Dani - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Weddings take place only at the time of the great pig feast, which is held in an alliance area every four to six years. Moiety exogamy is invariably observed. Marriages tend to take place between neighbors, if not within a neighborhood at least within a confederation. Some marriages are arranged by the families, while others are love matches arranged by the individuals. Marriage begins a series of relatively equal exchanges between the two families, which continues for a generation, through the initiation and marriage of the resulting children. These exchanges consist of pigs, cowrie shell bands, and sacred slate stones. Immediate postmarital residence is patrilocal, although within a few years the couple is likely to be living neolocally within the neighborhood or confederation where both sets of parents live. Divorce is fairly easy, but long-term separation is more common. At early stages of tension, the wife, or the junior wife, moves out to another relative's compound for a time. Nearly half the men are involved in polygynous marriages. The Grand Valley Dani have remarkably little interest in sexuality. A postpartum sexual abstinence period of around five years is generally observed by both parents of a child. The minority of men who are involved in polygynous marriages may have sexual access to another wife, but for most men and all women there are no alternative outlets nor any apparent increased level of stress for those subject to the abstinence. Ritual homosexuality is absent. This extraordinarily long postpartum sexual abstinence has not been reported among the Western Dani.

Domestic Unit. It is easy to identify both nuclear families and extended families, but these units are usually less important than the compound group as a whole.

Inheritance. There is little real property to inherit. As boys grow up they join with their fathers in maintaining the sacred objects held by the local patrilineal sib segment. In a more general sense, sons—and to some extent daughters—of the wealthier and more powerful men benefit from their father's position.

Socialization. Child rearing is very permissive. Toilet training is casual. Children are rarely, if ever, physically disciplined and even verbal admonishment is rare. There is almost no overt instruction. Children learn by participating but not by asking questions. Since the late 1960s, government-sponsored schools, usually run by missionaries, have been teaching more and more Dani children to read and write in Indonesian.

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