polyandry


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Related to polyandry: fraternal polyandry

marriage

marriage, socially sanctioned union that reproduces the family. In all societies the choice of partners is generally guided by rules of exogamy (the obligation to marry outside a group); some societies also have rules of endogamy (the obligation to marry within a group). These rules may be prescriptive or, as in the case of the incest taboo, proscriptive; they generally apply to kinship groups such as clan or lineage; residential groups; and social groups such as the ethnic group, caste, or class.

Historically marriage was typically heterosexual and entailed exclusive rights and duties of sexual performance, but there are instructive exceptions. For example, Nayar women of India would ritually marry men of a superior caste, have numerous lovers, and bear legitimate children. Among the Dahomey of West Africa, one woman could marry another; the first woman would be the legal “father” of the children (by other men) of the second. These examples highlight the functions of marriage to reproduce both a domestic division of labor and social relationships between different groups. Such functions are served even by the more common type of marriage, the union of one or more men with one or more women.

In most societies men and women have been valued for their different roles in the household economy. Marriage therefore often has occasioned other economic exchanges. If a woman's labor is highly valued, a man may be required to offer valuable goods (bride-price) or his own labor (bride-service) to his wife's family. If a man's labor is more highly valued, the bride's family may offer goods (dowry) to the husband or his family.

Marriage as a Societal Bond

In many societies marriage links not just nuclear families but larger social formations as well. Some endogamous societies are divided into different exogamous groups (such as clans or lineages): Men form alliances through the exchange of women, and the social organization regulates these alliances through marriage rules. In some cases, two men from different groups exchange sisters for brides. Other instances involve an adult man marrying the young or infant daughter of another man; sexual relations would be deferred for many years, but the two men will have formed a strong bond. Marriages are often arranged by the families through the services of a matchmaker or go-between, and commence with a ritual celebration, or wedding. Some cultures practice trial marriage; the couple lives together before deciding whether they should marry. Societies have generally prescribed where newlywed couples should live: In patrilocal cultures, they live with or near the husband's family; in matrilocal ones, with or near the wife's family. Under neolocal residence, the couple establishes their own household.

Although marriage tends to be regarded in many places as a permanent tie, divorce is allowed in most modern societies. The causes of divorce vary, but adultery, desertion, infertility, failure to provide the necessities of life, mistreatment, and incompatibility are the most common. Civil unions are now permitted in Western countries, but for nearly a thousand years marriage in the Western world was a religious contract. The Christian church undertook its supervision in the 9th cent., when newlywed couples instituted the practice of coming to the church door to have their union blessed by the priest. Eventually the church regulated marriage through canon law.

In contemporary Europe marriage has lost some of importance, especially as social legislation in some nations has emphasized assuring equal financial benefits and legal standing to children born to unwed parents. Some European nations also grant legal recognition to couples in less restrictive unions; such partnerships typically have some but not all of the legal rights extended to married couples, but the partnership usually can be more easily dissolved.

For the legal aspects of marriage, see husband and wife; consanguinity; divorce.

Forms of Marriage

Monogamy (the union of one wife to one husband) is the prevalent form almost everywhere. Polygyny (or polygamy; having several wives at one time), however, has been a prerogative in many societies (see harem). It is commonly found where the value of women's labor is high and may be practiced as a way of acquiring allies: A man may cement his bonds with several other men by marrying their sisters or daughters. Polyandry (having several husbands at one time) is rare, having occurred infrequently in Tibetan society, among the Marquesas of Polynesia, and among certain hill tribes in India. People who enjoy only a marginal subsistence may practice polyandry as a way of limiting births. It is also practiced where brothers must work together to sustain one household; they share one wife. The custom of marrying a widow to her late husband's brother is known as levirate marriage and was common among the ancient Hebrews. In sororate marriages a widower marries his deceased (or barren) wife's sister. The levirate and the sororate occur in societies where marriage is seen to create an alliance between groups; the deceased spouse's group has a duty to provide a new spouse to the widow or widower, thereby preserving the alliance. Beginning in the late 20th cent., gay-rights groups in a growing number of nations have sought official recognition of same-sex couples through marriage or civil union (see gay-rights movement).

Bibliography

See C. Levi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures of Kinship (1969); E. A. Westermark, The History of Human Marriage (3 vol., 5th ed. 1921; repr. 1971); J. M. Henslin, Marriage and Family in a Changing Society (2d ed. 1985); J. F. Collier, Marriage and Inequality in Classless Societies (1988); A. J. Cherlin, The Marriage-Go-Round (2010).

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polyandry

a form of plural marriage (POLYGAMY) where a woman has more than one husband. It is regarded as a functional strategy for ensuring reproductive stability when there is a shortage of women. Compare POLYGYNY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Polyandry

 

a rare vestigial form of group marriage in which one woman has several husbands. In the 19th century, polyandry was still extant, particularly among the Aleuts and some groups of Eskimos; it existed even later among some ethnographic groups of Tibet and Hindustan. Polyandry may be fraternal, as among the Tibetans, or unrelated, as in South India.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

polyandry

1. the practice or condition of being married to more than one husband at the same time
2. the practice in animals of a female mating with more than one male during one breeding season
3. the condition in flowers of having a large indefinite number of stamens
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
(3) Most of the anthropological studies on Tibetan polyandry have been conducted in Nepal, and not in Tibet proper.
Polyandry and multiple paternity was recorded almost a century ago also in the North American pygmy grasshoppers Apotettix eurycephalus and Paratettix texanus (Nabours 1929).
Polyandry and fecundity in the Lepidoptera: can methodological and conceptual approaches bias outcomes?
Some sociologists report a rebirth of polyandry one wife, several husbands--in the countryside, and there's no particular reason it shouldn't spread into the cities as well.
Many of the shorter items (like consignee and polygamy; polyandry; polygyny) address pronunciation or explicate a Venn diagram of definition, work a basic dictionary could do.
Behavioral ecologists have made important contributions to understandings of why certain marriage systems arise and persist in conjunction with subsistence mode--for example, why polyandry (marriage of one woman to multiple men) exists in only one percent of human societies, including Himalayan groups, where land shortage makes households viable only with multiple males.
." Nasr enthusiastically quotes Titus Burckhardt's rationale for Islam's approval of polygyny and rejection or polyandry, along with the right of Muslim men, but not women, to marry Christians or Jews: "Man, as spiritual officiant (imam) of his family, represents the Truth; his role corresponds to the 'active' vessel, namely the Spirit, whereas his wife corresponds to the 'passive' vessel, namely the soul." Huh?
Just as in Scripture and tradition, a central and indispensable correlation between monotheism and monogamy has been discerned and affirmed, yet wi thout requiring the instantaneous and intransigent rejection of concubinage, polyandry or polygamy, or even interracial and/or interfaith marriage as a test case of the obedience of faith, so the foundational and liberating instance of heterosexuality as a parable of human fulfillment does not require an intransigent rejection of homosexuality as a test case of the obedience of faith.
Both systematic distribution and different patterns indicate that polyandry in asterids has evolved a number of times and even more than once within some families.
By my calculations, approximately 2.3, although, strangely enough, the conservative marriage advocates are not offering to abolish the laws against polyandry.
The "anxiety" provoked by women like Hersilia playing roles in public life while having ambivalent kinship offered "a fantasy of joint possession, if not polyandry ...