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JAMES A. BOON
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
DAVID M. SCHNEIDER
University o f Chicago The enormous secondary literature which relates Levi-Strauss’ comparative studies t o different schools of thought has failed sufficiently to emphasize the major discontinuity within his own work. This paper characterizes the basic methodological differences in his approaches t o “kinship” and to “myth. ” I t then suggests how, by concentrating on the k i n s h i p h y t h distinction, we might constructively refine various structuralist concepts, such as distinctive feature analysis and the logical foundations o f the “elementary ” kinship structures. Only by concentrating on the few inconsistencies in Ldvi-Strauss’ remarkably coherent corpus o f work can an adequate critique o f his theories o f comparison be commenced.
AT THE MOST GENERAL LEVEL Uvi-Strauss has made two major contributions to anthropology as a comparative science: (1)a means of interrelating different reified “societies” by contrasting their principles of social differentiation and cohesion, set in relief by his concept of marriage; (2) a means of analyzing a particular human capacity-the analogical capacity-which characterizes all men, but is more conspicuous (to outside observers) in preliterate tribal myths. Both contributions are fundamentally ethnological rather than ethnographic. The Elementary Structures of Kinship (hereafter ESK) compares select groups according to how their rules and terms involving “cousins” relate to a theory of marriage-as-reciprocity. Mythologiques detects a self-comparativist tendency in a particular sort of ethnographic data which, in and of itself, can articulate cross-cultural differences. “Myths” are documents translated by fieldworkers which record a differential classification tendency (penske sauuuge). They are the evidence of how a society selects concrete items from experience to articulate its distinctive features in contrast to other societies. Mythologiques compares select groups according to how they have compared themselves. This paper emphasizes the contrast between ESK and Mythologiques, the basic differences in Uvi-Strauss’ approaches to kinship data and mythological data, which recall traditional contrasts between “social” and “cultural” anthropology. We argue that formal-methodological frameworks have been abstracted from these studies prematurely, and that two diverse kinds of endeavor have too often been glossed as a single “structuralism.” First we review and summarize the kinship/ myth opposition. Then we illustrate some areas-“distinctive feature matrixes” and “the elementary kinship continuum”-that require reconceptualizing with this opposition firmly
Submitted for publication April 1 0 . 1 9 7 4 Accepted for publicationJuly 1 0 . 1 9 7 4
and offspring-the avunculate “atom of kinship” (LBvi-Strauss 1967:46). the result of this process being to create new consanguineous groups.800 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [ 76. and descent groups constitute a coordinated whole. in terms of the following premises: (1) Each society has a distinct kinship system which can be treated apart from other aspects of the society and its culture (ESK. And throughout the paper we ask what might result if “kinship” were treated more as “myth. whereas in positive systems the exchange of women as “marriage partners” occurs by perpetual social rule. the Kachin system. They may be considered as the blueprint of a mechanism which “pumps” women out of their consanguineous families to redistribute them in affinal group.1974 grasped. 480-2). residence. exogamy. 110).g. In fact. The basic opposition is between “con~anguinity’~ (the social portion a daughter is married out of) and “affinity” (the social portion a daughter is married in to). the function of which is to insure the permanency of the social group by means of intertwining consanguineous and affinal ties. The symptomatic elementary trait remains the relationship of a given group to either cross-cousin marriage.” The mere exchange of slaves or of hostages is another matter. affinity. Accordingly. and so on [Levi-Strauss 1967a:302-303. marriage. personal correspondence). along with anthropologists. and related nomenclatures. or rules of exogamy. We can gloss this “basic structure” for the kinds of societies at issue approximately as: a man takes a woman from a positively-defined class or genealogical position. (3) A kinship system can be defined provisionally as a “way of classifying people and defining their rights and duties in accordance with past marriages and in provision of future ones” (Levi-Strauss. 44 marriag? provisions” are complicated in actuality by children produced by the sexual relations licensed by those marriages. The indigenes’ own views of their kinship are considered but must be tabled as anything more than a part of the ethnographic material for analysis. L6vi-Strauss defines a kinship system as one which specifies the rights and duties of men with respect to the exchange of women between groups. whether the system has clans or lineages is something for the observer to decide. reported by observers who have collected data from native informants. Such arrangements appear devoid of systematic sociological significance. The relationships between men and their wives’ brothers are augmented by relationships between the children and mothers’ brothers. a whole characterized by a particular kinship system.”’ KINSHIP/MYTH In his treatment of kinship Levi-Strauss deals with ethnographic materials. etc. marriage-coincide with indigenous articulations is only a secondary concern. marriage rules. Analytic oppositions are formed not from actual recorded excerpts of native just-so stories about their kinship relations. children and fathers. moreover: kinship systems.. (2) Each society is an entity. with marriage as the basic cohesive operator. the Murngin system. for “clan” and “lineage” are technical concepts. his wife and her brother.] (4) The elementary kinship structures are elaborations on the irreducible social bond intelligible in the relations between a man and his sister. Whether the natives do or do not phrase the opposition in terms of “marriage” or even whether any of the three aspects-consanguinity. . or dual organization as “so many examples of one basic structure” (ESK.123). etc. which marriage implies an immediate or eventual return of a woman. e. descent. natives themselves may be “guilty of methodological contrivance” (ESK.. but from the fixed and presumably universal elements of a social organizational scheme deemed appropriate for all societies and centering on incest prohibition. and through fathers to fathers’ sisters. Moreover. but this exchange is specified as “marriage.
e.’ For Uvi-Strauss two different approaches are needed in the study of kinship. make “marriage” the critical bond in the system of exchange called “kinship” in ESK. Yet the Zulu “marriage” between two women-where the “wife” is impregnated by a designated male. according to this approach marriage must entail sexual relationships which in turn must be fecund. Otherwise the condition. an essential difference would appear. one man creditor and one man debtor. but then expresses these reservations: However. . If we were to envisage this quartet as constructed in a system of marriage between parallel cousins.Boon and Schneider] KINSHIP VIS-A-VIS MYTH 801 Thus. expressed most directly to Uvi-Strauss in societies practicing cross-cousin marriage: viz. but they are so in terms of their similari t y . In studies of myth these two functions are merged. . The future marriages convert the “atom of kinship” into kinship’s “fundamental quartet” (ESK. Throughout ESK there persists an ambiguity in the argument arising from Uvi-Strauss’ distinction between two different kinds of function. ff).” could not be met. The first form of solidarity adds nothing and unites nothing. in the older generation. But in ESK “algebraic-function” arguments appear only at the comparative level of the interrelations o f the sociological use-functions themselves. . satisfied by the reproduction of a type of connexion the model for which is provided by nature.g. Brothers are closely related to one another... 484. three men and one woman in the case of marriage between cousins descended from brothers. and in the following generation. it is based upon a cultural limit. while some other male is her “husband” and the “father” of the offspringapparently qualifies. . . a sufficiently clear definition being that one of them expresses a mechanical solidarity (brother). i. or whether their masculine alliance as adults is confirmed by each providing the other with what he does not have-a wife-through their simultaneous renunciation of what they both do have-a sister. Use-functions involve the organization of groups. . . Because myth has no function besides establishing orderliness among the . 4431. a son and a daughter. By contrast. the structure of reciprocity could not be set up [ESK. In other words. not at the level of isolating the actual customs and rules analyzed (see below). one woman received and one given. This scheme disqualifies certain native notions of “marriage” as genuine marriage-e. 442-443). two men and two women. For. 483). The quartet would then include an uneven number of men and women. “with respect to past marriages and in provision o f future ones. or god-father). the actual exchange of women and the different kinds of social cohesion which follow from these. He allows for friendship and homosexuality. illustrated in the forumla A:B::X:Y (LBvi-Strauss 1950:xxxv. There is “use-function” in the British functionalist sense involving how one part of a social system integrates the other parts and facilitates cohesion of the whole. and act accordingly.. brothers-in-law are solidary because they complement each other and have a functional efficacy for one another. .’ In short. The other brings about an integration of the group on a new plane [ESK. the systematic relationship among sets of meaningful parts. only fecund marriages can provide for the future of the system by producing the actors who make the marriages back. wherein offspring are morally bonded to their parents and cross-parental generation.e.1 The “new plane” in Uvi-Strauss’ view is the cultural aspect of the human social condition. . while the other involves an organic solidarity (brother-in-law. L6vi-Strauss does indeed note: “It is far from our mind to claim that the exchange or gift of women is the only way to establish an alliance in primitive societies” (ESK. unions between men and transvestites in some Plains Indians. proceeding under the orderly rules of alliance. the facts of human reproduction.. i. whether they play the role of the opposite sex in the erotic games of childhood. the whole difference between the two types of bond can also be seen. not because there is no use-function in myth but because the use-function is the algebraic-function. all told. a brother and a sister. The other kind of function is a kind of “algebraic” function.
