Residence and Kinship (Explaining Human Culture)

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Exercise ID: 1.43
Class size: Any
Level(s): I II
Source: Produced by HRAF

Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? Yes
Subject selection: Multiple subjects specified by teacher
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable: Marriage, Residence
Region selection: open (student choice)
Region, if applicable: Various
Culture selection: Set by teacher
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable:

Classroom Guide

Instructions for navigating eHRAF included? Yes
Assignments for students to complete in groups? No
Assignments for students to complete on their own? Yes
Instructions for Microfiche version? No

Anj Droe, Danielle Russell, Carol R. Ember, Human Relations Area Files

These Teaching eHRAF exercises are designed to accompany the “Residence and Kinship” module in Explaining Human Culture. This module gives a general picture of what we have learned from cross-cultural research about variation in kin groups, rule of descent, kinship terminology systems, where couples live after marriage, consequences and predictors of marital residence, and why descent or residence practices may change over time. The exercises included below are intended to convey both the range of cross-cultural variation and outline ways of considering and engaging with that information. Much of the information you will need is found in eHRAF World Cultures. Check here to see if your library has access.

1. Read the “Residence and Kinship” module in Explaining Human Culture.

2. Reflect on kinship and marital residence practices in your own culture or cultures (specify the culture or cultures you are referring to). If you can’t generalize to a cultural group, describe your own family and kinship situation. Try to answer the following questions:

    1. How important is kinship outside the immediate family? Are there clear kin groups, such as unilineal groups or bilateral kindreds described in the module? Is tracing ancestry important? If so, how is it usually traced? On both sides of the family equally? On the mother’s side? On the father’s side? How far back is it usually traced?
    2. Is it typical for a married couple to live near or with family members? If so, with which family members? What form of marital residence would you call this pattern?
    3. Do you think your traditions differ from what’s typical in your country? Why or why not?
    4. Do you have friends that have different residence or kinship practices?

3. After reading each of the following excerpts found in eHRAF World Cultures, describe the economic or social functions of the kin groups (i.e. marriage regulation, owning property, etc.). Include the following additional information when available:

    1. Marital Residence: provide the vocabulary words describing marital residence practices from the text (for example: matrilocal residence)
    2. Kin Group: type of kin group in anthropological usage (lineage, clan or sib, phratry, or moiety)
    3. Rule of Descent: provide the vocabulary words describing the primary rule of descent (for example: matrilineal descent)


Society Kinship Functions Additional Information
Marital Residence Rule of Descent Kin Group
Haida (NE09): Contributions to the Ethnology of the Haida by John Reed Swanton, pg. 65-67        
Ganda (FK07): The Baganda: An Account of their Native Customs and Beliefs by John Roscoe, pg. 133-135        
Osage (NQ22): Changes in Osage Social Organization, 1673-1906 by Garrick Alan Bailey, pg. 10-13 (“Unilineal Descent Groups”)        
Koreans (AA01): “The Koreans and their Culture” by Cornelius Osgood, pg. 37-38        
Abkhaz (RI03): Abkhazians: The Long-Living People of the Caucasus by Sula Benet, pg. 49-51 (“The Importance of Kinship”)        
Huron (NG05): “Huron” by Conrad E. Heidenreich, pg. 370-371 (“Social Organization”)        


4. After reading the following excerpts, list the kinship terminology type (for example: Omaha or Inuit) used for each culture. (Hint: the types of terminology are diagrammed in the Residence and Kinship module.) What led you to this conclusion?

    1. Aymara (SF05): Aymara Communities and the Bolivian Agrarian Reform by William E. Carter, pg. 55
    2. Gikuyu (FL10): “The Central Tribes of the North-Eastern Bantu: (The Kikuyu, including Embu, Meru, Mbere, Chuka, Mwimbi, Tharaka, and the Kamba of Kenya)” by John Middleton, pg. 25
    3. Nicobarese (AZ07): “Culture Summary: Nicobarese” by Simron Jit Singh, pg. 6

5. Make a kinship chart using the terms on the following page: Growing Up in an Egyptian Village by Ḥāmid ‘Ammār, pg. 257. Begin with a neutral “ego” at the bottom, center of the page. Label each of ego’s relatives with the terms used in the text. Stop at Adeel (wife’s sister’s husband). An example of a kinship chart can be found in the Kinship Terminology section of the module.

6. Compare and contrast changes in the kinship and residence practices of the following two cultures.

    1. Mapuche (SG04): Araucanian Culture in Transition by Mischa Titiev, pg. 52
    2. Hawaiian (OV05): Children of the Land: Exchange and Status in a Hawaiian Community by Jocelyn Linnekin, pg. 76

7. The cultures listed below include their conflict pattern which had been previously coded by M. Ember and Ember (1971). Using the Advanced Search in eHRAF, enter the four culture names into the culture box, then select the subject Residence (OCM 591) and search for the marital residence practice of each of the cultures. Do you notice a pattern between marital residence and external/internal conflict? Using the teaching module, identify the theory that best explains your findings.


Culture name Warfare type Marital residence
Navajo (NT13) Purely external warfare  
Tiv (FF57) Some internal warfare  
Azande (FO07) Some internal warfare  
Kaska (ND12) Purely external warfare  


8. Using Advanced Search, choose an additional society you are interested in and enter it into the culture box. In the subject box add the subjects Residence (OCM 591), Rule of Descent (611), Lineages (613), Clans (614), Phratries (615), and Moieties (616) with the option “Any of these Subjects” selected. Subjects can also be searched individually by entering them one at a time. Describe the society’s marital residence practice, descent rules, and larger kin groups (such as clans). Make sure that you cite where you obtained the information.

    1. For an extra challenge, try finding information on and identifying kinship terminology type by including Kinship Terminology (OCM 601) in your search terms.