mother is the first form, the father the second form, progeny is their union, procreation is the medium’ (in Keswani 1963: 211). Even the notoriously misogynous Manusmrti states that ‘offspring ... depends on one’s wife alone’ (IX: 28), or again, ‘in some cases the seed is more distinguished and in some the womb of the female’ (IX: 33-34, in

Keswani 1963: 211). The very fact that unions were classified as anuloma or pratiloma, depending on the jati of husband and wite

point to the relevance of the comparative status of both in the realm of procreation. In his study on the concept of death in Hindu traditions Filippi (1996) sets out many other passages from a variety of texts in which the role of the genetrix is clearly as important

as that of the genitor. The Mahabharata refers to the practice of niyoga (cf. Sur 1963), whereby a woman wanting to beget sons could do so legitimately by any man, be he her husband or any one else. Two of the most well known stories of this epic — those of

the blind Dhrtarashtra and the ash-coloured Pandu - tell us that the acts and looks of the genetrix play a decisive role in procreation. The story of Vidura, also in the same epic, clearly indicates that even lineage and caste ascriptions may sometimes be deter-

10 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

mined by the kshetra, the ‘mere field’ (see Khare 1970 and Suther-

land 1990 for recent discussions), and Chakravarti (1993: 579) also suggests that ‘women are regarded as gateways — literally points of entrance — into the caste system’. Indeed, just as in Skanda’s conception and birth only the father played a role, similarly in the story of his brother Ganesha’s birth, only the mother has a role to play: In the Vamana Purana Siva explains that Ganesha ‘will be called “Vinayaka” because he was born nayakena vina,

“without the intervention of a husband”’ (Rocher 1991: 75). Recent ethnographic studies (Gold 1989; Sax 1991: 18-26) also show that in regional, often oral, traditions in North India the ‘female seed’ plays a dominant role, while Kapadia (1996: 29f.) notes for the Tamils of Aruloor: ‘You grew for ten months in your mother’s womb - it’s her blood that nurtures you. So you have more of your mother’s blood than you father’s blood in you.’ McGilvray (1982: 50f) found only one Tamil informant in Sri Lanka telling him that the male seed grows in the female field; in this matrilineal community, conception is seen as ‘fundamentally bilateral’, while ‘all subsequent gestation and development of the embryo draws solely upon the resources and bodily substance ... of the mother’. In certain other parts of South Asia ‘it is important

that the qualities of the genitor and the genetrix are evenly matched’ (Das 1976: 3; see also Enthoven 1914: 93). This last idea may also be of significance in concepts about the

kind of equality looked for among future spouses and discussed by Fischer and Lyon, Khanum, and Rao in their respective chapters in this volume. Marriage is not only a public statement of rank; it is also a measure towards attaining well-being and ensuring it for future generations. This, in turn, is possible only if all concerned fulfill their respective roles. The probability of role fulfilment translates into a cognition of dependability, and hence predictability. To reduce the risk of malfunctioning and to increase

predictability it is crucial then, to find the right spouses. The matching of spouses depends largely on the families they come from, and in the societies that especially Fischer and Lyon, and Rao discuss blood is a polysemic symbol also concerning the person as role enactor (also see Applbaum 1995 for similar observations on Japanese society). In some societies the qualities of genitor and genetrix may be

conceived as being passed along gender-specific lines; thus the Bishnoi of western Rajasthan say that a daughter tends to take after her mother, a son after his father (Rao, ongoing fieldwork). In other societies, such as those of the Bakkarwal (Rao, this vol-

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 1]

ume), it is the mother and her relatives who are more crucial for offspring of both sexes. After all, even in a society as strongly patrilineal and patriarchal as that of Saudi Arabia the sons of one

mother are often known by their mother’s name (e.g., the ‘Sudairi Seven’ who consist of King Fahd and his full brothers — but not his brothers by other mothers). Indeed, in a wide range of

cultures ‘a good (normal) child suggests a good mother; a bad child a bad mother’ (Busfield 1987: 74). In the Middle East and many parts of South Asia it is the mother’s milk that is held to be the determining element. Depending on one’s cultural perspective this is the last of the long ‘chaine reliant nourriture, semence

et filiation’ (Héritier-Augé 1994: 149) — or the first in the Ayurvedic system where food is transformed successively to bone marrow, then to blood, and finally to semen (Inden and Nicholas

1977). Mother’s milk is nourishing, but can equally be ‘poisonous’, since it can end up producing unworthy offspring; this ambivalence is, as O’Flaherty (1994: 214) remarks, a ‘central motif of Hindu mythology’. Ideas about and models of procreation known from South Asia thus mostly appear to point towards genealogical links — be these paternal, maternal, or both. In other words they come close to the core of the definitions of kinship — as suggested for example by Scheffler (1974: 749) and Keesing (1975: 13) — as relationships ‘modelled on the culturally recognised connection between parents and children (and extended to siblings and through parents to more distant relatives)’ (Keesing 1975: 150; also see Lang 1989:

41). Those who plead for a specific Indian ethnosociology have even suggested that ethno-physiological concepts are keys to the understanding of both social organisation and belief systems in South Asia. Relationships constructed through blood, semen, and milk between children and parents and even across generations, seem to lay the foundation for ties of kinship. And yet, even in South Asia these are not the only imaginable building blocks of this foundation: it is essential ‘to explore in each specific ethnographic context the degree to which ideas about bodily substance are (or are not) integrated with ... kinship behaviours and ideologies’ (McGilvray 1976: 287). In South Asia the various mechanisms for establishing kinship seem to blend into one another. As Marriott observes (1998: 378),

both genealogy and ‘non-genealogical dealings ... constitute relatedness ... within and between families ... in South Asia’. ‘Substance’, as understood by Inden and Nicholas and by Marriott, does not have only a physical dimension; social, economic,

12 | Monika Béck and Aparna Rao

religious, and territorial dimensions are also incorporated. It

includes not just the material, but also the immaterial or ideational — ‘perceived words, ideas, appearances, and so forth’ (Marriott 1976: 111). According to Inden’s (1976: 16) account of Bengali culture, for instance, human jati and their subdivisions are defined through the combination of shared bodily substances (dhatu) with three other life-giving substances related to occupation, location, and worship. Each of these ‘substances’ in itself is, Inden argues, not sufficient to define a social unit as a jati or kula;

for this ‘a composite substance feature’ combining all the four components is required. Hence a collectivity consisting of a preceptor and his disciples can not be classified as a jati ‘because their

defining substances [are] not combined with shared bodily substances’ (Inden 1976: 17{ff.). A closer look at many contemporary South Asian societies reveals that a variety of relationships — including those of occupation, territory, politics and worship — run parallel both in ideology and in practice to unequivocally biologically defined relationships. For example among Tamils in Sri Lanka’s Batticaloa ‘there was no single “symbolic vector”, such as blood, which represented ... the essence of matriliny. The multiple sources of matrilineal ties, such as nourishment, affection, propinquity, matrilocal household and dowry property, can all be

interpreted as mutually reinforcing transactional links to the women of the matriline’ (McGilvray 1982: 90). Even this idea of drawing on multiple sources is, however, not specifically South Asian; the very concept of dynastic rule is after all based on such concepts. Their tenacity in South Asia is amply

demonstrated by the recent political histories of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, where widows, daughters, and sons of erstwhile politicians have successfully appealed to precisely this aspect of kinship ideology in order to be voted to power. Alongside caste, kinship concepts have indeed always played a role in Indian electoral politics (e.g., Rao and Rao 1974: 454), and as this volume goes to press we witness yet another discussion of this practice. While the Italian origin of Sonia Gandhi

is being used by some to disqualify her from becoming India’s

Prime Minister, others are citing her affinal relations to the Nehru-Gandhi family and her having ‘adopted’ India as her place of residence to prove just the opposite. Referring to the common practice of village exogamy, Hindu village women also interpret

the situation in terms of kinship: ‘a daughter-in-law is always from elsewhere, so what’s so strange about Sonia?’ (told to Rao in western Rajasthan).

