back to Douglas R. White

KINSHIP, NETWORKS, AND EXCHANGE. Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences Series, New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Thomas Schweizer and Douglas R. White, eds.

Now in paperback reprint 2008

Structural analysis as practiced today in the study of human societies is characterized by combining the richness of ethnographic case studies with the formal rigor of social network analysis, the theory of games and of social exchange and social cognition, algebraic and graph theoretical analysis of social structure, and more dynamic (and computer-driven) analyses of social processes. These approaches focus more on linkages and relations rather than groups and individuals. The concept of the social embedding of economic and political organization makes it imperative that ethnological concerns with kinship, marriage and social exchange are conceptualized and reanalyzed as foundational to the way that societies, economies and polities are organized, in all parts of the contemporary world. Social network analysis focuses on social relations and the flow of resources within networks of actors and investigates the emerging pattern of social order generated over time by networked activities. In integrating anthropological studies of kinship and exchange with the social network perspective, anthropology profits from the precise and flexible framework of social network analysis while the interdisciplinary study of social structure deepens its understanding of social pattern and process in taking into account holistic ethnographic cases and the comparative agenda of anthropology. Studies of marriage, descent and exchange can pay due respect to the social, material and symbolic aspects of human societies and can assess change without sacrificing rigor and systematic understanding of social and economic patterns in a broader structuralist and dynamic perspective.

This collection of original articles, restudies of classic ethnographic cases and fieldwork studies of kinship and exchange in contemporary tribal and peasant societies of Africa, Asia,the Pacific and Europe, aims at revitalizing the study of kinship and exchange in a social network perspective. It brings together studies of empirical systems of marriage and descent with investigations of the flow of material resources in human societies, to demonstrate how the social and the material aspects of society are related. The volume addresses issues of concern to anthropology and the neighboring disciplines of history, sociology and economics. The book marks the emergence of a new era in the study of kinship and exchange using a productive combination of ethnographic substance with formal methods, one which leaves behind older structural-functionalist and culturalist assumptions. 

Table of contents

  • Thomas Schweizer and Douglas R. White:

  • Revitalizing the Study of Kinship and Exchange with Network Approaches
  • I. Representing Kinship Dynamics, Material Flow, and Economic Cooperation 
  • Bojka Milicic:

  • The Grapevine Forest: Kinship, Status and Wealth in a Mediterranean Community
  • Douglas White & Thomas Schweizer:

  • Kinship, Property Transmission, and Stratification in Javanese Villages
  • Michael Houseman & Douglas White:

  • Ambilateral Sidedness and Property Flows among the Sinhalese: Marriage Networks and Property Flows in Pul Eliya (Sri Lanka)
  • Robert H. Barnes:

  • Alliance, Exchange, and the Organization of Boat Corporations in Lamalera, Eastern Indonesia
  • II. Individual Embeddedness and the Larger Structure of Kinship and Exchange Networks 
  • Monika Böck:

  • Experiential Flexibility of Cultural Models: Kinship Knowledge and Networks among Individual Khasi (Meghalaya, N. E. India)
  • Michael Bollig:

  • Moral Economy and Self-Interest: Kinship, Friendship and Exchange among the Pokot (N.W. Kenya)
  • Barbara Göbel: 

  • Risk, Uncertainty and Economic Exchange in a Pastoral Community of the Argentine Highlands (Huancar, N.W. Argentina)
  • III. Marriage, Exchange and Alliance: Reconsidering Bridewealth and Dowry
  • Duran Bell: 

  • Wealth Transfers Occasioned by Marriage
  • Aparna Rao:

  • Prestations and Progeny: The Consolidation of Well-being among the Bakkarwal of Jammu and Kashmir (N. W. India)
  • Stefan Dietrich:

  • 'We Don't Sell our Daughters': A Report on Money and Marriage Exchange in the Township of Larantuka (Flores,E. Indonesia)
  • IV. Emergence, Development and Transformation of Kin-Based Exchange Systems 
  • Per Hage & Frank Harary:

  • Applications of the Minimum Spanning Tree Problem to Network Analysis
  • Franklin Tjon Sie Fat:

  • Local Rules, Global Structures: Models of Exclusive Straight Sister-Exchange
  • Polly Wiessner & Akii Tumu:

  • The Capacity and Constraints of Kinship in the Development of the Enga Tee Ceremonial ExchangeNetwork (Papua New Guinea Highlands)
  • Joachim Görlich: 

  • Between War and Peace: Gift Exchange and Commodity Barter in the Central nd Fringe Highlands of Papua New Guinea
    More information on this book is available in Networks in Society and History vol. 1(1).

