Mundugumor - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage formed the basis for Mundugumor Social organization not only because a married couple was the core of a household but also because the affinal bond it created was a central cooperative bond and because it provided the structure for all significant exchange transactions for Several generations. Brother-sister exchange was the preferred way to marry. A man carefully guarded rights to his sister against both his brothers and his father, who might try to use her in an exchange for a wife for themselves. Ideally these marriages were between distant siblings (classificatory cross cousins). On occasion marriage occurred by payment rather than sister exchange, but these unions usually involved undesirable women or very influential men. Some powerful men enticed women to marry them and offered no compensation, and women stolen from enemy groups were rarely reciprocated. Residence was predominantly patrivirilocal, but a man was under some pressure to live and work with his affines if he had not reciprocated a sister to his wife's brother. Marriages were especially unstable in the early stages, and women not infrequently packed up and went home to their own families or men refused to acknowledge new wives. But after the birth of children, marriages tended to become more stable. Polygyny was an ideal men tried to accomplish, but only a few of the more powerful leaders had more than two or three wives.

Domestic unit. Household organization depended on the number of wives present. In a simple man's household, one or two wives and their children might occupy a single structure. In a leader's hamlet, there might be a house for each of Several wives, a house for adolescent sons, and a separate house for the household head. Each wife had her own hearth and cooked separately for her husband. The senior wife often cooked for all of her husband's children.

Inheritance. Inheritance rules varied. Access to land of course descended patrilineally, but a variety of other goods and rights went to sisters' children and from them to classificatory sisters' children.

Socialization. Children were not especially loved or prized, and newly married couples did not always look upon Pregnancy with happiness. Women and men both disliked the taboos that were incumbent upon them during pregnancy and with newborns, and mothers resented the restrictions on their freedom that children required. Children were cared for but not especially nurtured. Both boys and girls grew up assertive, tough, and independent.

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