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 13

In her chapter here Rao shows how within a single society concepts of procreation may stress the roles of genetrix, genitor, and the environment, not only in the creation of life, but in the development of psycho-physical characteristics of children and grand-

children, which are considered crucial to attaining and maintaining well-being within and even beyond the family. The environment here as elsewhere includes both the animate and the inanimate, both people and places, both humans and non-humans — or, to use a much misused terminology, both ‘nature’ and ‘culture’. Hence, concepts about procreation embrace both ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’ or ‘social ties ... modelled on the “natural” relations of genealogical parenthood’ (Keesing 1975: 13). But the concept of ‘natural’ relations is as much of a cultural construct as that of ‘nature’ itself (cf. Ellen and Fukui 1996), and in Foucaultian fashion it can be considered as a discursive symbol, instrumental in the conveyance of political meaning. The very fact that of all the partially contradictory notions regarding conception and procreation only a select few appear to have survived among upper caste Hindus and Muslims is itself indicative of political choice. Indigenous models of procreation then, can perhaps be most meaningfully approached from the perspective of the construction and functioning of different kinds of what has come to be known as ‘relatedness’, defined in culture-specific terms. The

study of such contextualised relatedness should enable us to broaden and clarify the scope of kinship studies.

The Social Dimensions of Kinship According to Carsten (1995: 224), relatedness refers to ‘the indige-

nous ways of acting out and conceptualising relations between people’. It also stresses a processual view of personhood and kinship. Shimizu (1991) also pleads for a start with ‘folk perceptions’ of kinship. His analytical model of kinship identifies three phases in the coming into being of a person, namely, ‘kinship-by-procreation’, ‘constructed kinship’, and ‘ideological kinship’. The first phase suggests that initial identity is acquired through (culturally

constructed) physical procreation. Later attributes are added on and we reach the second phase — ‘constructed kinship’. Finally, ‘ideological kinship’ refers to ‘a symbolic apparatus’ that mediates a ‘sort of ideological discourse of kinship’, and ‘selectively emphasises [its] dominant features’ (Shimizu 1991: 397). Both Carsten

and Shimizu attempt to deal more adequately with the well-

14 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

known empirical fact that in every society kinship terms refer not only to culturally specific subsets of genealogically related individuals, also they are used to speak about and address individuals and even phenomena (e.g., Bean 1975; 1978) beyond this genealogical network. This usage was explained by making an analytic dis-

tinction between physical and social kinship. Social kinship referred to social roles associated with certain kin terms, such as ‘mother’ and ‘father’; it also referred to rights and duties, jural obligations, and moral responsibilities connected with social institutions, such as fatherhood and motherhood. Physical and social kinship were not considered identical but overlapping, and all relationships which revealed discrepancies between these two kinds of kinship were classified as ‘fictive’ (e.g., Gellner 1960). In this sense, the term ‘fictive kinship’ has been applied to all social relationships modelled on ‘natural’ kinship relations. Though this position was criticised (e.g., Barnes 1973; Beattie 1964; Needham 1960; Schneider 1984), the distinction between ‘true’ (physical) kinship and ‘fictive’ kinship — also called ‘pseudo’

or ‘artificial’ kinship — continued to be applied in ethnographic analyses. The use of the term ‘pseudo-kinship’ seems to accept the argument that not all ‘non-physical’ types of relatedness pretend to be ‘natural’ ones, but rather are culturally contrasted with and consciously set off from physical kinship. Hence Pitt Rivers (1973) suggested that the term ‘fictive kinship’ be restricted to

adoption, and that this in turn be distinguished from what he calls ‘figurative’ or ‘ritual kinship’. Fictive kinship is said to be jurally recognised, and functions normally fulfilled by certain physically related persons are wholly or partly taken over by others. Figurative or ritual kinship, however, is not in itself jurally recognised, although the relationship concerned may be jurally

regulated from other points of view, such as for instance the priest/parishioner relationship or the Christian institution of godparenthood, both of which are subject to civil and ecclesiastical

law but nevertheless consciously set apart from natural bonds (Barnard and Good 1984: 150). This distinction can have political

and economic implications as in the case among patrons and clients in Bangladesh: ‘Any servant family that has been serving a rich family from generation to generation becomes automatically the poor kin of the latter ... [and] kin terms may be used symbolising the existing power relationship between them. [This] enables the land owning rich patron to control the labour force

through the distribution of patronage’ (Mashreque and Amin 1993: 24-25, 22; also see Osella and Osella 1996; Rao 1995).

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 15

In her chapter here Lambert distinguishes between different forms of relatedness, and refers to kinship bonds established on co-residence (termed ‘village kinship’) as ‘fictive’. These distinctions, though extremely useful from an analytical point of view may, however, get blurred when observing the pragmatic use of kinship terms, for there is, at least in north India ‘a verbal area where distant and fictive kin shade into one another’ (Vatuk 1969: 258). How problematic this shading can be becomes obvious if we consider the use of the terms for ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ (see Jamous 1991); both these terms apply to close agnates and affines, and yet are also used to address and refer to distant kin as well as complete strangers. In northern India and Pakistan the term for ‘brother’ can connote entire groups (bhaiband, btradari) based upon a variety of genealogical or non-genealogical criteria. Such semantic networks of meaning are of course not specific to South Asia. The distinction between ‘true’ and ‘not true’ relatives may also

be problematic if indigenous views are taken into account. In her chapter Hardman addresses this problem. One might be tempted to interpret the bonds of brotherhood between the different Rai groups as those of ‘fictive’ or ‘pseudo’ kinship. Since this form of relatedness is expressed in the lingua franca, Nepali, one might

speculate that the Rai themselves distinguish this form of ‘brethren’ from the ‘true’, genealogically immediate form of ‘brethren’. But from the indigenous point of view this interpretation would be highly questionable.

Adoption Differences between ‘true’ relatives and those who are not may get especially blurred when discussing adoption. Classified as ‘fictive kinship’ by Pitt Rivers (1973), adoption is, as Keesing (1975: 13) remarked, a social relationship closely modelled on ‘natural’, genealogical links. Narrowing down the perspective Goodenough (1970) referred to adoptions as ‘transactions of parenthood’, which brings to mind Ester Goody’s (1978: 231f) concept of parenthood which could also be applied to distinguish analytically between fictive and ‘true’ kin. She saw parenthood ‘as divisible into several different roles, each concerned with a different prerequisite for social replacement’, and distinguished five aspects: (1) bearing and begetting — which refer to indigenous views of physiological facts, (2) nurturance — the provision of nurture and nursing, (3) training — the provision of moral and technical edu-

16 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

cation, (4) sponsorship into adulthood — e.g., god-parenthood, and (5) endowment with civil/kinship status — birth status identity. Each of these aspects ‘can, individually, be split off from the rest and made the object of delegation, sharing, transfer, etc.’ Adoption must then, exclude at least the first aspect (bearing and begetting), and, as Jack Goody (1976: 68) suggested, it may have ‘three overlapping functions: (1) to provide homes and families for orphans or other deprived children; (2) to provide offspring for childless couples or individuals; (3) to provide such couples or individuals with heirs to their property’. Adoption is, indeed, still a little-explored topic in anthropology. Historical studies indicate the political uses of adoption, and in colonial South Asia much political horse trading and manipulation of allegedly customary laws took place to get the ‘right’ (i.e. pro-British) heirs adopted and installed as ‘native chiefs’. But the seminal ethnographic work done on the subject in Oceania shows that adoption need not always be jurally recognised, as the terminological distinction of Barnard and Good implies (see above). At least in eastern Oceania adoption ‘tends toward an informal arrangement between the parties most immediately concerned’ (Caroll 1970: 6). Here, from the indigenous points of view, a clear distinction is drawn between ‘fosterage’ (temporarily taking care of others’ children as an obligation of kinship) and ‘adoption’ (permanently assuming the major responsibilities of natural parents). Similar distinctions seem to be drawn by the Khasi of northeastern India. If a mother dies, her young children are usually taken care of by her younger or elder sister, who are already classificatory mothers to these ‘orphans’ (khun swet). Children can also be given by their biological mother to her childless sisters as

a support in their daily lives. If a woman remarries, the children from her first marriage may live with their maternal grandmothers or aunts in order to avoid conflict with the new husband. All these arrangements seem to be considered residential ones and connote fosterage, and are distinguished from the institution of rap ting (lit. to help a house/family), which is usually translated as ‘adoption’. Rap iting provides a matrilineal lineage (kpoh, lit., womb, a matrilineal unit comprising three or four generations) with an heiress, or more precisely — as Khasi themselves view it —

with a custodian of ancestral property (also see Singh 1985). Among the Khasi, residential and fosterage arrangements as well as adoptions seem to take place between persons who are already genealogically closely related — those who are already classificatory mothers and classificatory children — in other words within a

