Marriage practices essay ANT 101

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Ashford University: ANT101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Caitlyn Placek

Throughout the course of history, in many societies, rites of passage have and still are an important social and/or religious practice. In the text, Cultural Anthropology (2014), Richely Crapo defines rites of passage as, "Ceremonies such as puberty rituals, marriages, and funerals, which we hold whenever a member of society undergoes an important change in status within the lifecycle of the group." Rites of passage also signify the different transitions an individual experiences in life which are: birth, puberty, marriage, and death. These rites of passage or life transitions may differ in practice depending on culture, religion, social status, ethnicity, and many other factors. This essay will focus on the marriage practices of two completely different cultures: African-Jamaicans and the Newars of Nepal's Kathmandu Valley and will examine the similarities and differences of these two cultures and their marriage practices. Jamaica's location is in the Caribbean Sea and is one of the six islands of the Grater Antilles. The official language is English, but the National language is Jamaican Patois. Jamaica's inhabitants are primarily of African descent, but there are also "people of Indian, Chinese, European, and other ancestry" (Cooper-Lewis, 2001). African-Jamaicans rites of passages include death, marriage, birth and puberty. According to Cooper-Lewis (2001), the customs and "Actual practice may differ from community to community, because of social class, rural versus urban contexts, migration, religion (notably in cases where some practices are rejected by some Christians), ethnicity and the process of adaptation of African traditions in the diaspora." Other religious groups beside Christianity include Rastafarian and Unity. Even inside the culture of African-Jamaicans we see that there are differences due to settling of people far from their established lands. This may come from the slave trade era of people being placed in different areas according to who purchased them. Kathmandu Valley is located in Nepal inside the continent Asia and is the most populated and developed area. Nepali is the official language of Nepal and is spoken in different areas as well. According to Ellen Coon (2010), "The Newars are the indigenous people of Nepal's Kathmandu Valley. Most are Hindus." Though Nepali is one of the official languages of Nepal, the Newar speak a language called Nepal Bhasa which is also known as Newari. Like African-Jamaicans, the Newars have experienced dispora as well. The Newars rites of passage also celebrate similar major life transitions like African-Jamaicans that include birth, marriage, and coming of age. They also celebrate the first feeding, ihi for girls (pre-pubescent ritual for girls), and honoring of elders. These transitions are a part of the what the Newars call the "ten karmas" of life-cycle rituals. Coon (2010) explains, "Newars don't all agree about what the ten karmas are, but they do agree on their importance." These ten karmas are recognized by both Newar Hindus and Buddhists. Marriage, in some cultures, is a major part of the adulthood transition of life which "draw on civil and religious authority to sanctify the union of a man and a woman and establish the legitimacy of any children born of it" (Rites of Passage, 2014). In the African-Jamaican culture, many marriages come "relatively late in life, if at all" (Cooper-Lewis, 2001). Cooper-Lewis (2001) informs, "From the days of slavery when it was illegal for black people to marry, couples lived in stable, life-long unions without the sanction of either church or state." During the years between of their teens and mid-twenties, African-Jamaicans go through the dating phase of a relationship. From the mid-twenties to mid-thirties a 'common-law' relationship is formed. Most