ESK documents the ways different kinds of total systems achieve different forms of social cohesion. the overall cycle of reciprocity is co-extensive with the group itself both in time and in space. Mythologiques appears solely preoccupied with algebraic-functions. and comparisons are effected only by using a social cohesion etic framework.-are of secondary salience in analyzing each reified society.. actual?-but patrilateral rules are normative. whether adoption is equated with “blood relationship” and how. by what rules to achieve what kind of “functional” cohesion. Systems where kinds of incest are conceived as a marriage alternative (either mythically or for a select few) are dispensed with (e. The analysis asks which men. It takes the incest prohibition (i. Thus the major “culture” in ESK is the “culture” of the theory of social organization variants. whereas marriage with the father’s sister’s daughter forces the interruption and reversal of collaborations from generation to generation and from lineage to lineage. analyze the role of the incest prohibition in each system. although incest and the logic of the elementary structures themselves are partially conceptualized algebraically. therefore itneed not. residence. Witness this decidedly functionalist passage: a human group need only proclaim the law of marriage with the mother’s brother’s daughter for a vast cycle of reciprocity between all generations and lineages to be organized. exchange which women with which other men. but only its constant role in all systems. ecological setting. social rules requiring one to “copulate somewhat out”) as a universal given. ESK analysis consists in stipulating the marriage rules for how social bonds are formed among groups or categories. Levi-Strauss applied Mauss’ principle of reciprocity systematically to show how an analytically complete range of social cohesion-types-from two groups satisfying each other’s marriage needs simultaneously (direct exchange) to many groups completing a cycle of alliance eventually (matrilateral systems)-was implicit in different positive marriage rule alternatives. ESK only tangentially discusses “cultures” as systems of symbols and meanings for particular space-time isolates.1974 elements of concrete experience it selectively reduces. (2) His concern is with problems of “social organizations” and not with problems of “cultures. organized in what way. ESK.. Cultural questions of symbolic interrelationsip-what incest means in particular cases. 450. our insert]. 487).e.” The “structuralism” of the study rests in its algebraic interrelation of different social rules as most directly intelligible in cross-cousin marriage principles. (3) The innovation .. however. incest prohibition. at least as important as demography. The latter elementary marriage system allows the greatest range of social segments to be included by non-conflicting marriage provision. affecting the degrees of social cohesion certain societies achieve. subsisting and developing with it. etc. genealogy. . etc. In one case. which assumes all these are interrelated to fulfill needs of social cohesion.802 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [76. etc. not empirical] of the group [ESK. It is shown that there are greater inherent limitations in direct exchange than in generalized exchange. exogamy. descent. The problems of cross-cousin marriage all turn on the question of how social cohesion is provided for (although not necessarily realized) by marriage norms and how a particular social organization is structured. And the particular elementary structure adopted is viewed as a constraint. In the other case. the multiple cycles which are continually created fracture and distort the unity [conceptual?. the primary concern is the use-function and the secondary concern algebraic-function. and that there are greater limitations-to an analytically imposed theory of social cohesion and group dynamics-in patrilateral than in the matrilateral cross-cousin marriage. To summarize aspects of ESK: (1)Uvi-Strauss employs a use-function theory based on definitions of kinship and marriage. ESK assumes the use-function of genealogy is constant for all systems and classifies people by biological parentage before asking what “biological” parentage culturally consists of in each ease. . if one can “marry” a sword or a tree. In ESK. . He uses actual native textual materials only insofar as they mesh with this theory.g.
no continuity. With myth. arising around the nature of the avunculate relationship perpetuated through the generations-which are later developed in the Mythologiques series. [the set of myths] such as the one studied here. I suppose. Therefore the problem: If the content of a myth is contingent.Boon and Schneider] KINSHIP VIS-A-VIS MYTH 803 Uvi-Strauss introduced into the study of kinship-in a self-proclaimed direct line from R. On the one hand it would seem that in the course of a myth anything is likely to happen. as he feels the privileged portion of kinship known as “marriage rules” limits the form an entire kinship system can take. The social unit in ESK is seen as fundamentally coded by the avunculate and marriage rules centering on it which pronounce different portions of society marryable. our italics]. (4) Here are Uvi-Strauss’ early attempts to develop techniques of structuralism-the use of opposition. . and in Mythologiques is expended to demonstrate something about the texts now to be studied as a corpus. He argues this thesis by drawing algebraic analogies @ensLe sauuage) between concrete referents in the texts. I ask the historian to look upon Indian America as a kind of Middle Ages which lacked a Rome: a confused mass that emerged from a longestablished. In “The Structural Study of Myth” he studies myths for the same reasons any comparativist folklorist might: Mythology confronts the student with a situation which at first sight appears contradictory. every conceivable relation can be found. is related to various Western philosophical traditions in The Savage Mind. This early article glosses a simplifying technique for discovering the logic of mythic organization of materials. Lowie-was his application of “exchange” as a central and irreducible element in social organization. LQvi-Straussstates . Uvi-Strauss’ comment that classicists might dispute the basic units he detects in Oedipus suggests that no privileged portion of myth limits the form an entire mythic system can take. how are we going to explain the fact that myths throughout the world are so similar? [ 1967a: 203-2041. The technique is pronounced preliminary and the Oedipus example inappropriate. centralizing tendencies and disruptive forces . doubtless very loosely textured syncretism. In L6vi-Strauss’ approach to myth the “algebraic-function” eventually achieves prominence. This technique is applied to a traditional anthropological problem in Totemism. and operators. using the same logical processes by which. everything becomes possible. Even so.4 He demonstrates the “common conception of the world” of Indian America by moving through its manifestations in myths. he suggests. His thesis is a simple one: that New World preliterates display a “common conception of the world”: From the start then. owes its character to the fact that in a sense it became crystallized in an already established semantic environment. it is already clear that no simple theory of myth-analogous to the “elementary structural” kinship theory derived from cross-cousin mamage provisions or concepts of dual organization enables us summarily to compare the whole of one group’s “mythic materials” to another group’s. . mediators. this apparent arbitrariness is belied by the astounding similarity between myths collected in widely different regions. this ongoing conceptualizing of the world occured. But on the other hand. which for many centuries had contained at one and the same time centers of advanced civilization and savage peoples. Any characteristic can be attributed to any subject. in a spirit of imitation but rather to allow small but numerous communities to express their different originalities by manipulating the resources of a dialectical system of contrasts and correlations within the framework of a common conception of the world [Livi-Strauss 1970:8. Mauss’ concept of exchange is explicitly related to the fundamental we/they social unit (the necessarily-different-but-interrelatable-as-differentiated unit familiar in Durkheim’s concepts of mechanical/organic solidarity). whose elements had been used in all kinds of combinations-not so much. There is no logic.