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 17

group of persons who already share physical substances. The Same appears to be the case in patrilineal Rajasthan, where a man most commonly adopts his own brother’s children. In many parts

of rural South Asia when a woman conceives her second child very shortly after the birth of the first, the latter — especially if it is a girl — is given to nurture to a very close relative — preferably

one of the grandmother’s or the father’s elder brother’s wife. Although not considered as adopted, these children are then brought up entirely by their foster parents and even refer to them and address them as ‘father’ and ‘mother’; in the case of girls even their marriages and dowries are arranged by these ‘parents’. Evidence from Oceania as well as from South Asia suggest that to give or take children in fosterage or adoption is usually part of more general obligations between certain kin categories (Carroll

1970: 13). The question arises then, to what extent an adopted person’s ‘natural’ birth status identity is replaced by the ‘cultural’, adopted one — an assumption often made (see Barnard and Good 1984: 151ff.). To what extent does adoption really rearrange ties of consanguinity and culturally constructed physical kinship? Is it

possible that appearances notwithstanding, adoption is not perceived as changing the ‘natural’ relationship of a child to his ‘biological’ parents (see Fischer and Lyon’s chapter in this book)? And

is it really believed in Euro-American contexts ‘that ties of consanguinity can be effaced and then be recreated by a legal act’ (Carroll 1970: 14; see e.g., Modell 1986; Fox 1993: 53-125)? If the relationship between an adoptive child and its adoptive parents is equivalent to that between natural parents and their children, why are adopted children forbidden in many societies to marry their original natal kin? Alternatively, how can they then be permitted to marry the ‘true’ children of their adopted parents, as for example Uttara, nurtured by Arjuna as his daughter, did in the Mahabharata when she married Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s ‘natural’ son (see also Rao 1992: 126 for a similar case among the Bakkarwal)? The answers to such questions may be found by taking a closer look at the precise contexts in which children are given and taken and at the motivations of individuals who do so. Always intensely personal, these motivations are nevertheless culturally formed. Thus, in parts of ancient India a high caste woman who had a child by aman from a low caste could regain her former caste status, provided that ‘to avoid contamination of blood’ she gave her child away for ‘some one else to rear’ (Munshi 1955: 134). Today, while adoptive parents in Britain may ‘want to fulfil their own need to nurture

18 | Montka Bock and Aparna Rao

a healthy child’ (Bennett 1994), in urban Rajasthan a daughter may be adopted for the purpose of earning merit (punya) in afterlife by giving her away in marriage (kanya dan); in rural parts of the same

region a nephew may be adopted to take care of one in one’s old age. In their chapter on Lahore, Fischer and Lyon briefly discuss a case of adoption, and in her chapter, Helen Lambert examines adop-

tion in Rajasthan from an indigenous perspective and shows that different kinds of adoption are distinguished locally. In northern India adoption is not restricted to the parent-child relationship; as in

the Middle East here too sibling relations can be formed through adoption. Indeed the Hindu festival of raksha bandhan celebrates the creation, renewal, and affirmation of sibling ties. Adoptions can also be of a ‘ritual’ (cf. Mayer 1960) or spiritual nature, and a terminological distinction is made between god lena (lit., ‘taking someone in one’s lap’, i.e., adoption of a child with all its socio-economic, religious, and jural connotations) and making a person one’s dharam or dini son/daughter, or even sibling and thereby forging specific but

limited bonds of reciprocity. Whereas anyone of any community can be ‘adopted’ as a spiritual relative (in fact the prefix dharma for

any relationship has for the Bengali/Bangladeshi context been translated simply as ‘fictive’, cf. Datta 1970; Mashreque and Amin 1993: 20; Sarkar 1980), the practice of god lena is largely restricted to those already related by blood (member of the same clan, i.e., of the same male blood, see e.g., Joshi 1995: 49; Srivastava 1993: 27; Tie-

mann 1968) or marriage. Even the last can be problematic, and in western Rajasthan there appears to be a widespread belief that if in the absence of sons and other male consanguines one adopts one’s daughter’s husband, he in turn is likely to fail to have surviving sons (Rao, ongoing fieldwork).

Spiritual Kinship Ethnographic data currently available leave no room for doubt that in all societies, whatever their ideas about procreation may be, sexual reproduction is considered one of its essential elements (e.g., Frayser 1985; Aijmer 1992). Schneider’s view that notions of procreation and sexual reproduction are not always linked can not be substantiated (Helmig 1993: 147-50, 1997; Lang 1989: 41), though the ‘virgin birth’ debate continues (e.g. Van Dokkum 2000). Yet if we are to do justice to indigenous notions of procreation, we can not afford to limit ourselves to the biological model. Prominent among the former notions is that of spiritual kinship. The term ‘ritual’ or ‘spiritual’ kinship is usually employed to

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 19

describe relationships associated with the Christian institution of

baptism and god-parenthood (Stirrat 1975 for Catholic Sri Lanka). Compadrazgo relationships of Spain and Spanish-speak-

ing America are fairly well-discussed examples of this type of non-physical relatedness (see e.g., Bloch and Guggenheim 1981 for an overview). Christian god-parenthood, of course, is only one form of ritual kinship; several other aspects in the sphere of the sacred and mythological are discussed by Basu, Good, Hardman, and Werth in their respective chapters. Unlike the Judeo-Christian concept of God the Father, Hindu myths, like Greek ones, portray gods and goddesses as behaving like humans. They are mothers, fathers, and infants, just as much as lovers and beloveds not only in relation to one another, but also with regard to their devotees. As Roy (1996: 23) remarks, in the Rg Veda (II: 1.9) ‘men at least occasionally aspire to brotherhood with the gods.’ These also act as guides and teachers. One major aspect of spiritual kinship hardly touched upon by any of the contributions to this volume (Basu’s chapter deals briefly with the topic) is that of the relationship between the master and initiator, or guide and teacher and his disciple, initiate, or pupil. In his study of the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi, Pinto reports that murids compare the relationships they have with their biological parents and their spiritual masters. They accord greater importance and emotional attachment to the latter, and, Pinto comments, ‘The authority of one’s pir is greater than that of one’s parents’ (Pinto 1995: 227; see also Schmitz 2000). Discussing transmission among Hindus, Assayag (1994: 56) suggests that the basic difference between caste and ‘sect’ in India lies in the manner in which membership in each of these categories is transmitted over generations. While a caste reproduces itself through the transmission of blood or semen (bindu parampara), a ‘sect’ is reproduced by transmitting the initiatory formula or sound (mantra or nad parampara). Indeed the most popular legend about Kabir tells how even as a Muslim he became a disciple of the famous Hindu guru Ramananda: ‘he

stretched himself across the stairs leading to the river where Ramananda came for his bath in the predawn darkness. Tripping over Kabir’s body ... Ramananda cried out his own mantra: “Ram! Ram!” Kabir then claimed that the mantra had been transmitted and he must be accepted as a disciple’ (Kabir 1986: 1). However,

the fact that at least some sects have ended up functioning as castes (e.g., the Bishnoi sampraday) or as closed groups (e.g., Brahmo Samaj) and no longer recruit members from beyond

20 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

their genealogically related circle appears to accord this distinction only ideological relevance. Since marriages also usually take place within this network of ritual kin, there is also considerable overlapping between this kind of ‘ritual’ kinship and ‘true’ kinship. One basic defining criterion of a master-disciple relationship — be it among Hindus (guru-shishya parampara) or among Muslims (pir-muridi), be it spiritual or secular (like the gharana traditions

among North Indian and Pakistani musicians) — is that of an unbroken ‘genealogy’. According to the undoubtedly idealised (cf.

Openshaw 1998) and largely male-oriented concepts about such relationships, the notions of tradition, lineage, and continuity function here in much the same manner as among biologically related parents and children. The longer the demonstrable chain of transmission, the higher its status. ‘Pedigrees’ embody tradition and for example ‘for a gharana to become established, it must have at least a three-generation depth of offspring or disciples who maintain a coherent and recognised style’ (Neuman 1980: 155). Neuman compares gharanas with certain intellectual circles or schools of thought in Europe, the only difference being that ‘their structural cores are non-familial institutions’ (Neuman 1980: 146). Yet, many Western ‘schools of thought’ — including some in anthropology — do tend to function like well-knit family groups, a phenomenon which finds appropriate symbolic expression in the German terms Doktorvater/Doktormutter still in use today.

