Kanjar - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Kin Groups and Descent. Contrary to popular belief and cursory historical records, Kanjar do not consider themselves to be a caste (zat). They refer to themselves as a qam and use this term to mean an endogamous "people" or society. Structurally they are divided into biradari. Kanjar use this term to define loosely organized, bilateral descent groups, the Members of which can trace affiliation back to a common ancestor (s), usually a group of siblings. In turn, the apical siblings of each biradari are believed to be descendants of a common but unknown ancestor. The term biradari is also, and most commonly, used to indicate a group of families living and traveling together, regardless of actual kin ties among them. Biradari, as a descent group, is not an organizing principle and is only called upon when a specific kin link is disputed or perceived to be politically or economically profitable for a given Ego. Kanjar are related to each other in many involuted ways and each relationship has a distinct term. The closest kin ties are among siblings and their mother, Ego's father being the husband of his or her mother at Ego's birth.

Marriage. All females are highly valued, both as daughters and spouses, and the bride-price ( bovar ) is very dear, often amounting to more than three years' total earnings from the prospective husband's family. Kanjar prefer wadi de shadi (exchange marriages) between the children of siblings. Wadi de shadi enables a family to solidify alliances and accumulate cash for bride-price where exchange is impossible or undesirable. Marriages are arranged by members of the child's natal tent with an eye toward enhancing their own position, either through receipt of bride-price and/or through achievement of a more desirable alliance with other families. Divorce may be instigated by either spouse; however, reconciliation is always sought because otherwise bride-price must be returned. Disputes about marital tensions and bride-price are common sources of conflict.

Domestic Unit. The same term ( puki ) is used for tent and for the basic social unit of Kanjar society. Puki connotes the commensal group of a female, her spouse, and their unmarried children. Marriage creates a new tent and residence is either neolocal or with siblings or parental siblings traveling in other groups. Each tent is economically independent.

Inheritance. All material and animal resources are owned corporately by the tent or family unit. When a member dies, his or her portion of the tent's resources is equally divided among surviving members. Individual debts also become the responsibility of the bereaved tent if not settled before death.

Socialization. There is no separate world for children and adults and Kanjar believe that children learn best through a combination of example and specific training. Broadly speaking, males are enculturated to be cooperative and supportive, whereas females are encouraged to be more aggressive, self-reliant, and independent. Exceptionally attractive and talented girls are raised with expectation that they will be sold into professional entertainment establishments. Musically talented boys may be encouraged to leave their tents and work independently as professional musicians.


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