most simply Mythologiques corresponds to an extended exercise in proving seemingly disparate elements are transformed members of the same “set. not merely a convenient. in Salish myths. although myths can in fact employ actual ethnographic facts in their systematic signification. he pretends to call them by mistake “my wives” instead of “my daughters. What appear translatable are combinations. Only if part of their internal logic is translatable can “structural” mythic analysis begin. Something of their bizarre contents is preserved even in translations into Indo-European languages. out of raw salmon roe. would disintegrate.” Thus.” “origin myths” are all simply myth. Then the indigenous analogizing can be reanalogized into Mythologiques. incentuous-downstream-aunts. (decoded in light of extensive social contextual and environmental data) into those of other texts (this is essentially what Volume I1 does for I). When they’re fully grown. it is rather an encoding that is itself differentiated from neighboring groups’ codes. Mythic units remain things like stinking opossums. (2) to move across the whole corpus eventually encompassed.” They promptly take offense and leave. It is an essential. Mythologiques rather traces differentiations across groups. There is good ethnographic reason to suspect that texts have (at a more complex level than “motifs”) moved across different New World languages without sacrificing certain principles of consistency...1974 initially that the only means to verify his interpretations is: (1)to transform the constallation of algebraic analogies between the referents in one text. and sequences of outlandish composite images. but even these are not intended as exhaustive. etc. which is a perfectly sound strategy for detecting the “semantic environment” implicit in equivalences and contrasts that New World preliterates have used to distinguish themselves from their natural surroundings and from their cultural neighbors. Someone else may attempt the definitive study of particular tribes’ myths. Uvi-Strauss assumes that a group’s myths approximate a record of its selective reduction of its sensory environment into orderly arrangements.” “solar myths. IV). . But never is mythological data restated in terms of an external analytic (as in ESK) involving residence. (2) that. affiliation. Uvi-Strauss does not preclude these projects. Lkvi-Strauss provides his own best summary: The Salish-speaking peoples. the same genie creates for himself two adoptive daughters. whereupon he demands their advice by threatening them with a torrential downpour: they.804 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [76. descent. juxtapositions. “Agricultural myths. empirically. Livi-Strauss adopts no motif index and finds no differentiation by social function necessary. starting point of Mythologiques that all texts are translatable. finally to analyze its extreme reaches. Only twice does Uvi-Strauss examine more thoroughly the myths and contexts of particular tribes (in Vol. cohesion. fishermen-in-whale-stomachs. But a group’s mythic corpus is not simply a direct encoding of the members’ shared sensory experience. excretes his two sisters imprisoned in his bowels. I and the Salish in Vol. Now. complex concrete images. Testing his position. etc. . and a myth is especially valuable if multiple variants which seem related have been documented across space and languages. being excrement. .” But the anthropological significance of the exercise increases if it can be shown: (1)that a particular kind of general logical process corresponds to this analogical set-building. often speak in their myths of a deceitful genie who. or of the way these myths relate to other social and economic matters. but he chooses not to achieve them and opts for an internal analysis of “myth. and then by similar transformations to relate these distant myths back to the first parts of the corpus considered (this is what Volumes I11 and IV do for I and 11). and from the same group’s codes in times past. he desires them. various populations have employed the process extensively to identify themselves and differentiate their experiences from their neighbors’.” “rites of passage myths. whenever a problem puzzles him.i.e.
Thus from three meaningless anecdotes you extract a system of pertinent oppositions: water. Only secondarily does it employ the grill to reach non-mythologic conclusions. between groups. This procedure is not to imply that myths are never . . the other because they catch on to a half-spoken. These three motifs cannot be understood apart from one another. and finally exogamy: for. Accession to culture is no longer indicated by the simple art of cooking meat. . the well-women. Mythologiques maps one version of such a grill for North and South American Indian groups. from the earth or sky. All the women are related to water: either. symbolized by the acquisition of cooking fires. Another frequent criticism is that Mythologiques overlooks the actual living groups that have created the textual materials under analysis. The latter are distinct from one another in that the salmon-roe daughters come from a positive. Yet both complaints seek to deny LQvi-Strausswhat he is most trying t o demor . constitutes the distinctive trait of civilized life.aden. their periodicity in time and during the fishing season.Boon and Schneider] KINSHIP VIS-A-VISMYTH 805 Finally. improper hint. and thus to communicate with one another. These women are married and are incapable of expressing themselves in articulate speech.” where direct exchange societies contrast holistically to patrilateral crosscousin societies. to stagnant water. which engaged widely in intertribal exchanges. mythic imagery accentuates that aspect which. In this way they contrast with the third pair. But the full circular significance of the four volume study is this: the Salish myths compose a vast sociological. But in these North American populations. [ 1971a:49]. if you permit me. an indication of the degree to which these various societies are willing to engage in marital exchanges. Finally two pairs of women are endowed linguistically: one for their wise counsel. or to running water for the two other pairs. enabling us to disclose their meaning [ 1971a:48-49]. The myths. That’s not all: the salmon-roe daughters and excrement-sisters are the products of either raw (in the first case) or cooked (in the other) food. stagnant or moving. are “marrying-types” as wives and good cooks. who cannot speak. to man’s benefit. the Salish tell of a third pair of supernatural women. women created from food or producing it themselves. once you compare them. On the other hand. . well-cooked food to the surface. Mythologiques frustrates the more sociologically minded reader because different groups cannot be contrasted by the ways they handle “myth” (except perhaps in terms of prevalence vems near absence). self-identity of particular groups. as in the case of the well women. You arrive at what I’d call a “semantic field” which can be applied like a grill t o all the myths of these populations. send up dishes of hot. He purposefully treats the texts not insofar as they are constitutive of the affect-. The other two pairs are “non-marrying types. No solid perspective by use-function is gained by “myth” as for “kinship. referred to are the same ones which in South America serve to account for the passage from nature t o culture. Further. raw or cooked food: women accessible or opposed to marriage depending upon linguistic or non-linguistic behavior. The enjoyment of a diversified diet functions in myths as a sign of how open each small society is to the outside world. . . rather as they establish diacritical relations across various groups-groups which need never be wholly isolated or reified. you notice their common origin.trate. women are exchanged like foodstuffs. They live at the bottom of natural wells and upon request. . to them. economical and cosmological system establishing numerous correspondences between the distribution of fish in the water network. earthly source of w a t e n a l m o n streamrand the excrement-sisters are threatened with destruction by a negative. etc. heavenly source of w a t e r t h e disintegrating rain. the various markets where goods are exchanged. giving this term a social and economic sense . but by the founding of commerce. while the well-women are themselves producers of cooked food.” whether because they are labeled as sisters or because they avoid incestuous marriage with their foster father. the well-women. .