‘Sharing something’ Inden (1976: 16ff.) had suggested that at the root of spiritual kinship lies the notion of shared ‘worship substances’. We go further

to suggest that relatedness, whether in the sacred or profane spheres is based upon sharing per se. Doing things together — whatever these may be — lays the foundation for relationships,

and the emotions that arise from common experience. Such experiences can be so intense that those they are shared with can be accorded the status of a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’; hence, in parts of Pakistan and northern India classmates (hamsinfi — those who

share the same class), may be considered brethren and form a biradari. Even the most profane of shared experiences may suffice to forge such bonds; as two young truck drivers told Rao recently in Jodhpur, ‘we truck drivers form the thirty-seventh jati — we all go through the same experiences together — share the same wor-

ries and joys’ (proverbially there are thirty-six jati in western Rajasthan). Increasingly in metropolitan India such bonds are

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 21

esrowing, the genealogical family being scattered across the world. As the magazine India Today wrote in a recent feature (22 March,

1998: 30ff.), ‘It’s choice not genes that make the New Indian Family. Friends now do what family once did: they cook together, holiday together, shop together and even buy property together. In tragedy or in celebration they become an inevitable social sup-

port system.’ Such bonds can even transgress the principles of caste and (eventually class) hierarchy, as Osella and Osella (1998) show for male friendship groups in Kerala. Another kind of com-

mon experience is that of sharing space and turning it thereby into meaningful place. That ‘systems of meanings are moral systems’ (Perin 1986: 100) is well illustrated by the term hamsaya used in northern India and Pakistan to denote a neighbour; its connotations are not simply those of spatial proximity, but also of the emotions of nearness, neighbourliness, trust, and reciprocity, but also intimacy with all that can entail.

The idea of sharing space brings us to the phenomenon of locality, another aspect of social organisation closely connected and indeed intertwined with practices and ideologies of kinship

(see Holy 1976; Kuper 1982). The conceptual link between descent ideology and location is provided, according to Strathern (1973), by concepts of nurturance (the consumption of food and with this the consumption of the qualities of the soil), and indeed ‘an ideology of descent may mask the empirical fact that groups

are constituted primarily on some other basis, such as co-residence’ (Barnard and Good 1984: 147). The discussions of place and descent in Melanesian (e.g., Strathern 1973) and South East Asian societies (e.g., Carsten 1995; Carsten and Hugh-Jones 1995) could probably provide us with further insights into South Asia. For a variety of economic, political, and social reasons, prin-

ciples of locality and/or kinship may be applied in dealing with ‘outsiders’, and may function as a mechanism for maintaining an allegedly pure identity (cf. Barth 1969: 15f.). The concept of ‘common origin’ used to construct ‘national’, ‘ethnic’, and other collective identities is based precisely on the manipulation of kinship, marriage, and procreation (cf. Yuval-Davis 1997); contemporary South Asia abounds in such examples. Studies in south (Dumont 1964; Daniel 1984; Moore 1985), central (Mayer 1960), north (Sax 1990), and eastern (Inden and Nicholas 1977) India clearly show that ‘persons and places are believed to mutually ... determine each other’ (Sax 1990: 494). The political uses of locationism in the sphere of gender relations

has been testified to in many writings on subaltern studies.

22 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

Aspects of kinship are obviously also connected to peoples’ order-

ing of the world around them in terms of a variety of emotions such as obediance, loyalty, love, and friendship. Such feelings of belonging and their evolution in a context of rapid socio-economic change are discussed by Khanum, whose observations are in many ways similar to those of Gardner (1993a; 1993b; 1995) in her study of Bangladeshis in Britain. The peculiar quality of kinship here is characterised both by the ‘diffuse enduring solidarity’ Schneider (1968) referred to and by what Fortes (1969) called ‘the axiom of prescriptive altruism’ — amity. It was long observed

‘that non-kin amity loves to maquerade as kinship’ (Pitt Rivers 1973: 90), and loyalties established by non-biological ties may well be expressed through idioms of kinship. In the polyethnic setting of suburban London, for example, the term ‘cousin’ may connote peer-group membership just us much as actual kinship ties (Baumann 1995), and among Afro-Americans the terms ‘sister’ and ‘brother’ have political connotations and are used to express loyalty along so-called ‘racial’ lines. To ascertain the differences between these various (non-biological and biological) relationships, the eventually, or at least at times, conflicting loyalties involved in each of these different types of relationships must be compared.

The Construction of Meaning Proponents of an Indian ethnosociology have outlined a cognitive model of ‘Hindu thought’ in which many of the points discussed above — ethnophysiological notions, beliefs about environmental

and cosmological influences, concepts of person, and notions about relatedness and social behaviour — are interconnected in complex ways. But similar conceptual links exist among subcontinental Muslims (see Berland, Khanum, and Rao this volume),

and among so-called tribes such as the Khasi, who are partly Christianised (BOck 1998). Such intermeshings also appear to exist beyond South Asia (e.g., Bonnemére 1993 for Melanesia; Carsten 1991 and 1995 for Southeast Asia; Delaney 1991 for Turkey; Feinberg 1981 for Polynesia; Feldman-Savelsberg 1995 for Cameroon; Sobo 1993 for Jamaica). It would, we believe, be

interesting to consider whether such conceptual links exist in Western cultures as well, whether in specific social contexts similar bio-moral concepts and judgements are discernible, whether cognitive links are constructed between biology, environmental

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 23

influences, and social behaviour. These questions are all the more

pertinent when we consider that in Schneider’s own interpretation of American kinship there are contradictions which partially negate the dichotomy between ‘shared bio-genetic substances’ and ‘codes for conduct’ (associated with ‘diffuse enduring solidarity’). As Gibson (1985: 408) noted, Schneider’s main ambiguity lies in ‘his use of the notion of ... [this] solidarity both as a normative implication of shared bio-genetic substance for one class of kinsmen, and as the defining criterion of another class of kinsmen.’ Recent theoretical considerations and epistemological queries regarding the construction of meaning raised by Ostor, Fruzzetti, and Barnett (1982) together with ethnographic evidence brought forth by those following a cultural approach, give us ample cause to rethink an issue which has become increasingly unpopular and old-fashioned; namely, whether there is something ‘universal’ in the way people use their cultural and cognitive resources to construct meaning. Within the deconstructionist enterprise which followed on the heels of Schneider’s cultural

account, the question of how meaning is constructed by the anthropologist figured prominently. But, as Bradd Shore put it (1996: 16), the insights into the construction of meaning in our discipline were gathered at the great cost of becoming ‘more ignorant about the making of meaning by ordinary people’. Shore argues for the need of a theory of meaning-making as a psychocultural process. His theoretical framework builds on recent developments in cognitive anthropology, such as Lakoff and Johnson’s ‘experiential realism’ (Lakoff and Johnson 1980; Lakoff 1987; see also Shore 1991).

Central to Lakoff and Johnson’s approach is the idea of ‘conceptual embodiment’ which postulates that ‘meaning is understood via real experience in a real world with very real bodies’ (Lakoff 1987: 206). Accordingly, the cognitive structures used to build conceptual systems are grounded in biological capacities and intimately tied to the experiences of functioning in a physical and social environment. In his monumental research on human classification, Lakoff (1987: 273ff) suggested that certain basic bodily experiences produce specific basic cognitive structures which again are reflected in language. These are mapped by metaphorical projections from physical to abstract domains, one of the lat-

ter being that of social organisation. Vedic texts provide a well-known example of such mapping: ‘The caste structure is understood as being structured metaphorically according to the configuration of the body. Thus, it is believed (by those who

24 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

believe the metaphor) that the maintenance of the caste structure (the configuration) is necessary to the preservation of society (the whole)’ (Lakoff 1987: 274). Following Lakoff (1987: 275) such basic cognitive patterns are located on a preconceptual level, or, as Shore (1996: 53) put it, they ‘are inherently abstract and perceptually uncommitted forms’. Such preconceptual structures are thought to underwrite meaning-construction in a variety of contexts and organise a wide range of more concrete culture-specific cognitive patterns serving context-specific purposes (Shore 1996). We suggest that the complex concatenation of concepts mentioned at the start of this section could be more adequately interpreted as results of universal basic cognitive structures operating differently in different cultural contexts rather than as results of basic culture-specific cognitive structures — which the ‘cognitive non-duality’ of ‘the Hindu thought’ approach implies. While it is untenable, indeed, to postulate that ‘the biological defines the system (of kinship) to which the social is attached, and thus logically prior to the latter’ (Schneider 1972: 36), it does not mean, however, that it is impossible to identify central or prominent components in meaning. Drawing on research done in psycho-linguistics and developmental psychology, Hirschfeld, for example, argues that central to the meaning of kinship terms is the notion of ‘natural resemblance’, which may also be ‘an inference watranted by the fact that two individuals are linked by relationship terms’ (Hirschfeld 1986: 227). In other words, although natural resemblance is supposed to be a result of ‘real’ procreative links, it is largely by virtue of knowing that somebody is addressed or referred to as ‘a relative’ that such resemblance is recognised. If the argument for priority of procreative links is sumply replaced by centrality of natural resemblance, what then, one might ask, dis-

tinguishes this from the pro-genealogy view of kinship? In Hirschfeld’s argument the meaning of kinship terms is overdetermined by the natural resemblance component in much the same way as it is by Scheffler’s genealogical condition (cf. Welter 1986: 236). That kin terms have a primary meaning is assumed in both approaches; but Hirschfeld considers them in a wider context of social classification. Not only can a relation of natural resemblance be attributed to individuals who share procreative or genealogical links, it can also be attributed to friends and neighbours, members of the same locality, religious group, culture, or ‘race’. Like the concept of ‘shared substance’, Hirschfeld’s concept of ‘natural resemblance’ seems to tie in with various mechanisms identified in South Asia as elements constitutive of kinship. What

