What Is the Relationship Between “Biology” and Kinship Systems?

2517 Words Mar 12th, 2011 11 Pages
Q. What is the relationship between “biology” and kinship systems?

A. Kinship can be defined as society acknowledging biological connections between people. This view however has been challenged because kinship systems are regarded now as too complex. C. Levi-Strauss (1963) argued; “Kinship…only exists in human consciousness.” The correct way of studying the relationship between biology and kinship systems can only be made by looking at particular societies and cannot be made universally.

Biology may have very little to do with kinship when you look at cultures which ‘play with facts.’ However, once you take ethno biology into consideration, everything about kinship can be linked to biology. W. River’s (1965) work on kinship and
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This indicates that these kinship systems stress social relationships and the biological relationship with kinship is not superior.

Levi Strauss argues the basic principle of kinship is the incest taboo. There have been many theories on the taboo which highlights the relationship between biology and kinship systems.
Westermarck (1926) argued that close sibling relationships ‘blunted’ sexual desire between one another. Malinowski disagreed. He believed the ‘incest taboo’ was invented to prevent the high chance of close kin having sexual relationships with one another; “Under…the human family serious temptations to incest arise.”(1927) Roscoe (1994) suggests that we must take both the biological and cultural reasons into account to explain the taboo. Brothers and sisters in various cultures are sometimes allowed to marry which implies that intercourse is not forbidden. There has been confusion over how to classify kinship and it has led to problems in our own society. For example, the brother and sister who married in Ireland (12/19/2010, Daily Mail) despite the act being considered illegal. According to the Trobriander law brother-sister incest is an offence that results in death. Biology to a degree outlines kinship by preventing incest. However, if what defines incest is questioned then the relationship between biology and kinship systems is questioned

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