Totemic representations create an identity for a set of clans by delineating in concrete forms what each is not. To summarize. meaningfully contrasted sets of significations exchanged through time and across languages and space. and this is the subject and object of Mythologiques.[Livi-Strauss 1971b3576-577. structuralist ones. thus inevitably deforming it. they become more oral “novel” or literature and less “myth. lineage. imperfectly coined to directly disclose any social cohesive reality. Most important. Only secondarily does he analyze particular. Myths portray the relations between the natural world and the social world-real or imaginary-in a way which enables members of societies to take cognizance of themselves as much for not replicating in their actual practices the mythic universe as for occasionally replicating parts of the classifications comprising that universe. it is situated not in a language and in a culture or sub-culture. brotherhood)-another myth that an auditor seeks to plagiarize in translating it in his fashion into his personal or tribal language.” Mythologiques demonstrates the diacritical aspect of preliterate semiotic activity. If thus the philological study o f myths does not constitute an indispensable preliminary approach [our emphasis]. LQvi-Strauss 196713). these relationships of opposition between myths emerge vigorously from a comparative analysis. and derived in relation to other myths. but at the point of articulation of cultures with other languages and other cultures.]. etc. mythic data need not. Considered from an empirical point of view. hermeneutic ones but differential. For the mythic units reflecting on this experience and basic social needs are pre-constrained. every myth is at once pristine (primitif) in relation to itself. Myths express intertribal. In fact. family. constrastive one. eat. One might say LBvi-Strauss defines kinship (as primarily operated through marriage) as that aspect of social life which pertains to the social cohesion of proximate . in Volume I11 we see that if individual texts begin to take on a strong internal integrity. a serial plot-line consistence or a literal reflection of the life experience of the group narrating them. Living groups do these things-no one denies this-but the mythic formulations are at the comparative level independent of such needs.1974 codifiers of positively integrated identity (and certainly the Salish myths as analyzed come near being this). Rarely seized upon at their origin and in a state of vitality. it is a perspective on another language . etc. cross-cultural.806 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [76. The ultimate comparutiuist integrity of myth is a negative. In a similar way group identities achieved by myths are not positive.our trans. or in a myth that is contemporary but the property of another social subdivision (clan. and without an exterior analytic of the social needs t o interrelate factions. subclan. opossums mark ritual stench. He studies myth first as independent. cross-language differential stereotypes. Each of the myths’ transformations results from a dialectical opposition to another transformation. and their essence resides in the irreducible face of translation by and for opposition. or in an anterior myth of the same population. Myth is thus never in its language ( d e sa langue).-and describe the dialectic interrelations of certain mythic texts with actual local history and environmental conditions (cf. the reason for this lies in what one might call myths’ diacritical nature. establish residence. myths reveal internal principles of consistencyequivalence for the sake of equivalence. originating either in another myth issuing from a neighboring but foreign population. as much to appropriate it as to contradict (dkmentir)it. etc. Simply as “myth” they have an internal logic. inversion for the sake of inversion-which can be analyzed without isolating each culture area as a mythic type. what each must not do. Mythologiques seeks to demonstrate there is a discernable order to myth at this level. but only that the differential or diacritical aspects of the texts can be emphasized and in fact constitute their peculiarly “mythic” quality: every myth is by nature a translation. . Gvi-Strauss refuses to do with mythic data what he does with kinship data: he says kinship d&a must pertain to social cohesion needs of actual groups. . localized elaborations of some selection from this intercontinental semantic universe-where honey codes both sperm and menstrual blood. For living groups also stereotype and classify their experience differentially.
” whereby peoples can handle what analyzers call incest. Nekronyms pertain to a relation with another relative as opposed to having nothing to do with such a relation. marriage. The authors’ assertion that these two examples are the same kind of method based on a distinctive feature matrix overlooks a critical difference in the two examples. Moreover the analysis starts not from a set of terms but a pre-analyzed set of types of terms. but not in a simple relationship with ecology. Hence the role of proper names in different societies can be compared. consanguinity. and other symbols) which serve comparatively as diacriticals for differentiating identities across societies. kin terms. we suggest. “son” by consanguinity.g.. when the authors illustrate two examples of what they call “the same kind of method of explanation.” To argue that an analysis proceeds by isolating sets of distinctive features is not sufficient cause to label it “structuralist” or even one kind of analysis.. And is this “kinship” neglected if one sees use-function as the essential factor in matters of incest and marriage? There is. Buchler and Selby’s second example is the familiar type of analysis stretching from early Kroeber to more recent Componentialists which compares and contrasts assortments of individual kinship terms. “mother” by seniority. independently of hypothetical “social needs” of the group.Boon and Schneider] KINSHIP VIS-A-VIS MYTH 807 differentiated groups.. “John”). . Buchler and H. then. Thus. it is not automatically known what else is present.. The first example cited is IKvi-Strauss’ cross-cultural elaboration of R. or actual social cohesion. autonyms (e. use-function constraints on these “mythic” algebraic-function relations. an element of “myth” in “kinship. And the central question becomes not only. and which serve within a given population to inform its experience. nekronyms do state (1)but do not imply (2). Let us designate the product of such an analysis a meta-distinctive-featurematrix. and myth as that which identifies-bydistinguishing groups according to the sensory codes they have abstracted from their experience.6 In such a distinctive feature matrix.” marriage rule. Selby’s Kinship and Social Organization. “Father of John”) is contrasted according to the occurrence of two features: (1) statement of relation with a relative. and ignoring this fact can lead to faulty arguments. EITHER-OR MATRIXES AND META-MATRIXES Differences between two kinds of analysis-here represented by ESK and by Mythologiques-can be obscured by premature confidence in formal methodologies and analytic paraphernalia such as “bundles of binary distinctions. etc. that would take further investigation... describing a set of items as a (Jakobsonian) distinctive feature matrix.g. Needham’s work on Penan “mourning terms. yet if the feature is absent (as in autonyms). we learn what nekronyms are about without learning at that level what they are contrastively not about. A case in point occurs in 1. “eldest son dead”). the priorities in ESK and Mythologiques are reversed.e. but not seniority. tekonyms do both. and so forth.. and teknonyms (e. but more to our interest: “Cannot there be a myth of kinship?” By “kinship” we intend those classifications of solidary actors (defined by “descent. as many critics have asked: “Cannot there be a kinship of myth?”-i. consanguinity. such as English “father” characterieed by the features of seniority. This is indeed a classification according to the presence or absence of the feature. (2) implication of opposition between self and others.” i. etc.e. In brief. descent and collateral bonds. but not masculinity. masculinity.” The significant “set” composed of nekronyms (e.g. masculinity. demography. autonyms are vice-versa.