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 25

seems to be common to kin classification in particular and social classification in general is not so much that people share ‘substances’ or things which are considered as ‘natural’, but as sug-

gested above, the concept of sharing itself (cf. Marshall 1977: 655). Hence resemblance or similarity (sameness, equality) are judged not only according to physical or biological criteria but also by social or cultural ones as in the following classifications: 1. marriageable partners seen as sharing equal social or economic

position (see Fischer and Lyon, Hollup, Rao this volume); 2. groups with reference to a shared stock of myths (Hardman, this volume), locality (Lambert, this volume) or through shared language and ‘cultural traditions’ (Hollup, this volume); 3. subsroups with reference to certain shared behavioural elements (e.g., the same ‘lifestyle’ or worshipping the same goddess — see Khanum; Werth; and Good, this volume). In his comment on Hirschfeld’s article, D’Andrade (1986: 231; see also 1990: 78) pointed out that the meaning of kin terms is constituted by a cluster of converging and overlapping cognitive models, which can be sorted analytically into at least two potentially interrelated sub-clusters: one centreing around phenomena

such as procreation, sexual reproduction, shared substance, genealogy, or natural resemblance, and the other dealing with normative behavioural aspects or routine activities connected with kinship. Emotional elements may interlink with either one or both of these sub-clusters, and neither the former nor the latter can claim any logical priority; moreover which part of the cluster or sub-cluster figures prominently or centrally in defining the meaning of a term, may vary contextually. From this brief discussion of the construction of meaning it should be clear that the old lines of thinking are not as devoid of value as Schneider (1984) claimed in his deconstructive enterprise. While examining cultural understandings of kinship we must consider both the major dimensions which have been said to constitute kinship — the (ethno-)physical and the social dimensions. Instead of getting embroiled in a never-ending debate about ‘primary sense’ or ‘essences’ of kinship, we should proceed with an empirical investigation of the nature, organisation, and interrelationship of the cognitive models used in understanding kinship terms and concepts of relatedness (D’Andrade 1986: 231). This in its turn is intimately connected with the need to investigate the meaning of kinship concepts in everyday usage, and to examine the relationship between cognitive models underlying cultural understandings of kinship and actual kinship practices.

26 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

Kinship in Practice There are many valuable studies on the actual use of kin terms in addressing and referring to people in South Asia (e.g., Bean 1978; Carter 1984; Tylor 1969; Vatuk 1982), but there is still a need to

systematically investigate the pragmatics of kin talk (Zeitlyn 1993) and the corresponding change in the use of kin terms. Analysing context-dependant usage and form, the existing studies demonstrate considerable variability in the choice of kin terms.

For example among Hindi-speakers Vatuk (1982) showed that the meaning of kin terms, as used in actual conversation, can be understood only by examining the cultural conceptions of the relationships involved — specially shared assumptions about parenthood, when a senior-junior relationship is involved. As Vatuk’s study shows, Schneider’s way of exploring the cultural symbols

underlying the meaning of kinship — and this resembles somewhat the schema-theoretical way of investigating the organisation and interrelationship of cognitive models (see D’Andrade 1995: 130f.) — can fruitfully inform the understanding of communicative practices among people who address or refer to one another as kin. However, dissociating kinship completely from its genealogical dimension, would serve to obfuscate matters rather than clarify them, for as Vatuk (1982: 62) notes for northern India, in most cultures ‘genealogy ... is explicitly recognised by members of the culture as one of the key criteria according to which one chooses an appropriate form of reference or address toward a person with whom such a relationship can be traced’. She rightly points out that ‘knowing the genealogy does not enable one to predict all instances of actual kin term usage, nor can one always correctly deduce the existing genealogical relationship from observed forms of reference or address’ (ibid.). The

inverse is equally true: without knowing the appropriate genealogical relationships one can not fully grasp the strategic and manipulative use of kin terms.

Unfortunately, many who drew on Schneider’s cultural account limited themselves to exploring the cognitive patterns underlying cultural understandings without addressing contextdependant usage and without relating these to practice. Especially

Marriott’s approach has been criticised for this (e.g., Good, this volume). Scant attention was paid to the fact that cultura] models are both ‘motivating’ and ‘motivated’. They are ‘motivating’ in the sense that they are said to transmit information about cultural goals and behaviour; they are ‘motivated’ because in spite of their

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 27

normative properties, they are still flexible enough to be shaped and tailored to individual experiences and interests. Blending out the individual level at which cognitive patterns operate led to these cognitive forms being presented as uniform and uncontested, with little attention being paid to contradictions between individual versions of cultural models or the existence of alternative models. Furthermore, the question of conflict within an individual faced with contradictory cultural models, remained nearly unadressed. Several of these blind spots within symbolic accounts are discussed in this book (cf. Good and Parkes). As Das (1976) and Vatuk (1982) demonstrated, however, these blind spots, need not necessarily result from Schneider’s cultural account. Punjabi speakers acknowledge the tension and conflict between what are considered ‘natural’ demands, associated with

the bonds of sexuality and procreation on the one hand, and ‘moral’ demands connected with a wider network of kin on the other. While it is accepted that the behaviour deriving from the demands of sexuality and procreation can not be repressed, it is also felt that the latter should be consistently ‘kept in the backstage, away from public view’ (Das 1976: 3), because only by transcending these ‘natural’ demands can the highly valued ideal] of honour be acquired or enhanced. Presenting specific cases where the conflict potential of the mutually contradicting realms of ‘nature’ and ‘morality’ became visible, Das (1976: 15) demonstrated how individuals can derive legitimacy for their actions from either the biological realm of natural demands or the social realm of honour and etiquette. Like Das, Vatuk showed for Hindi speakers how shared notions about parental (specially maternal) and conjugal love compete with shared notions about joint family life. Among the matrilineal Khasi of Meghalaya, however, social obligations within the larger kin group are explained as deriving from this same ‘natural’ fact. Positive or negative experiences in interactions with relatives determine how the ‘natural’ facts of procreation are conceptualised (Bock 1998). If we consider South Asia as a whole and focus on everyday life

and kinship practice, we realise that the notion of exchanging bodily substances is only one component in a converging and overlapping cognitive model. In some societies the significance of bodily substances for kinship may even be negated. South Indian

Tamils, for example, ‘do not habitually speak about kinship in terms of blood’ (Good, this volume; see also McGilvray 1982 for Sri Lankan Tamils). Two powerful alternative approaches to kinship are introduced in this volume; both focus on practice. Good’s

