Critically Explain the Concept of Kinship in Africa. Contrast and Compare Patrilineal and Matrilineal Kinship Systems

3284 Words Apr 7th, 2012 14 Pages
The subject of "traditional family patterns in Africa" is so broad that it cannot be adequately addressed by many scholars. The cultural and physical diversity added with the dramatic social changes of the last three decades on the continent makes the family pattern situation so variegated as to defy any sweeping generalizations. This difficulty in generalization bone of diversity was already apparent to many early scholars of the African traditional family.
This essay will briefly explore traditional African family patterns explaining the concept of kinship in Africa, the differences and similarities between patrilineal and matrilineal families systems.

Kinship is the web of relationships woven by family and marriage. Traditional
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They are well suited to traditional forms of production and exchange where these are found (which is still the case among the majority of African peoples), and they provide a sense of personal identity and security that is of high emotive value (Bell & Vogel: 1960).
Kinship and marriage are closely linked in several ways. On one level, kinship rules may determine marriage partners. In this respect, North African and sub-Saharan societies differ widely. North African peoples encourage marriage within a group, often a kinship group. Traditionally, the ideal marriage is between cousins, including the children of two brothers. Among the Bedouin, for example, a boy has the right to marry his father's brother's daughter. Although she can refuse the cousin's proposal, she needs his permission to marry someone else (Barnes: 1951).
Most lineage groups in sub-Saharan Africa, in contrast, favor marriage outside the group. As a result, kinship is not limited strictly to lineage. An individual has important ties with two different kin groups, the mother's and the father's. Such ties often extend outside the village or community, offering certain advantages. If a community suffers from drought, war, disease, food shortages, or other disasters, for example, its members may go to live with kin in other areas.
Marriage and kinship are also linked by customs governing the…