all terms must be either masculine or feminine. at least in an unconscious form. are always present to the human mind. . and not a collection of partial solutions.” etc. By means of this pedestrian contrast in types of matrixes we can succinctly distinguish ESK and Mythologiques. Thus let us call this an eitherlor-distinctive-feature-matrix. but relations of principles for distinguishing reified groups.” to “consanguinity” as opposed to “affinity. yes. bilateral. he repeatedly acknowledges that any single eitherlor opposition is good only at a particular leuel. arguments in ESK of functional-use potential of different elementary systems remain inappropriate. matrilateral and patrilateral.1974 In the other example the term “father” pertains to “masculinity” as automatically opposed f o “femininity.808 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [76. The inverse of the feature is positively defined by the analyzer’s pre-assumptionso-called common sense. descentlresidence. Here ESK skews toward the algebraic. its axioms allow an array of eitherlor distinctions to be made: such as restricted versus generalized. At the same time. Matrilateral and patrilateral marriage represent the two poles of generalized exchange. Consider this summary passage: Can the reason be given for [the contamination of generalized exchange by restricted exchange]? Undoubtedly. But insofar as this algebraic quality holds.” to “seniority” as opposed to “juniority. The three forms of exchange thus constitute four pairs of oppositions [ ESK. there is no compromising suggestion of axiomatic needs of social cohesion which ought to determine when which structure prevails. ESK resembles an eitherlor classification. . bilateral marriage has the characteristic of alternation in common with patrilateral marriage. This structuralist skewing of ESK at once distinguishes it from earlier use-functional analyses. kinship genealogies) does begin with actual native terms but describes them according to a pre-analyzed grid. . and both are opposed to bilateral marriage as the general to the particular.. Moreover its locus of approach is not relations of principles for distinguishing lexical items. consider that the three elementary structures of exchange. patrilateral versus matrilateral-one side the positively defined (loaded) inverse of the other. LiviStrauss does not simply chart a distinctive feature matrix of marriage formulas. consanguinity opposes “affinity” (rather than “adoption” or many other possibilities suggested by crosscultural data). if w e. On the other hand. Mythologiques does not even partly resemble a Componential Analysis. Such Componential Analysis of closed domains (e. . for example. but analytic glosses such as cross-cousin/paralleI cousin. whereas it resembles matrilateral marriage in that both allow a general solution. viz. that universally not-male is equivalent t o female (rather than neuter. or at another level “animal”). Not pertaining to masculinity is pertaining to femininity. and that makes it something more than a Componential Analysis. ESK achieves an eitherlor matrix by pre-assigning the oppositional feature based on a theory of social cohesion. This aspect of the study makes it at least semi-structuralist and constitutes its major advance over Lowie’s Primitive Society. and that it cannot evoke one of them without thinking of this structure in opposition to-but also in correlation with-the two others. It is unlike many Componential Analyses because it does not analyze actual native units or categories.g. it is a meta-distinctive feature matrix. and represents a completely dif- . (ESK of course employs native terms but analyzes them only after glossing them according to its prescriptive marriage theory). he jumps around in the matrix to ponder its implications. All elementary structures are described as always potential. It is assumed. yet in other ways it differs. unspecifiable-vestiges of an earlier anthropology.4641.” because although LQvi-Strauss always detects eitherlor features based on a concept of marriage. as is the case with patrilateral marriage. Rather. That is.. Yet ESK cannot properly be deemed a “Componential Analysis of social cohesion types. but they are opposed to each other as the shortest and the longest cycles of exchange. . The set of elementary structures is seen here as algebraic-type logical alternatives (the above “fundamental quartet”) always in principle open to “groups” establishing themselves as distinct social units cross-referenced by marriage rules to other groups.
In short. is “kinship” about? Is it about social cohesion needs of groups.g. yet related. . the avunculate and cross-cousin marriages) and nomenclature clusters that pertain to the theory. Basic Data actual native terms or images Elementary Structures of Kinship Mythologiques analytic glosses functional etic (social-cohesive genealogy) - + - + - + + Componential Analysis + The chart could be rephrased as three different strategies of translation of cultural phenomena: (1) Componential Analysis begins with arbitrary sets of native language terms and differentiates them according to an imposed functional analytic (e. Thus in myths “hot” does not simply. oppose “cold. per Mythologiques? It might be about all three of these. before rushing to adopt any formal apparatus as anthropology’s own.. just as a nekronym encodes features of “alter relative” and “self” in an inverse way from an autonym.all water?.no.” ( 2 ) Mythologiques begins with common sense translations of striking native composite images (e.” This is why the analysis can be corroborated only by attesting more and more encodings that rely on principles related to the initial code.. Oppositions in the series are complemented by searching textual materials to detect possible inverse categories. and along the way Componential Analysis: . what. Mythologiques discloses how mythic texts encode features selected from experience in different. genie defecates disolvable sisters) and more adequately translates them by mapping differential relations to other such images from a related cross-cultural textual corpus. attributes of a genealogical grid) to discern their “meaning. . and translates their meaning as the interrelated set of types of elementary structures-the structural logic of the functional theory. .” For if myths were constructed according to a presumed-to-be-natural common sense. Finally. or vice versa. but the last has been most neglected by comparativist theories of kinship. they would be unnecessary to indigenes and certainly not a problem for anthropology. or others. An obvious conclusion is that one should never expect eitherlor conclusions to issue from a meta-matrix.Boon and Schneider] KINSHIP VIS-A-VIS MYTH 809 ferent kind of comparative research.g. Yet Mythologiques is at once more impressive since it only glosses preliterate images according to other preliterate images presumably in the same “semantic field. per Componential Analysis? Or is it about that peculiar human tendency t o differentiate yet interrelate complex categories of experience to order social life without being directly determined by non-conceptual parameters. stagnant water. Each of the three approaches rests on differing assumptions as to the meaning of social phenomena. for example.g.. We can then construct a simple distinctive feature matrix to compare and contrast roughly ESK. no water. (3) ESK begins with a functional theory of social cohesion. ways from other features selected. selects customary complexes (e. What in the corpus of New World mythic texts is the opposite-complement of fire? smoke? earth?. common sensically. . per part of ESK? Is it about formal elegance and efficiency. Mythologiques.. we should pause t o appreciate this either-or/meta contrast in the simplest “structuralist” analyses of cultural data employing distinctive feature techniques. as itself opposed t o falling or running water.
To speak in mathematical terms. And norms are normative. It would never have been even indirectly implied that incest-as-tabooed is a universally actual amalgamator of groups.. but only that incest is always a conceivoble and implicit option insofar as tabooed. Moreover. they use marriage ideals to scale down the possibility of reciprocity cycles between social units interrelated through something other than marriage. LBvi-Strauss might have portrayed incest more exclusively as an axiom basic to the “socio-logic” characterizing I ‘esprit humain. other levels of experience. 450).. but they are consequently exposed to a new risk. One could. In fact marriage rules interest structuralists because they can be described as a closed set. their logical inter-implication).e. The confusing element in ESK (monumentalized in the prescriptive/preferential debate) remains the scattered claims such as “a human group need only proclaim the law of marriage with the mother’s brother’s daughter for a vast cycle of reciprocity between all generations and lineages to be organized” (ESK. rather norms. as many have urged. such is the lowest form of reciprocity (patrilateral marriage) in relation to the highest form (matrilateral marriage).e. And what incest is to reciprocity in general. hypothesize the necessary “external conditions” which determine which marriages will characterize a given population. not actual. as an intrusion first of the time dimension (in Crow-Omaha systems). Yet such systems exist. For marriage rules are not laws. although possibly relevant to. and an elementary structural tendency is always covert in human groups as they identify and differentiate themselves: Ghosts are never invoked with impunity.1974 BEYOND THE ELEMENTARY CONTINUUM One flaw in ESK was an understandable failure (in 1949) to pinpoint with consistency the locus of the “models” at issue. In the following passage the locus of elementary structures is cultural. and thrive in contexts as distinct as Arabia and Bali. rather groups or parts of groups reveal ideas of such marriages which might be carried out to various extents. since patrilateral marriage is not only the counterpart of matrilateral marriage but also its negation. incest is the ‘limit’ of reciprocity. marriage between . to the contrary. Only by stressing this independence of marriage rules-we would call it their “cultural aspect’%an other elementary-looking rules such as patriparallel cousin marriage preferences be compared at all. By preserving a social cohesion argument LQvi-Strauss compromised his more original structuralist position concerning the mutual occurrence of “elementary structures” in human social thought (i. For patriparallel cousin systems do not achieve a system of reciprocity of greater scope between groups. but this is not necessarily a prerequisite to mapping the logic of attestable marriage-ideas independently. Societies do not have patrilateral or matrilateral systems.810 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [76. systems of generalized exchange gain an assurance. For groups which have reached the subtlest but also the most fragile form of reciprocity. marriage with the father’s sister’s daughtershort cycle-is to marriage with the mother’s brother’s daughterlong cycle-what incest is to the entirety of systems of reciprocity. survive. i. by means of marriage between sister’s son and brother’s daughter. and this fact derives from their relative independence of concrete facts. Within systems of reciprocity. The properly structuralist argument is that marriage rules constitute a logic generally independent of. This would in fact be perfectly consistent with arguments in ESK describing each elementary structure as the negation of the next and incest as the logical extreme of “elementariness” for each structure. Marriage systems are ideally organized by marriage rules. By clinging to the phantom of patrilateral marriage.’ The degeneration argument in ESK about complex systems-like its avoidance of parallel cousin marriage principles-arises from a misplaced argument about the use-function of elementary structures. complex systems need not be conceptualized merely as the breakdown of elementary structures. Without the social cohesion theory. Marriage rules conceptualize variable solidarities as opposed t o relative senses of incest. the point at which it cancels itself out. then of the individualistic dimension.