28 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

approach refers to indigenous knowledge ‘about mythology and powers of Hindu deities, and ideas about the purposes and bene-

fits of Hindu rituals.’ Though his framework is that of south Indian Hindus, this approach need not be limited to any specific belief system or region. Basu’s, Hardman’s, and Werth’s chapters develop similar theoretical perspectives and focus on the relationship between mythology, ritual practice, and kinship. Crucial to this approach is the attempt to look at mythical material, religious iconography and ritual practice as ‘part of a shared cultural repertoire’ and as ‘an open-ended cultural resource’, which is used strategically by individuals to argue their own case or refute that of someone else. This issue is closely connected with the question of coherence (and incoherence) of shared cultural ideas, and with the determinacy (or indeterminacy) of everyday practices, themes which are raised by some of the other authors (Fischer and Lyon, Lambert). We will return to this question at the end of this introduction. The second alternative is presented in this volume by Parkes, who focuses on interpersonal relations

and draws attention to ‘the underside’ of what Fortes (1969) called ‘the axiom of amity’ and Schneider (1968) ‘diffuse enduring solidarity’. This underside has to do with the inevitable resent-

ment arising in everyday interactions, when interests and obligations within and between kin groups collide. Investigating

ritual practices of ‘anger’ divination seen as constitutive of Kalasha kinship, Parkes points to their role as institutions of con-

flict management as well as to the role of emotions as moral judgements (see Lutz and White 1986; Lutz and Abu-Lughod 1990; Bock 1998). He convincingly argues for a return to late functionalist perspectives on ‘kinship as a system of claims and complaints’ enmeshed in political processes of interpersonal manipulation and basic political institutions of domination. His arguments indicate that ‘being a relative’ does not only connote the idea of ‘a systematic, abiding relation’ and ‘a continuing state of being linked with another’, as pointed out by Hirschfeld (see above), but also the ideas of tension, fragility, brittleness, destructibility, all of which are built in to the bonds of kinship. This ambiguity emerges in the situational positioning of relatives — who is considered close, who distant, when, and why? Which bonds are

intensified and why? Which bonds break and why? This diachronic perspective is crucial if we are to investigate not only the ideational aspects of kinship, but also its material and political aspects. Perhaps the most striking combination of these aspects is manifested in ‘bride-burning’, cases of which are multiplying

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 29

throughout large parts of especially, northern India. Differential distribution and consumption patterns and women’s entitlement rights in the context of changing economies, inter- and intra-gender relations, hierarchies of production and reproduction, and the inherent tensions created by these form the site of such gruesome destruction of kinship bonds.

The Diachronic Perspective If, as we suggest, the phenomena of kinship and relatedness are to be viewed as processes, their historical aspects can not be ignored.

Over a decade ago McGilvray (1982: 35) had pleaded for ... South Asian symbols and theories of society’ to be viewed ‘in the light of ... specific historical factors’, and more recognition given to ‘historical discontinuities’ and to ‘the precise ethnographic con-

texts in which these ideas are invoked’. Yet even today the historical dimension is almost entirely ignored in studies in this field. The static study of kinship without regard to historical continuities and discontinuities is simply a statement of ideologies; it can

not have any relevance to practice and can not even help us understand the development of the very ideologies it seeks to portray. In South Asia, though there is an amazing ‘absence of family histories’ (Sangari 1999: 368), dramatic documented changes affecting the lives of whole families and entire communities have taken place in the last two hundred and fiity years or so; many of these changes are documented in novels and plays, in colonial and post-colonial records, and a careful study of these could teach us much about how perceptions about and practice of say, adoption, inheritance rights (through for example, partition of land), legitimacy of offspring, sibling relation, polygyny, concubinage, marriage, and family in general have changed (e.g., Pal-

riwala and Risseeuw 1996). Modern South Asian states have always actively intervened in the sexual lives of women citizens through a variety of laws — especially ‘personal laws’. At the very inception of these states, during the Partition of the subcontinent and the subsequent division of Pakistan — events which brought

in their wake the destruction of the bonds of kinship for thousands of families — while at least one hundred thousand women were abducted and raped, the state took upon itself the role of arbitrator of the ‘natural’ and hence ‘moral’ bonds of kinship, forcibly returning hundreds of women to their original families (Das 1995 and 1997; Sheila Sengupta 1998, pers. com. to Rao).

30 | Montka Bock and Aparna Rao

We do have some accounts of the general familial situation of this period in literary works (see Basu 1995; Butalia 1996; Das 1996;

Menon and Bhasin 1993), but we have few details about how these women ‘fitted’ into their old or new contexts of kinship, about how they and their eventually ‘illegitimate’ offspring related to their social worlds. In their chapter Fischer and Lyon refer to one such case, and from this we can imagine how complex relatedness can be in contexts of social upheaval. Similar situations have been arising with tragic frequency in the aftermath of large scale ‘communal’ and inter-ethnic violence and military actions in many parts of South Asia and both individual and gang

rape have become widespread phenomena in both rural and urban areas; yet next to nothing is known about their consequences. The fact that ‘rape as a norm’ (Sangari 1999: 398) can and has been used to ‘avenge’ or assert ‘community honour’ (e.g., Agarwal 1996; Das 1996: 55ff.) and hence, has also served as an

instrument to systematically humiliate entire communities (Mazhar Ali 1998: 18; Pettigrew 1995; Rao 1999: 78 and 1999: 13, 17 for brief references), — with ‘gendered bodies and sexuality play[ing] pivotal roles as territories, markers and reproducers of the narratives of nations and other collectivities’ (Yuval-Davis 1997: 39) —is yet another reminder of the close links between gender, ‘ethnicity’, class, dominance, and kinship practice. Partition and war brought in their wake enforced migration and dramatic change, but more peaceful migration out of South Asia has been going on for much longer, though partly under much shabbier economic circumstances. Hollup and Khanum deal with change in the context of more voluntary migration to cultural settings far removed from those of South Asia; both deal with continuity and discontinuity, with flexibility and rigidity in the negotiation of relatedness. Much more gradual change in kinship and relatedness within more limited regional contexts is discussed by Marion den Uyl and Charlotte Hardman in their papers on Kerala and Nepal respectively. But change is not only the result of social disruption; every individual’s state of relatedness and status within kinship networks changes over the life course. The implications of these

changes for the roles these men and women play at different stages of their lives, for their own emotions, and for the feelings they invoke in others have rarely been touched upon in studies of

South Asia (see Vatuk 1990; Patel 1994; Rao 1998 for some exceptions). The contradictions between the ideology and practice of relatedness may emerge especially clearly in studies of the

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 31

elderly. Why is it, for example, that thousands of aged, widowed mothers are thrown out on to the streets in a society whose ideology of relatedness lays such great stress on the emotions of motherhood and the bonding of mother and son (see Lamb 1999 for a brief

discussion)? How is it that, given the ideology that sons care for their parents in their old age, 12 percent of rural men and 10 percent of urban men live alone (National Sample Survey Organisation, India in 1989)? Indeed so large is the number of aged men and women left alone to fend for themselves in many parts of rural South Asia, that the provincial government of Himachal Pradesh for

example has enacted a law making it compulsory for children to look after their aged parents. More in-depth studies of the elderly in both rural and urban areas will most likely reveal a great deal about the emotions of relatedness and neglect, not only from the perspective of social change, but also from that of the life cycle. They may well bring to light aspects of practice which have always existed in a society where ‘the responsibility (of caring for the elderly) falls on an unwilling family’ (Singh 1995 in Rego 1996: 10), but which few like to speak about since they drastically violate the ideology of the family and of the ‘natural’ emotions of ‘natural’ kinship.

Finally, the processes represented by that magic word, ‘modernisation’ can be observed to be having wide ranging effects on family organisation, and hence also on kinship. Even kinship terminology has long been affected and the context-specific conno-

tations and denotations of terms long incorporated into even rural vocabularies — such as mummy, uncle, aunty, sister — would make fascinating study.

Coherence and Incoherence In his book on American kinship Schneider (1968) argued that at a certain level American society contains a single system of kinship

whose symbols and meanings are almost equally prevalent in all regions, shared equally by males and females, and by members of all ‘ethnic’ groups and classes. This view has since been questioned

(Yanagisako 1978; 1985), and Schneider himself has acknowledged the shortcomings of his work (see Peltez 1995: 347), whose main problem, we suggest, has less to do with ethnographic shortcomings as with his notion of culture as ‘a single coherent, inter-

related system’ (Schneider 1972). This view of culture has characterised not only symbolic accounts but also structuralist, functionalist, and early cognitive approaches. Whether termed as

32 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

a single structure, a complex and seamless whole, an integrated and stable set of meanings and practices unproblematically reproduced through socialised actors, or a single cognitive grammar from which all cultural behaviour can be generated — the idea that culture is ‘some kind of unified thing’ has been a belief firmly held across the last hundred years of anthropological tradition (D’An-

drade 1995: 249). Although no one ever offered an empirical demonstration of any culture’s coherent system, the idea managed to survive and prosper till very recently. In 1989 Marriott, for

example, claimed that he had discovered the ‘unifying thing’ allegedly used by all Indian Hindus for structuring their cultural realities. This underlying cognitive structure ‘essential for communication and social functioning’, this ‘general semantic property-

space in which Hindus conceptually and perceptually dwell’ (Marriott 1989: 12; 22), is by now well known to South Asian scholars as ‘the constituent cube’. But like all earlier attempts at doing anything as grandiose as exploring the way in which the many pieces of a culture form one single whole, Marriott’s ‘constituent cube’ was doomed to failure (see e.g., Moffat 1990; Ray 1990; Sharma 1992; Singh 1992; also Good this volume). The empirical fact is that culture looks more like a loose collection of bits and pieces which are partially shared — an ‘open repertoire’ as Good expresses it in his chapter — than one single coherent system.

