Marquesas Islands - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Marquesas are well-known in comparative marriage studies for the institution of nonfraternal polyandry, but this feature of their society often has not been adequately contextualized within indigenous rank structures and Economic relations. Only women of high rank had secondary husbands, who were virtually always also servants or Otherwise of much lower status than their primary, often chiefly, husbands. Conjugal relations varied with social status: in the upper levels, marriages were often contracted between elite families from different valleys or islands, for the purpose of initiating or consolidating political alliances; at middle levels, there was greater local endogamy; and relations among Commoners were said to be more fluid and promiscuous.

Domestic Unit. Marquesan men and women of rank often ate in segregated clubhouses, while dependents had no autonomous households of their own. Hence domesticity was structured by wider economic and ritual relations, especially by tapu principles that required those of rank, and most men generally, to eat separately. Polyandry, and the associated Relations of rank and dependence, broke down in the second half of the nineteenth century, and families approximating the Western nuclear model developed.

Inheritance. In the nineteenth century inheritance was structured by the principles of primogeniture and birth-orderbased rank; in the northern part of the group especially, it appeared that children other than the firstborn would inherit little. Inequality was, however, qualified by the extension of use rights and altered by periodic seizures and redistributions of land.

Socialization. Infants and children were raised by both parents and older siblings; adolescents and young adults were expected to behave in a relatively uncontrolled and antisocial manner.

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