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Kinship, Marriage and Alliance (The Paru Tribe of the Amazon)

By: Mark Harris

Internally the social Organization appeared infinitely flexible and capable of endless
permutations and combinations, as their kinship structure still attests. (Taussig 1982: 59)

All peasant marriages strategies are endogamous, but some are more endogamous than
others. (Segalan 1986: 124)

The Organization of Houses and Clusters

• The community has been presented in material terms as a collection of people

who identified themselves as kinspeople, with equal rights of access to proximate
• Houses are spread out in a long line in the river bank some are gathered in groups
of two or three and others in groups of seven and eight. No two houses are
identical in design and all use a variety of construction materials. Most are built
about a meter off the ground, on stilts, but a few temporary houses built only for
the dry season stand on the ground. All houses are built with one storey, though it
has been known to build houses with two floors on the floodplain. During the wet
season the whole season is transformed by the presence of water.
• Almost all houses are part of the ‘cluster’, which is defined as a dense network of
multi-family houses, organized around a parental couple.
• Houses in a cluster tend to be closely spaced together, a few apart or even joined
by a bridge. They may lie in a straight line or be in front of or behind the central
parental house. The next cluster will lie on the piece of land.
• Clusters are peaceful place. Sure sign of conflicts is not caring about the place in
which you live.
• Most economic activities are organized are organized within a cluster. Group
sharing of resources is usual.
• Ajudar principle- cooperation and harmony of people who are sharing their daily
• Social focal point is the most senior in the cluster.
• Three main types of relations and processes within it:
- Consanguineal ties of filiation and siblinghood
- Ties of affinity between sibling-in-law and daughters-in-law with their
- Relations of godparenthood between any people within the cluster

Living with parents, children and siblings

• The cluster is the matrix of social organization and reproduction. The

relationships in clusters, from the point of view of the head conjugal couple, are
typically between themselves, their children (a sibling set), their children’s
spouses and their grandchildren, and their parents. These dense clusters of houses
are central to communal organization and reproduction, because they are the
primary units in which economic and social life is acted out.
• The structure of their society is constantly changing yet its structure allows for
continuity and ongoing claims to local resources to sustain people’s lives.
• Two main axes by which the cluster develops:
- First is the parent-child relationship, which is a vertical one
- Second is the sibling set which has the horizontal axis.
• Both of these axes are equally important, but they have different roles in social
organization and therefore are opposed to each other. The sibling axis is about
cohesion, keeping things together, either through co-residence or affinity. Vertical
parent-child axis is about continuity, in the form of developmental cycles and
access to land for building purposes.
• An individual’s decision making is not influenced by any member of the cluster.
• Social organization in Paru is not constituted through clusters related by kinship
and marriage. The cluster then will become his or her primary will become more
heterogeneous because the children of the parental couple will start to develop
their own links.

The estimation of kin, family and cousins.

The system of reckoning kinspeople in Amazonian areas differ in some important

ways from mainstream Brazilian kinship terminology (Wagley 1976, Lima 1992,
 Primo- cover all types of cousin
 Parente/s- prolonged co-residence and mutuality
- people who are related through blood
 Parentes legitimos- a kinsperson who is related through blood, the one who can be
called this term are the kin related through women. They are not supposed to marry
each other.
 Familia- rough equivalent of the second usage of parente. Affinal members are
excluded from this definition.
 Casa- indicating the people who are present in physical space or unit.


 the category of people recognized as cousins who has an importance for linking
together in the community and in some cases across different places.
 Clusters of loosely related kin are connected to each other clusters through cousin
 The term and category of primo is a crucial one in communal relations. Its importance
derives from the fact that it has the potential to be an expansive and inclusive
category, more so than any other kin term.
The adaptability of the category of cousin:
- First- the relationship between ego and his or her parent’s first cousin is
same as the one between ego and his or her parent’s first cousin is
sometimes the same as the one between ego and a parent’s sibling. This
means that the ego’s parent’s first cousin can be an uncle or an aunt.
- Second- primo-irmao or prima-irma, literally cousin sister/brother. This
term is applied to people who are genealogically cousins but were brought
up by the same parents. This type of cousins should not marry.

 Cousins give identity , in the sense that they locate a person in a field of
communal relations.

The developmental cycle of the cluster

 The founding relationship of a cluster is that between parents and their children.
 An elementary cluster begins when a child of the parental couple leaves their
house and sets up his or her own house with his or her spouse. The phase of
expansion is now well under way, and this is the period in the developmental
cycle that most people aspire to: lots of adult and children in one place crating
high morale.
 As the children move out and build their own houses, a sibling set will be created.
This sibling set will gradually from the basis of the cluster.
 The household is a unit in the developmental cycle. The cluster is, the, a large
‘house’, encompassing of smaller ones.
 The parental couple will act as a focus for the spheres of interactions and
decision-making in every phase of the developmental cycle. They act as the
arbiters of internal affairs.
 ‘Adoption’, (filho/a de criacao) is a common way in which children move from
one house to another and an important process in the developmental cycle. They
are treated in exactly the same way as other children and the relationship will
remain intimate over the lifetime.
 Criar- denote a relation of creating something new, involving care and
responsibility in the process,

Marriage and Endogamy

 Marriage is just one element in the complex reckoning of kinship, resident

choices and economic survival. Decisions on who to marry and where to live
affect not only the people involved but also the families. The cluster of co-
resident parents and their children, and the creation of a sibling set, can only take
place through ties.
 Endogamy normally implies at least a notion of a group, if not a materially
bounded one.
Endogamous marriages allowed:
- between cousin, specifically first cousin
- from co-residence
- two or more siblings marrying two or more sibling from another cluster.
- Sororate marriage , a man replicates a previous marriage.
- Marriage by distantly linked people. This could be between people
connected by marriage in the parental or grandparental generation.
 marriage through male relatives is higher in the preference for property to be
transferred through men.

Marriageable partners

 There is no marriage rule and Paruaros are free to marry whom they wish.
 Some paruaros say its best to marry out the family out of the family, with people
from other communities; others said cousins of any grade are the best people to
marry; others said it is possible to marry anybody except a parent, a brother, a
sister or your godparents.
 Ideally, marriage should take place between people who are not closely related so
that new clusters can be made.

 Mulher (wife,woman), homen (husband, man), sogro (father-in-law), sogra

(mother-in-law), genro (son-in-law), nora (daughter-in-law), cunhado (brother-in-
law), cunhada (sister-in-law)