475). LQvi-Strauss speculates that such an idea was significant in the historical development of individualistic marriage (complex systems) out of a degenerated generalized exchange system: Since generalized exchange engenders hypergamy. it is incest [ESK454. let us consider L6vi-Strauss’ views on complex sytems. the sensational individual marriage is inevitably one that is too “out”-out of class. If we regard the incest taboo as the logical axiom (as in the above passage) for conceiving of social differentiation. to marry the father’s sister’s daughter or to sleep with the sister is. including cross-cousin systems and parallel cousin systems as well. which. he sees this as a more natural. for a person occupying a high social rank in the privilege of giving his daughter in marriage to a man of any status” (ESK. than biological incest. Moreover. our italics].” of any prescribed marriage. . a sort of sociological clinamen. national. a new way appears to approach the individualism of “complex systems. which is tantamount to destroying it. Incest is ultimately the relative in-marriage in conflict with any positive out-marriage rule. on the same grounds.Boon and Schneider] KINSHIP VIS-A. and that such incest taboo-like cultural principles to marry-out-within-limits are applied to social life at new levels. hypergamy leads to caste] and left the task of developing and systematizing the formula of it t o others. need we adopt any sense of an incest taboo (or exogamy) as a universal agent in establishing actual social cohesion? The structuralist’s interest in the incest taboo is not that it functionally interrelates actual social groups but that any such presumed mechanistic results are achieved variably. the socio-logic concept of incest is clarified. preferably her chosen hero. he has left the task to others. For a system of generalized exchange. In this view individual choice is most generally the perfect opposite of socio-logic incest. etc. He has generally argued: (1) these systems are less individualistic in practice than their ideals suggest. This is the swayamwra marriage. since (racial. endogamies aside) endogamous pockets tend somehow to form. which latter will never compromise the security of the system because it cannot be conceived of as a solution.VIS MYTH 811 sister’s daughter and brother’s son represents the omnipresent danger but irresistible attmction of a ‘social incest’.. It may be understood. and hypergamy leads either to regressive solutions (restricted exchange or endogamy). or (to borrow Lhvi-Strauss’ expression concerning “social incest”) “the omnipresent danger but irresistible attraction.” operation of an element a r y proclivity. although it finally took a different path [i.. This view of complex systems perhaps appears most clearly in LQvi-Straws’ brief remarks on swayamvam marriage. in a word. since no cultural categories prescribe suitable partners. whenever the subtle mechanism of exchange is obstructed. an arbitrary element will be introduced into the system. even. India clearly conceived the idea of this clinamen. which in Indic legends “consists. like a Deus ex machina. sectarian. . then. will. less “categorical. .” We suggest that individualism in spouse selection is the logical opposite-complement. to reverse a cycle of reciprocity. or race. xxxvi). To clarify this position.e. and individual choice is ultimately an out-marriage in conflict with any preferred relative in-marriage. bhirata is devoted [ESK. t o which a whole section of the Mahi4751. ‘making water flow up t o its source‘. By avoiding any social cohesion theory. . and each form of elementary marriage rule as the relatively incestlike negation of the next higher form. that the tension inherent in the logic of incest taboos echoes the tension in distinctions between crosslparallel and at another level between matrilateral/patrilateral. or to the complete paralysis of the body social [!I. give the necessary push for a new impetus. even when positive marriage categories remain unspecified (ESK. how it is that in all the abovementioned formulas both types of marriage are associated as well as opposed. more dangerous t o the group. (2) one must computerize any way to handle these systems’ enormous variables. that the reasons for proclaiming the excellence of the one are the same as those for abhorring the other. or community. real marriages must apparently be traced with no native scheme to explain any divergence from total randomness.
i. then all these elementary structures are themselves incest-like vis-a-vis systems based ideally on individualistic contracts. presence of the maternal uncle is a necessary precondition for the structure to exist [Levi-Strauss 1967a: 44-45] . any actual surplus of women at the top of an hypergamous system and the deficiency of brides at the bottom is-even without arguing from particular ethnographic cases-a spurious issue. equality of sexes. swayamuura does not emerge in human societies. directly or indirectly.1974 But if elementary exchange patterns are non-statistical models (cf. a relation between spouses. in light of the brother-sister and parent-child incest taboo. even at the diagrammatic level of .. on any prescribed union or on any incestuous one as tabooed. To be perfectly consistent. Dumont 1970:118).. a proponent of ESK structuralist theory might say that. why are individualistic marriage contracts any less the “omnipresent danger but irresistible attraction” which (along with incest). . and restricted exchange is incest-like vis-a-vis these. whereby the “three basic characteristics of modem European marriage [freedom to choose unprohibited spouse. the axiomatic inverse that inevitably in the socio-mystique (per ESK. per ESK.e. 454) is another way of saying the inherent cultural possibility of “individualism in marriage. the other is positive sanctions on marrying into unsystematically defined categories. without breaking down the hypergamous marriage ideals: redefining more women into the bottom ranks. through implied negation of preferential rules. Indeed. the. a relation of consanguinity. ESK. swayamuara marriage should represent not the degradation of prescriptive marriage systems. There is not necessarily any “paralysis of the body social” translated in India into epical reflection.812 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [76. and individualization of the contract] were introduced in . L4vi-Strauss eliminated many interesting possibilities of his own atom of kinship. He generalizes: In order for a kinship structure to exist. For to be consistent with the structuralist impulse of ESK.” where he adroitly shifted from “elementary families” to the relations implicit in an avuncular (MB) relationship. . like the avunculate (see below). 8 By mismatching a theory of social cohesion to his cultural (Durkheimian) theory of marriage rules as codes to differentiate and interrelate social categories. There are multiple cultural ways of handling any real shortage or surplus of circulating women. but is “present initially. three types of family relations must always be present: . female infanticide (cf. There are two cultural stop-gaps against marrying-too-in: one is taboos on “social incest”. Thus we do not need to explain how the maternal uncle emerged in the kinship structure: He does not emerge-he is present initially. And later: In human society a man must obtain a woman from another man who gives him a daughter or a sister [as refined in ESK. underpins the whole of elementary structures? If patrilateral marriage is incest-like vis-a-vis matrilateral marriage. a furtive secret and almost fraudulent manner” (ESK. and swayamuara marriage can as readily be portrayed as the extreme positive expression of the cultural inhibition on marrying-in negatively established in ESK theory by the incest taboo. Swayamuara is not necessarily a mere secondarily formulated set of literary ideals made t o patch a faltering system of positive exchange. but a logical foundation.” These issues can be backtracked t o Lthi-Strauss’ initial formulation of the “atom of kinship. In short. 454) sustains the values. and categorically. and a relation between parent and child [Lhvi-Strauss 1967a:43]. a relation of affinity and a relation of descent [ filiation]-in other words. religious sanctions on female celibacy at the top ranks. and (we should say) parallel cousin marriage is a viable social option which is incest-like vis-a-vis even restricted exchange. This point (again.” the above-mentioned swayamuam. through unconscious but conceivable contradiction. not actually]. a relation between siblings. . . is itself the opposite side of the “social incest” axiomatic basis of elementary kinship theory. 477). xxxii-xxxiii).
