National University of Singapore
Anthropology and the Human Condition
Comparative Ethnographic Review Essay
It would seem that in every society, marriage is one necessary representation of the society’s culture. Marriage regulates, organizes and legitimizes sexual relations. Human societies have many different marriage systems, and in my review of “Everyday Life in Southeast Asia” and “The Dobe Ju/’hoansi”, it seems that this recurring theme of marriage is always constrained by the cultures, or rules, that were built upon it. While we see illustrations of elaborate structures within culture that determine if a union between two human beings through…show more content… The agro-ecosystem of the Lisu was such that they practiced shifting cultivation. Land was claimed by labor and not owned, and no one was dependent on anyone else to get access to the means of production – land – to feed themselves and their family. This egalitarian social system back then meant that young people with the ability and energy to labor could make a start for themselves in life by finding an open piece of land and cultivating cash crops such as opium. The fact that opium was an excellent cash crop for the Lisu, allowed the people the means to wealth and stability. This in turn presented profound consequences for the marriage practices of the Lisu. The main form of display of wealth for Lisu is through payment of bridewealth, in which a groom’s family pays a substantial amount of valuables to the bride’s family to claim her productive labor and the children she will bear in the marriage. Bridewealth serves as a marker of status, and the access to wealth from opium made earlier marriage possible because it was easier to accumulate bridewealth from the surplus.
Looking at this holistically, opium funded the autonomy of individual households. While the cost of bridewealth might otherwise have meant that boys were completely dependent on their parents to fund their marriages, young people could make a start