And there is definitely more than one way in which individuals, classes, or other groups make sense out of it. Today it is rarely assumed that culture is ‘a unified thing’. Instead, emphasis is put on the locally, historically, and politically positioned natures of culturally mediated meanings (Shore 1991). These current perspectives on culture are driven in part by the undeniable evidence that the dominant values and practices of a society are not appropriated by individual actors (Strauss 1992) or groups (Guha 1983-1990) in any simple, straightforward way. Consequently, cultural understandings are now described as variable, negotiable, contested, continuously shifting, inherently elusive, and inherently ambiguous (e.g., Trawick 1990). Stressing variability, ambiguity, and change in cultural understandings corresponds with emphasising the indeterminacies of actual social life and the contingencies characterising people’s every day practices (e.g., Appadurai 1987). Post-structuralist critiques of culture theory have contributed much to establishing this view of culture as being in flux, depending on various contentious discourses and

the actors’ ever-changing strategic choices (cf. Shore 1991; Strauss and Quinn 1994). But how incoherent, unstructured,

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 33

contentious, and fluid are the worlds in which people live, and how much room exists in a social environment for negotiations and individual choices? With respect to kinship, Hollup and Khanum discuss just such issues in the contexts of immigration. Even while rejecting the notion that culture is a single coherent system, we suggest that there is still good reason to look for structure and coherence within and between cultural understandings and practices.

It is well known that incoherences can be (and often are) found between what people say they do and what they actually do; it is also undeniable that incoherences may exist between actions of the same person in different contexts. It is equally undebatable that so-called ‘dominant’ cultural models are not unquestioningly accepted or applied by all. Khanum (this volume) illustrates this phenomenon, using an individual case of deviance from dominant gender and kinship models among Bangladeshi migrants (cf. also Wilson 1978: 103-20 for some other South Asian examples in Britain). But this simply points, we feel, to a context-specific coherence — in other words, coherence is produced by actors within each and every situation. How it is produced depends on the actors’ perception of the context. The incoherence between contexts must, however, also have culture-, class-, gender-, and age- specific limits, for otherwise actors become entirely unpredictable, and may even be considered ‘abnormal’ by their fellow actors — as Rushna, a working class woman, was in Ochingram (Khanum, this volume). Furthermore, one cannot understand individual practices without reference to the knowledge the actor has imbibed. Now, learning implies producing mental structures — building up interconnected,

generally applicable, associations by observing and repeatedly

experiencing what goes with what in a social environment (D’Andrade 1995). These learned patterns need to be — at least partly — intersubjectively shared, since they enable individual actors to communicate and interact with others in meaningful ways, to coordinate common activities and collaborate with others in common ventures. As pointed out by Strauss and Quinn (1994: 288f.), these learned knowledge patterns can also be ‘relatively durable in individuals’ — visible as the well-learned routines of everyday life (see also Bourdieu 1977). They can be relatively thematic, in the sense that specific knowledge patterns may be applied repeatedly in different contexts. For instance the

cultural models of siblingship underlie interaction not only between ‘real’ brothers and/or sisters, but may also be used for

34 | Montka Bock and Aparna Rao

interpreting the relationship between ‘ethnic’ groups (see Hardmann, this volume). These learned knowledge patterns can also be relatively stable historically, being transmitted from generation to generation. This is how gender and kinship themes are transmitted through mythology, religion, and ritual (e.g., Good, this volume) to become a part of the social repository of experience called ‘traditions’ (see also Shore 1991). We are arguing here neither for uniformity and stability in cultural understandings nor — in a structural-functionalist manner — for straightforward transmission of values and beliefs through a

community’s socialisation mechanisms. Yet we stress that it would be equally mistaken to deal with cultural understandings as if they were totally diverse and entirely ambiguous, in constant

flux, and as never having any impact on actual practice. This would be as much of a mistake as the older assumption that culture is unified, uncontested, and unchanging. If we now realise that conflict, ambiguity, and change in cultural understandings are acknowledged in all communities, then it is all the more necessary to explore how individuals grasp the social order, to what

extent cultural messages come to be shared or become ‘domi-

nant’, and how and why some of these dominant messages become a basis for individual action, while others are only repeated in official pronouncements but ignored in practical life (Strauss 1992). Marriott’s approach does not meet these requirements. He merely acknowledges that Indian social life is highly diverse and variable, but does not treat questions of sharedness and diversity, coherence and incoherence, or determinacy and indeterminacy as theoretical problems. In fact, the last two will never arise as problems if we take Marriott’s postulate of a cognitive non-duality between actor and action seriously. There is no need to even consider contradiction or incoherence, if one accepts his view that ‘the “means-end” and “actor-action” dichotomies ...

are overridden by Hindu notions of karma, according to which ends inhere in means and actors are products of action’ (Marriott 1989: 3). Finally, Marriott leaves us wondering whether in his theoretical framework ‘action’ is treated as actual practice or as taking place only in thought/mind. There are other theoretical approaches which we feel, are able to better meet the above mentioned requirements. One of these is schema theory (e.g., Quinn and Strauss 1994; D’Andrade 1995; Shore 1996); Bourdieu’s theory of practice, which informs various chapters in this volume (Khanum; Good; Parkes) provides another

equally fruitful analytical framework. Both approaches develop

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 35

alternatives to the two extreme positions addressed above; one in which action is seen as ‘determined’ by the mechanical enactment

of learned cultural rules or unconscious patterns; the other in which action is regarded as ‘undetermined’ or ‘contingent’, unconstrained by culturally conditioned values and only dependent on individual interests. These alternatives suggest solutions to an old problem, raised by Fischer and Lyon in their contribution, that of dealing with ‘rules’ that are no rules at all.

The problem of rules figured prominently in the debate about Lévi-Straussian alliance theory (e.g., Needham 1972), and subsequent attempts were made to clarify the analytical concepts of

prescription and preference commonly used when exploring ‘rules’ of marriage (e.g., Barnard and Good 1984: 100-04, Bourdieu 1977: 22-32; Good 1981). Neither the alternative outlined by Bourdieu’s theory of practice nor schema theory suggests that behaviour is sometimes governed by rules and sometimes not. Instead, both argue that behaviour ‘is always constrained by dispositions learned from experiences’ (D’Andrade 1995: 147). But these dispositions are neither exclusively learned from or cogni-

tively represented as ‘rules’, nor do they dictate an unvarying pattern of behaviour. Both Bourdieu’s notion of habitus and the notion of cognitive schema are conceptualised as looser and fuzzier than rules (see Strauss and Quinn 1994). As D’Andrade (1995: 147) put it, they are ‘flexible, implicit recognition procedures, not rules’ — a notion which may come close to what Fischer and Lyon (this volume) call ‘specification’. These flexible recognition procedures enable actors to adapt to new or ambiguous situations with ‘regulated improvisations’ (Bourdieu 1977). In other words, a person’s behaviour is regarded as improvisational, because it is situational and usually ‘created on the spot’; but it is also regulated because it is informed by previously learned knowledge patterns, and ‘not improvised out of thin air’ (Strauss and Quinn 1994: 287). In many respects, Bourdieu, as well as the proponents of schema theory retain the structural-

functionalist view that we need to examine the process by which social facts are transmitted and internalised (in Bourdieu’s words ‘incorporated’, or ‘embodied’), if we want to know why people do what they do (Strauss 1992: 9). With respect to

kinship this entails examining not only its external cultural manifestations — institutions, official ideologies, and observable practices — but also the cognitive structures that assimilate these external forms ‘and render them a basis for meaningful action’ (Strauss 1992: 7).

