Corsicans - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Kinship. The symbol of kinship is blood: the blood that is shared by kin, the blood that may be shed for kin. Blood ties are considered supreme and unbreakable; for example, a woman's closest ties are to her brothers, and later to her sons. Extended family ties are very important as the basis for Political strength, and traditionally alliances were cemented by ties of marriage. Large kin groups were also economically Important, particularly in areas characterized by communal ownership of land, where wealth depended on the number of people bringing in income from diverse sources. Kinship continues to be an important resource for emigrants, who depend on kin for assistance in the initial stages of the move and who maintain village ties and assist, in turn, those who may follow.

Marriage. Marriage was traditionally arranged by the Families; the bride and groom normally had little or no say in the choice of spouse. Parental consent could be circumvented by a variety of stratagems: the couple could run away together for a few days, thus compromising the woman's (and her family's) honor and forcing the parents to choose between the marriage and a vendetta; or the couple could announce publicly their intention to marry and allow the community to judge whether to sanction the union; or a man could try to force a marriage by abducting a reluctant young woman. These alternatives always carried the risk of embroiling both families in a vendetta if unsuccessful. Village endogamy was preferred, although pieve endogamy (i.e., marriage within a group of villages) was also practiced. Residence on marriage was normally patrilocal; unmarried adults usually lived with siblings.

Domestic Unit. The family is a fundamental social unit in Corsican society. The individual is subordinate to the family in many ways and the strong sense of individualism in this culture is directed toward fulfilling familial roles and Responsibilities. The father or eldest brother is the authority figurehead, although the eldest woman also wields considerable power over her sons and daughters-in-law. The symbol of the family is the house, the place of trust and secrecy.

Inheritance. Traditionally, the general principle was that women received dowries and men inherited wealth from their natal families, but this was not a strict rule: it was modified by many other considerations, including marital status and residency, and varied throughout the island as well. Today, Village property, especially in the mountainous areas, often is not divided and is inherited jointly, to ensure that those who wish to remain in the natal village will retain use rights to the family property. After several generations of emigration, sale of village property may become impossible, as this requires consent of all inheritors and their descendants.

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