In other words if the “atom of kinship” is consistently a model of ideal cultural categories. Patriparallel cousin marriage rules most effectively point up shortcomings in the alliance theme. then implicit within that model is not only determining the descent category of sexually differentiated products of the original A/B categories.Boon and Schneider] KINSHIP VIS-A-VIS MYTH 813 idealized models. not positively categorized from the A/B categories’ point of view.e. and in not-A/B will be found the source of marriages not encompassed by positive prescription or prohibited by incest.. parallel cousin marriage systems. incest) but also of denying marriage beyond the A-B social universe. This model disregards cases where the affinity relation does not cut across the descent-identity relationi. Moreover. an individualistic contract. In sum. Fox’s claim that L-6vi-Strauss’ approach “does enable us to put all kinship systems on one continuum and discuss them as variations on the ‘alliance’ theme” (1967:24). Implicit in this conclusion is a rejection of R. axiomatically primary avunculate. Yet simulatneously we can reconsider assumptions that holistic systems of positively defined marriage categories are logically p r io r m or e “elementary”-than other systems. is merely a means of protecting the artifically isolated. with other means of balancing or denying any exchange. and consanguineal relations. The positive alliance prescription joining category A through marriage to B logically rests not only on the axiomatic opposite-complement of denying marriage of A with A (i. as V. and it is unclear why these any less elementary than prescriptive systems given the many cultural devices for interrelating social categories other than marriage. that this would be mixing real actors for idealized models. Many societies build systems on this option. affinity. And it is precisely in systems where the “blood” sibling category might be tabooed but the so-called classificatory sibling (i. then it must be contrastable as a whole to not-A/B. it can be populated with two or more sets. for this requires assuming that these consanguineous/affinal (A/B) categories are indivisible wholes.e. the parallel) category is not.e. and not actual social groups. rather than seeing them as populated (divisible) categories. And then a logical alternative. the affinity relation. given the prevalence of two necessarily interrelatable but distinct social categories (A/B) is an affinal relationship outside the A/B categories. The rationalist tabula rasa obscures both this point and the implicit. logical possibility of marrying-out of the system of organic solidarity altogether. avuncular sociologic: the atom of kinship assumes as its very first principle not the avunculate or cross-relation. To restate our argument in LBvi-Strauss’ axiomatic. The defense that such an implied opposite-complement (individual marriage) cannot properly obtain at an elementary logic level. that is denying individual marriage at this level. cannot be expressed in terms of an opposition between “parallel . Dass has argued: the difference between the [Pakistani] systems I have been describing and systems of prescriptive alliance ... . We see this again in Gvi-Strauss’ position that the only recourse if the “sibling” is tabooed is the cross-relation. but the Durkheimian oppositional identity of groups. If A/B is the social universe of organic solidarity. . but tabooed.e. and reject any implications that swayamvara and individualized marriage unions in general are temporally secondary to more mechanistic exchange systems. but also the social-unconscious “flirtation” with the possibility of marrying within one category (this much is granted in Lhi-Strauss’ notion of the “irresistible appeal” of social-incest) but across the multiple members of that category. social A/B descent categories cut across by the cross-relation. if a tabula rasa can be populated with one set of idealized descent. i. that an alternative to the elementary logic of out-marriage is implicit from the start. we can salute the lasting contribution of ESK: a theory of the interrelation of the ideal systems produced by marrying different kinds of cross-cousins..
marriage does not ally anything or even distinguish new categories ideally to be perpetually married between in successive generations.’ In other words.” and the cohesion argument again falls apart. readjusting them after new actual marriages. but then we are forced t o see any non-endogamous unions as occurring between different “societies.” CONCLUSIONS M y fhologiques and other developments in anthropological studies of symbols and semiotica illustrate how domains of a cultural semantic field can be liberated from sociofunctional prerequisites and reveal an autonomous integrity analyzable in its own right. but its secondary implications involving social cohesion obscure how even cross-cousin marriage rules might often be corrected to categorize fresh exchange partners which a generation before were not so categorized.” The latter viewpoint would enable us to handle systems involving individualistic contracts and parallel cousins as readily as “elementary structures. suggesting that groups have formulated their kinship not just according to the needs of concrete groups but according to semantic limits.’ Even if one granted “kinship” must display use-functions. actors in cross-cousin marriage systems might frequently shift their categorized affines. Myfhologiques achieved this comparativist stance by not forcing tales of terminologies into pre-conceived analytic pigeonholes. In such systems. Our point is merely that ESK proceeds as if kinship nomencIatures and marriage rules are normally directly interrelated in distinct societies and not. Thus the issue basically involves theoretical assumptions about bounded “groups” and “societies. undefined marriage is effected). More recent work even on cross-cousin marriage emphasizes how sets of kinsmen can effect a marriage priorly uncategorizable and thus articulate both a cross-relationship and the “society” within which the marriage rules subsequently apply (unless a new. whereas ESK assumed not only that certain varieties of “kinship nomenclatures” pertain essentially t o marriage rules.” ESK assumes the existence of distinct societies internally differentiated and interrelated by marriage rules. but that each such nomenclature can be isolated and analyzed as a closed set. The opposition is rather between systems that achieve exclusion of the group through marriage and systems that achieve alliance between groups through marriage [1973:42]. This flexibility again challenges functionalist arguments of the actual social utility of different elementary systems. remaining now strictly within Levi-Strauss’ own work. so-called “complex” systems-that do not fit with the . LCvi-Strauss has precipitously excluded types of systems-parallel cousin endogamy. Apparently the creation of positively categorized alliance partners by extending properties of the avunculate relationship across generations occurs not just on the rarified tabula rasa of the “atom of kinship” but repeatedly through history.1974 cousin marriage” and “cross-cousin” marriage. If one tries to salvage a functionalist cohesion basis for “marriage” by saying that patriparallel cousin unions cement factious agnates. rather it ideally closes a social unit in on itself.” only if the endogamous unit is hoisted to the analytic level occupied in ESK by “society”. as in Myfhologiques. Different so-called “societies” can be articulated by mamage rules out of complicated social fields. But. then one implies a cultural principle beyond “marriage” that a certain social unit should be perpetuated. In that case “marriage” could be seen as an alliance between “groups. Parts of ESK suggest this fact. ranging at least from Arabia to Bali. as if aspects of nomenclatures and images of rules might pertain more to a cross-societal corpus of categories. that this is by definition the institutional nature of kinship-cum-marriage.814 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [76. Our alternative t o insisting that b y definition rules of “marriage” cohede groups (actually or ideally) is t o say marriage rules conceptually differentiate interrelatable social units or close one social unit in on itself in a field of units interrelated by some value other than “marriage.
