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Title:Toba Batak Marriage and Alliance: Family Decisions in an Urban Context (Kinship, Sumatra, Indonesia)
Author(s):Bovill, Kathryn J.
Department / Program:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract:I examine the Toba Batak asymmetric alliance system from an interpretive perspective, arguing that structure is rooted in the context and social action. Detailed case study data on marriage decisions by middle-class families in Medan, Indonesia, demonstrate that alliance systems are more than the application of a rule of matrilaterial cross-cousin marriage. The thesis develops a relationship between the rules of the system and practice, marriage decisions, based on the contemporary process of alliance formation in which rules are interpreted in a specific situation and historical context. A focus on practice accords with recent emphasis on systems in process and practice (Sahlins 1981; Geertz 1985; Bruner 1985) and studies of the relationship of marriage practice and rules (Bourdieu 1977; Sant Cassia 1982; LiPuma 1983; Bradburd 1984). Although previous studies of asymmetric alliance have concentrated on implications of alliance at the lineage level, a consideration of the nuclear family, the primary locus of Toba Batak marriage decisions in which the perspectives of the lineage, the parents, and their children intersect, is also required. Because of the economic and political impact of marriage alliances, the relative advantages of alternative options are evaluated and strategies are developed to deal with the complexity of the decision-making context within the general strategy of renewing alliances and creating new ones. Although I criticize structuralist writings on asymmetric alliance by Needham, Levi-Strauss, Dumont, and Leach, for failing to accommodate the "play" and variation in actual situations, I do not oppose behavior and individual decision to structure. I simply introduce a different conceptualization of structure, a less limiting view in which rules and precedents are acknowledged only in the decision process. This perspective goes beyond flexible interpretations of rules to emphasize the temporal context of decisions by demonstrating that a family develops marital strategies by assessing previous decisions and anticipating the future to create a series of advantageous alliances. The research will enhance the anthropology of practice, by showing how a particular asymmetric alliance system "works," and demonstrate the utility of an interpretive approach for understanding these systems.
Issue Date:1986
Description:402 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1986.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8625138
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1986

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