36 | Monika Bock and Aparna Rao

Conclusion Despite all attempts at deconstructing the study of kinship, or dis-

mantling it as anthropologic fiction (Scheffler 1991), kinship remains vital to anthropology, ‘though often carried out under other rubrics and aliases’ (Peletz 1995: 367). The ethnographic examples presented here provide ample evidence for the study of kinship on the general premise that it does have something to do with indigenous notions of procreation, or as Kelly (1993: 5211; see also Peletz 1995: 348) put it: ‘Kinship relations are social rela-

tions predicated upon cultural conceptions that specify the processes by which an individual comes into being and develops into a complete (i.e. mature) social person’. Interestingly, a somewhat similar definition was proffered as early as 1929: ‘Kinship [consists of] the personal bonds based upon procreation, socially interpreted and as the wider bonds derived from the primary ones by the process of gradual extensions which occur in all communities during the life history of the individual’ (Malinowski 1929). While some of the papers here do reiterate the general findings of Inden and Nicholas, they do so in a broader framework of the question of agency — that is, in the context of the choices social

actors make while constructing and interpreting meaning and order in their lives. We can not, however, discuss agency independently of structure. All actions take place in specific settings and are the result of the manner in which these settings are perceived by the actors. Hence analyses at the micro-level should tie up with those at the wider level of the macro-society; only then

can we hope for a better understanding of individual actions (Schweizer 1996: 41). This intermeshing of the macro and micro

levels remains a much neglected aspect of kinship studies in South Asia, and even in this volume we have been unable to provide case studies using this approach. The chapter by Khanum is

the only one which even attempts to do so. Of the numerous questions which remain largely unexplored in research on South Asia we would, in concluding, like to mention especially four general issues to be taken up in future research. First, the relationship between kinship, power, and dominance, not only at the level of the family, but also in the wider socio-economic context of the state and of the power struggle between dominant and subaltern groups needs further study. New legislation may affect so-called backward communities and their cus-

tomary laws in numerous ways and it would be important to examine the impact of, for example, changing inheritance and

Introduction: A South Asian Perspective | 37

property rules on kinship practice and eventually even ideology. As yet, major legislation, such as Section 125 of the Indian Criminal Procedure Code (1973), which ‘was created for the specific purpose of providing maintenance to dependent wives, children and aged parents unable to maintain themselves’ (Mukhopadhyay 1998: 148), has had no such impact (also see Rao 1992). Also of

relevance here are the manipulation and connotations of kinterms in contemporary political discourse (cf. Das 1996: 125ff.; Assayag 1998: 138ff.): terms such as ‘Mother cow’, ‘Mother India’,

or ‘Father of the Nation’ for Mahatma Gandhi, or again, ‘Dukhtaran-e Millat’ (Daughters of the Nation) for the womens’ wing of the Hizb-ul Mujahidin militants in Jammu and Kashmir. Second, globalisation affects kin-relations in many ways, not the least because it has led to a great deal of migration from South Asia. This migration has led to an increasing number of the urban elderly living alone, and as the late M.N. Srinivas noted some-

where, it has also often led to parents visiting their daughters when they give birth in U.S. hospitals, thus reversing the former pattern of parents being entrusted with the care of their pregnant

daughters. But even within South Asia, the impact of modern media, and especially of films on gender and inter-generational relations and hence also on relations between kin, is growing rapidly, with television reaching out to far flung villages. Another aspect of interest here is the phenomenon of non-arranged marriages which have always existed to a certain extent and are now

growing in number. Here the negotiation of concepts of hypergamy/hypogamy as well as those of substance would be of major interest; so also would the question of agency and decision-making in the framework of the ideology and practice of emotions. Third, though of increasing academic and applied value, the study of sexuality, and even sexual behaviour within marriage still remains largely tabooed. As a result we have little but in the way

of hearsay on the role of parents and parents-in-law in the regulation of sexual behaviour. An even greater lacuna can be noted for studies of both male and female homosexuality, which has thus far been restricted to a few pioneering studies of hijras ( e.g., Nanda 1990; Pfeffer 1995; Sharma 1989). Even though some four fifths of the subcontinent’s male population is said to regularly visit sex-workers, a similar paucity exists in the study of prostitution, and precious little is known about, for example, mother-child relations in these circles. Even here social change — notably the fact

that in India alone more than ten million people suffer from AIDS (National Aids-Control Organisation data, 1999) — and new legis-

38 | Montka Bock and Aparna Rao

lation — which for example no longer requires children entering school in the city of Delhi to give their fathers’ names — is likely to

throw up new perspectives on the concept of legitimacy (see Bell 1997 for a recent cross-cultural overview of the topic). Finally, although polygyny is fairly frequent in many parts of South Asia there has been no study about the emotions involved in polygynous, or for that matter levirate, situations, nor even in the changed status of widowed women. More information in gen-

eral on the implications of cross-cutting ties for emotions and their practice, and the causes and consequences involved in the choice or development of what Marx (1967: 162-69) called the ‘effective kinship circle’ would also be most welcome. To survive and attract researchers the field of kinship studies in South Asia must, we feel, exchange in debate not only with a wide spectrum of disciplines working in and beyond South Asia: it must

learn to adapt to a South Asia which is fascinating not only because it is so rich in traditions, but also because it is so exciting to grapple with all the rapid change it is currently undergoing.

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Man (N.S.) 28: 199-224.

PART ONE COMMUNITY AND PERSON

it

WE, THE BROTHERS OF TIGER AND BAMBOO: On the Notions of Person and Kin in the Eastern Hills of Nepal Charlotte Hardman

VIPS Indigenous ideas about human nature are increasingly being accepted as central to an understanding of people’s beliefs and concepts about kinship (Schneider, 1984; Ost6r, Fruzzetti & Barnett 1982). The idea that mythology has similar relevance is less fashionable, perhaps too reminiscent of Malinowski’s overgeneralisation that in any particular cultural context, myth is a charter for social action. Nevertheless, in this paper, the argument is that ‘kinship’ among the Rai and Limbu tribes, populating the middle hills of Eastern Nepal, needs to be understood in relation to their body of mythology, as well as in relation to several metaphysical

concepts concerning human nature and what it means to be a person. Though this paper will concentrate on the concepts and myths of one Kiranti tribe — the Lohorung Rai — it will argue the case for the Kiranti as a whole.

Even though the cultural and linguistic unit which the anthropologist would call a tribe are the local thar or sub-tribe, the different Kiranti people still claim a common origin and regard one another as kinsmen who may freely interdine and intermarry. Their understanding of kinship includes those with whom they are linked through a body of mythology as well as those with whom they have actual biological connections. Myth and ritual are of striking significance in Nepal in general. For the Kiranti they

54 | Charlotte Hardman

define the form of many of their institutions and beliefs. Despite the mutual unintelligibility of the various Kiranti languages and the fairly marked geographical location of these groups, within

the realm of myth, ritual, and notions of personhood, recent research has indicated a considerable unity of content.' Hence a common ancestry seems incontrovertible and is indeed part of the Kiranti tradition. This is, I suggest, symbolised and epitomised in a

phrase from one of the myths, ‘We are the Brothers of Tiger and Bamboo’, and hence the title of this paper. From a Western per-

spective this may sound strange, but we begin to understand Lohorung Rai views of kinship it makes absolute sense.

In order to examine and demonstrate the significance of mythology and personhood in the construction of the Kiranti notion of kinship, I shall divide this paper into three sections, the first giving the relevant background to the Kiranti and the Lohorung Rai, the second looking at the Lohorung notion of personhood in the concepts of seko’wa, samek, chawa, and saya; and the third examining their mythical history to show how their ethnogenesis is reflected in myth.

The Kiranti and the Lohorung Rai Kiranti is the traditional term in Nepal applied to a number of mongoloid tribes living in Eastern Nepal. The related term Kirant describes the area in Nepal from Kathmandu Valley to Nepal’s Eastern frontier and is divided into Near Kirant, Middle Kirant, and Far Kirant. The Rai and Limbu tribes are seen as being the

original inhabitants and thought to be descended from the ancient Kirata mentioned in such Hindu epics as the Mahabharata.* Near Kirant has traditionally described the area between

the Sun Kosi River and the Likhu River, Middle Kirant that between the Likhu and the Arun Kosi, and Far Kirant from the Arun to the Eastern frontier of Nepal (Hodgson 1880: 399). Near Kirant and Middle Kirant are traditionally known as Khambuan, the land belonging to the Rai tribes and Far Kirant as Limbuan, the land of the Limbus. 1, Studies by other anthroplogists suggest that we can indeed begin to talk about Kiranti attitudes. See, for example, Allen (1972; 1976; 1987) on the Thulung Rai, McDougal (1979) on the Kulunge Rai, Hardman (1981 & 2000) on the Lohorung Rai, Gaenzle (1992; 1996) on the Mewahang Rai, Jones and Jones (1976) and Sagant (1970; 1973; 1981) on the Limbu. 2. See, for example, Kasten Ronnow, 1936; S.K. Chatterji, 1974 (orig. 1951).

The Eastern Hills of Nepal | 55

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