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Cultural Anthropology

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Bridewealth, a an aspect of the Economic Contract, i found in both matrilineal and patrilineal societies. A matrilineal society is one in which lineage is traced through a mother and her ancestors on the female side of the family. A patrilineal society is the opposite type of group structure and lineage is traced through the father and his ancestors on the male side of the family. North American and European societies are characterized as patrilineal societies, wich give pride and precedence to male lineage. Group membership is thus be ascribed to the male side of the family.

Accordingly patrilineal and matrilineal societies exist in Africa with each also engaging in the Economic Contract of marriage. I Africa, bidewealth is a common form of economic exchange and it is directly tied to the social status of the bride-to-be. Undertaking a quantitative analysis of the practice on bridewealth amongst various societies on the African continent, Obu examined the various functions of bridewealth and attempted to relate them to women’s status. Aguing that the “function of the bridewealth payment of marriage” (258), h further argues that bridewealth can actually improve the social standing of women and their status vis-à-vis their husbands.

This is a controversial assertion and Ogbu makes this claim after analyzing 60 diverse African societies. Here he found instances which supported the claim that bridewealth protected and enhanced the status of women, icluding among the Xhosa people of South-east Africa who recognize adultery as a punishable offence, bt only if bridewealth had been paid. Although he argues that it is now less of a source status for women in Africa, Obu maintains that bridewealth legitimizes the marriage agreement and provides reciprocal rights and obligations between husband and wife (Ogbu 241-262).

Te Economic Contract can have multiple implications for a bride and groom. While feminists decry the Economic Contract as a misogynist practice – admittedly the term “brideprice” sounds like the husband is “buying” the bride and that the soon-to-be wife is “for sale – the Economic Contract can, i fact, b positive (Bossen 1988). An Economic Contract can both secure the financial future the new as well strengthen bonds between families and kin groups.

B stipulating the economic parameters of the union at. ..

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preview essay on Cultural Anthropology
  • Pages: 4 (1000 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Unsorted
  • Level: Masters
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