Cyclades - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Kin Groups. Patterns of sociability within island communities are structured around gender, kinship and spiritual Kinship, friendship, neighborliness, and (especially in larger towns) social class. Kinship is important in mutual aid, at Ritual events, and in arranging for migration. At the same time, loyalty to one's immediate family (whether natal or marital) takes precedence over other kinship ties, and bitter conflicts can occur among relatives, especially over matters of Inheritance. In addition, politics may also determine male patterns of sociability, and politics and factionalism may determine who frequents individual coffeehouses.

Spiritual kinship also plays an important role in island life, as it does elsewhere in Greece, offering the possibility of creating new economic, social, and political ties. Spiritual kinship is established through baptismal and wedding sponsorship, and those so related refer to each other as k oumbáros (male) or ko umbára (female). A godparent is nonos (male) or noná (female).

Kinship Terminology. Kinship, as elsewhere in Greece, is formally bilateral, with the bilaterality reflected in terms for consanguineal kin that follow a western European pattern of distinguishing lineal from collateral relatives, sex, and generation (Eskimo-type terminology). Terms for affinal kin distinguish relatives who have married into one's own family and members of the family into which one has married.

Domestic Unit. In general, island households tend to consist of married couples and their children. Although more extended forms of residential units (for example, those containing the parent of one of the spouses) are not unknown, they are not the norm, and the patterns of patrilocal residence noted elsewhere in Greece are rare. There is, However, a tendency toward matrilocal neighborhoods. Each Family owns its own land or other means of subsistence. Marriage is negotiated between families, though it is becoming more and more common for young people to take the initiative in choosing their own partners. Part of the negotiation is the arrangement of the dowry, to be given by the young woman's parents. Although dowry was legally abolished by the recent Socialist government, it is still an important social institution. It is common in the islands for a dowry to consist of a house, though other property (such as land) may also be given. Neolocal residence after marriage is preferred, though young people may live temporarily with one or the other set of parents.

Separation by gender is a striking feature of island—and particularly village—life. Men's and women's tasks, use of space, and sociability are in many respects distinct, with the men's world centered on work and the coffeehouse ( kafenío ) and the women's on the home, neighborhood, and religious activities. There is a close symbolic association of the woman with the house. Not only do most of a woman's tasks revolve around the house, but its order and cleanliness reflect her character and diligence, and her position as nikokirá (mistress of the house) is a source of power and influence. Houses may be passed on (through the dowry system) in the female line. Naming also reflects a sense of distinct paternal and maternal lines. The firstborn female is named after her mother's mother; the second, after her father's. First sons are generally given their paternal grandfather's name; second sons, that of their mother's father. Although women take their husband's last names at marriage, they do not take a female form of the husband's first name (as is the practice in some other areas of Greece). Women are responsible for the spiritual welfare of their families, tending the household icons, observing mourning rituals for the dead, and making vows and pilgrimages on behalf of family members.

Socialization. Children are raised in the household of their parents, usually with frequent help from other relatives, particularly grandmothers. Children also tend other children and form play groups. Verbal threats of a sometimes drastic nature are frequently employed in disciplining children—a common example is tha fas ksílo, "you'll eat wood"—but physical punishment is unusual. Young children are expected to be shy with strangers, and this is considered normal. Boys are given considerably more freedom than girls, who are expected to stay closer to home and to help with household chores.

Inheritance. Inheritance is equal among all children, by Greek law and by custom. A daughters dowry counts as her portion of the inheritance. If the youngest child remains at home and cares for the aging parents, she or he is entitled to the family house and a somewhat larger portion of the Inheritance when the parents die.


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