Boon 1973) would not constitute a “new plane” of complementary functionally-efficacious “organic solidarity” by some means other than “kinship” as defined by “marriage.” for these vary widely but would seem to enjoy limiting principles. But to assert merely that universally kinship cohedes all “societies” does not get us very far. but to consider closely two internal variants of his own structuralism and to suggest the kinship/myth contrast as a focus for future theoretical discussions. if and when it actually does so. the in-law bond) as the foundation of organic solidarity. etc.. ideal and actual incestuous relations. 1971. In light of evidence on adoption. Since some reduction and abstraction is necessary for comparison. teacherpupil).g. New York.” Obviously use-function parallels “social organization” and algebraic-function parallels “culture” in the classic Rivers/Kroeber distinctions. In short. cf. ESK assumes everyone makes closed systems out of genealogically-defined people. kinship studies might profit by joining Mythologiques in backing up to the question of what sort of analogical systems people make out of whatever they make them out of. rather than as easily representing conceivable contrasting systems. given that “real” incest (i. In light of the subsequent development of Mythologiques.. sometimes by descent. Kinship interrelates diverse categories of enduringly solidary people. L6vi-Strauss might better have defined kinship as a subset of myth. one might ponder if a teacher-pupil relation marked by a taboo on sexual relations between the teacher-line and the pupil-line. instead of assuming they make them out of genealogical kin. given that many societies do marry relatively “in. claiming that this allows whatever system there might be to close itself. distinguishing cultuml feature articulating varying solidarities among classified actors-and not as a response to natural or social needs.” then every item on the kinship record (not just nomenclatures) should be approached as value.e. ideal. taboos on copulation and/or marriage based on decidedly un-genealogical considerations (e. then each myth would automatically appear as a closed system. Our aim is not to review the extensive secondary literature on L6vi-Strauss. In myth man’s analogical capacity-his tendency to establish systems out of concrete signifiers-is portrayed as being dependent on its materials only insofar as it must have something (and it really seems anything would do) to work with. subsistence pattern) of the group.. L6vi-Strauss instead analyzes myths a s metadistinctive-feature-matrixes.‘kinship” does not do something. with both the positive content of the relationship and the taboo perpetuated in succeeding generations (as in Hindu Bali. This would bring a comparativist kinship study much closer to Mythologiques than ESK..Boon and Schneider] KINSHIP VIS-A-VIS MYTH 815 theory of marriage as a social integrater of groups or part-groups. but is discoverable only be careful investigations of the mythic texts themselves. . it can be more interesting to compare the symbolic meanings of kinship than its “use. NOTES A preliminary version of part of this study was presented in the symposium on “Dialectics in Structural Anthropology’’ a t the 70th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. keyed directly to a socially useful moral. “Myth” remains the grander system schematizing the entire social and natural experience in light of other constraining schemes. we might relax our preconceptions as to the genealogical and social organizational nature of “kinship” data as well. or representing the real experience (e. biological near-consanguinal coitus) is practiced by many groups. If each myth were analyzed as an either-or matrix. In studies of myth the material of native classifications is not posited axiomatically. ’To point up provisionally the genealogical bias in this position on marriage (i. sometimes by marriage rules. sometimes by other symbolic devices..e. But LBvi-Strauss’ usages are slightly more formalized. Given that all groups are not characterized by genealogy-based organization. 4“Savage thought is essentially analogical thought” (LBvi-Strauss 1966). None of this is to imply that ‘.g.
Veena 1973 The Structure of Marriage Preferences: An Account from Pakistani Fiction. play. 1972 From Symbolism to Structuralism: LBvi-Strauss in a Literary Tradition.D. LBvi-Strauss has shifted his kinship models to their proper cultural level. ” He also points out the translation error that led Leach to accuse him of mistaking filiation for descent. On this aspect of kinship nomenclature and why theories of metaphorical extension cannot adequately explain them (and for alternative ways of conceptualizing “complex systems”) see Schneider (1965a. ” Baltimore: Peneuin Books.. Man 8:30-45. Robin 1967 KinshiD and Marriaee. trans. Ira R. sentimental. . For example. . but has left the vestigial social-cohesion arguments in the book. see Buchler and Selby (1968). “Saints.1969. e. London: Athlone. Unpublished Ph. Where we.1974 For a Mythologiques-oriented reconsideration of the whole of LBvi-Strauss’ ethnological program. REFERENCES CITED Boon. in so-called “American Kinship terms” are found domestic and religious “fathers”. Selby 1968 Kinship and Social Organization. In The Idea of Culture in the Social Sciences. Pans: Presses Universitaires de France. Chicaeo: Universitv of Chicaeo Press. Determining that “John” does not name a relative along with naming ego. N.1972a. I - . New York: Harper and Row. Dumont. Louis 1970 Homo Hierarchicus: An Essay on the Caste System. Yalman has argued the point in reconsidering the preferential-perscriptive debate and contrasting the nature of Kurdish patriparallel rules to Singhalese cross-cousin rules (1970 :614-615). blood. University of Chicago. Marcel Mauss.” since descent and filiation cannot fully contrast within the logical limits of the atom. following the English translation of Structural Anthropology. see Boon (1970). Louis Schneider and Charles Bonjean. figurative. Korn. does not alert us of the cultural possibility that “John” might implicitly refer to other cultural domains. His structuralism is discussed within the context of alternative anthropological approaches to symbols and classification systems in Boon ( 19763b ). Buchler. 8LBvi-Strauss has recently (1973b:105) reaffirmed the “atom of kinship” as “the quadrangle of relations between brother and sister. . father and son. l968. talk of the “descent” dimension of the “atom of kinship” we are merely refering to the verticle. Francis 1973 Elementary Structures Reconsidered. in-lawed. see Boon (1972). 197313 Further Operations of “Culture” in Anthropology: A Synthesis of and for Debate. and we might as easily have used “filiation. Das. The most recent empirical-minded denunciation of LBvi-Strauss is Korn (1973). LBvi-Strauss. Fox. Concerning the locus of models in ESK. husband and wife. James A. and Henry A. Man 5:702-703. when pushed by more empirical-minded critics such as Needham (1962) and Leach (1961). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. dissertation. opposite-complement of the alliance dimension. and maternal uncle and nephew . Eds. Mark Sainsbury. Claude 1950 Introduction B l’oeuvre de Marcel Mauss.” 7For a note on parallels in the way LBvi-Strauss conceptualizes Crow-Omaha kinship systems and a certain stage of breakdown in New World groups’ use of myths.” and that one might find significantly more “Johns” with brothers named “Matthew” than with brothers names “Myron. Leach.g. Edmund 1961 Rethinking Anthropology. 1970 LBvi-Strauss and Narrative..816 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [76. Berkeley: University of California Press. For a review of such issues. and friendship “aunts. I n Sociologie et Anthropologie. New York: MacMillan. 1973a Dynastic Dynamics: Caste and Kinship in Bali Now. 1972b).” etc.
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