    Douglas R. White and Thomas Schweizer: Kinship, Property Transmission and Stratification in Javanese Villages. In: Kinship, Networks and Exchange (eds.) T. Schweizer & D.R. White. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

    This paper analyzes ethnographic data on kinship, transmission of land and religious activities among elite Muslim families in a Javanese village, against a background of Javanese kinship ethnography and comparisons with kinship networks of village hamlets and elites in other villages. Concomitant variation establishes support for general hypotheses about the organization of Javanese kinship. Parental graph analysis (White and Jorion 1992) is used for network comparisons and to focus on processes of transmission and consolidation of resources among the elites, and establishes subsets of actors connected by common bilateral descent and marriage ties. Inheritance of land, religious activities and ensuing occupational specialization can be closely traced as secondary flows on the basic kinship scaffolding. Stern's (1994) visual algebra is used for representing and breaking down subsets of actors or ties and for creating images of the whole network. The discrete methods applied in this paper are precise tools for decomposing multiple ties in kinship networks and yield deeper insight into structural patterns than standard methods of positional analysis tried in an earlier paper (Schweizer 1988).

    (Keywords: elites, kinship, Java, parental graph, property) 

    Michael Houseman and Douglas R. White, Ambilateral Sidedness and Property Flows among the Sinhalese: Marriage Networks and Property Flows in Pul Eliya (Sri Lanka). In: Kinship, Networks and Exchange (eds.) T. Schweizer & D.R. White. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

    Edmund Leach's data on kinship and marriage is the starting point for a network analysis of marriage exchange and the bilateral devolution of property. The analysis resolves the "Dravidian controversy" over the possibility of fit between the egocentric perspective of dual organization encoded in the Dravidian languages of South Asia and a sociocentric dual organization that is NOT based on matrimonial moieties and unilineal descent, but a more flexible and network-based application of marriage strategies. A network concept of "sidedness" is developed as a new alternative to the moiety concept for dual matrimonial organization. In a significant number of cases where Pul Eliyan villagers marry cousins or other types of consanguineal kin, perfect sidedness is maintained in the actual network of kinship and marriage relations, consistent with the Dravidian "two-sided" terminology of direct matrimonial exchange. Agnatic descent, however, is not the principle by which sidedness is maintained, since daughters can be heirs to agnatic estates if male heirs are lacking, and there exists a significant option of propertied daughters taking the role of a male in the marriage exchange system. Alongside the normal rule of postmarital residence with the husband's agnatic kin, there exists the uxorilocal alternative that is emphasized by Leach as having strategic importance for marriage alliances between affines. Such marriages, when they involve transmission of agnatic property to the daughter (in the absence of sons), provide the key to understanding how an emergent network structure of dual organization is possible based on flexible marriage strategies rather than prescriptive descent rules for matrimonial moieties. The result is that while blood marriages follow the prescriptions of Dravidian "two-sided" kinship terminology, more strategically oriented marriages may ignore the implications of Dravidian terminology when it comes to marriages between strictly affinal kin, agnatic heiresses marrying men from remote villages, or blood relations through men from remote villages. While certain of these marriages are recognized as "wrong" from a terminological standpoint, the ideal of a consistent but continually re-emergent sociocentric dual organization is superimposed on the behaviorally "wrong marriages." The only casualty of this emergently networked dual organization is the anthropological insistence that dual organization is necessarily dependent on rules of descent. For Pul Eliyans, however, "sidedness" is resolved case by case with the social validation of successive marriages, and not rationalized with respect to a formal logic of descent.
    Here then is a system of social rules and strategies that are reconciled against each other in the freedom to realign and readjust terminological discrepancies in favor of a continually reemergent but consistent network structure of dual matrimonial organization that lacks a basis in a strict rule of descent. The rules of bilateral inheritance, it turns out, have more significance for property-holding residential groups than the rules of descent. Furthermore, property that is temporarily alienated from an imperfectly agnatic residential group because of inheritance devolution to daughters can be brought into the group through the combination of subcaste endogamy and dual organization in which "agnatic" property devolving through females can first pass to an opposing "side" but then back to its "side" of origin. Disputes about legitimate claims to agnatic property are common in this exchange system, but form an integral part of the emergent process by which there are micro-level changes to the structure of dual organization whose practical effect is to support an ethos of balanced exchange between equal but opposing "sides" -- the key feature of Dravidian-type social and economic organization.
    go to top