Obligations Kin Have Toward One Another

Topics: Family, Trobriand Islands, Marriage Pages: 8 (2930 words) Published: February 6, 2011
The Trobrianders
1. “The social and cultural system in which we live in determines who we define as kin.” Describe the a) economic; b) political/power, c) moral obligations kin have toward one another in this society.

Since the Trobriand society follows a strict belief in matrilineage, the relationship between the mother and her family as well as the father and his family is very important. Economically, the status of a person in the family, would often determine how many items he receives, and/or gives during a marriage, death and important events such as gardening that continues throughout the years.

Depending on the individual’s rank in society, the services one receives at different occasions are fit to their rank. A chief for example, at death would receive the highest mourning ritual of all. This consists of both his matrilineal relatives – “owners” and those connected through marriage or patrilineage, are the “workers”, performing duties in honor of their deceased relative. Birth, for Trobrianders links the infant with a dead matrilineal ancestor, in this way the new generations play an active role in keeping the connection between the past and the future of the family. A father’s matrlineage plays a key role in the child’s status as well; the father is responsible for providing gifts for the child that will establish that child’s acceptance into the society. These roles are moral obligations of the different members of the family and very often establishments that family’s power.

The power of yams in this society plays a very important economical as well as social part in the lives of kin. A man’s yam house is a representation of that man’s wealth, as well as another man’s fine gardening skills and a woman’s status, since she is the title owner of the yams. Often, yams are used as a symbol of wealth at harvest festivals where women compete for the wealth title by bringing in yams. The higher the title, the more praise and honor goes to that woman’s matrilineage. In marriage, people from the bride’s side of the family bring gifts of yams to the groom’s relatives; later they are awarded with valuables depending on the generosity of the yam giving. Therefore, yams and valuable items such as stone axe-blades often serve in economical exchanges that define the relationships and status of the givers and receivers in the society.

2.Describe how the sexual division of labor/ specialization occurs in this society. Include an analysis of how this is related to their concepts of “male” and “female”.
Women in the society of the Trobrianders play a key role. They provide the needed amount of banana leaf bundles and skirts during the death of a relative, and yams when the reputation of the family is at stake. The female is the one that supposedly determines a child’s identity when the spirit of an infant is sent to enter her body by her matrilineal ancestors.

The woman’s yam supply comes into play with a need for her husband to purchase bundles. Though men are the ones that labor on the yam gardens and plant general gardens for the family’s food consumption, the woman receives the yams, as she is the one that holds the title.

The man also plays a key role in his child’s acceptance into society he works to get his child important gifts such as Chama shells that symbolize the first important political step in a child’s life.

While the man is the obvious breadwinner in society, servings as the gardener, the carver, the orator, the chief and so on, the woman is the nurturer of the home, the infant and the important family possessions such as yams, skirts and such.

3.“Society and culture are reproduced across the generations through socialization.” Explain how this occurs in this society.
The Trobriand society is bound closely by their dependency on kin relations, fear of sorcery and a strong belief in their authority, the chief.
The strong influence of a chief evaluates the presenting political...
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