Prof. Michel Waller
October 8, 2012
The definition of, “kinship,” in Anthropology is a system of social relationships that constitute kinship in a particular culture, including the terminology that is used and the reciprocal obligations that are entailed. I will apply this term to the culture of the Btsisi people, and how it impacts their behavior; how they think, act, and live. I will look at my own society’s behaviors and beliefs on kinship, and compare the two cultures.
The Btsisi is a horticultural society from Malaysia; this type of society live in bands composed of nuclear and extended families. A nuclear family consists of a father, mother, and children; and extended family is anything beyond those members. The families that make up this society share everything including resources, food, and even relationships; this ensures survival. Within this culture the women are nurturers, while the men do the heavy lifting and other tasks. Although this is the common view of the people and their roles, it is not strict. Btsisi people are equally respected for the tasks they perform, and they have the option to break the mold and switch roles with no prejudice (Nowak and Laird 2010.)
The Btsisi are agriculturally involved, they grow many varieties of hill or dry rice and fruits. To cultivate these crops, everyone works together even spouses, neighbors, and friends. This is how they are productive, it helps them survive by working together; but on the same token can be a burden. For example found in Cultural Anthropology, the people grow few vegetables because since they share everything, as things ripen all neighbors and family want whomevers crops. Therefore they are only giving and not reaping the fruit of their vine (Nowak and Laird 2010.) This aspect of kinship within the community is good in the overall picture, but in some instances is a problem, because they cannot have more crops without working extra for others to reap the benefits.
In marriages the Btsisi lives are deeply involved with their best friend-their spouse. They believe that if you have not married your best friend, you should separate and marry your best friend. This is a strong statement in a society, and shows the importance of the relationship. The Btsisi’ ancestors believe that you cannot marry into incest, because they believe that if you do you will not be able to cross into the path to Fruit Island, which is their view of afterlife (Nowak and Laird 2010.) Although incest was viewed wrongly, an accepted marriage was Soroal polygyny, when a man marries sisters. Nowak stated few cases of this were more successful than not, and when asking sisters who were married to the same man they said; “How could I be jealous or angry with my sister? I would get angry with my husband first, but not my sister.” (Nowak and Laird 2010.) The Btsisi’ views about marrying a best friend, polygamy, and polygyny are widely accepted views, as well as elders of their community arranging their marriage. Btsisi women can also be subjected to prearranged marriage at even as young as 12 years old, to significantly older men. Although, sexually activity is postponed until they are an adult. All of these facts construct Btsisi people’s views on marriage, and what seem to be successful and productive relationships; but their relationships seem more to be a companion, friend, coworker rather than someone to love and to have a family with as we have in America. In America, we have a blend of a lot of views