As we saw in this week’s readings different cultures around the world have different ideas about who counts as family and what different family members’ rights and obligations are relative to others. Some of these kinship systems can be very different from the ones we are most familiar with. In this assignment use the required readings to reflect on how your life might be different and how your outlook on the world would change if you lived in a different culture that had a different definition for the ideal form of marriage.
In the article “Polyandry: When Brothers Take a Wife” we learn about marriage among the indigenous peoples of Tibet where one woman takes multiple husbands. While polyandry (one woman, multiple men) is quite rare, polygyny (one man, multiple women) is considered the ideal form of marriage in many cultures. How would you like to be a participant in a poly marriage? What might be some of the benefits of such a lifestyle? What drawbacks do you foresee? Do you think this form of marriage is unacceptable in the modern US? Why?
In the article “Family and Kinship in Village India” we learn about arranged marriages in India where the parents of the bride and groom negotiate the union among themselves with a limited amount of input from the couple to be engaged. The traditional marriage in India is also a contractual exchange accompanied by a dowry (property paid by the bride’s family), which contrasts with another common practice, bridewealth (property paid by the groom’s family). How would you like to be a participant in an arranged marriage, accompanied by a formalized exchange of property? What are the pros and cons of such an arrangement? Do you think this form of marriage is unacceptable in the modern US? Why?
Your assignment is to leave a thoughtful reply in the comments section below. In the space of about 300-500 words address one of the two articles mentioned in this post (or do both if you feel ambitious). The point of the assignment is to prompt you to see things from another culture’s point of view and to reflect about your own cultural behaviors. This is not an exercise in right or wrong. It will be given a completion grade. Queer and gender-nonconforming students can interpret the scenarios above creatively. Approach the problem in whatever way seems most appropriate.
Deadline is 9am Friday, November 1st. After I drink my coffee and drop my kids off at school I’m logging to grade this so you better be done by then.