Marriage Anthropological Perspectives
Discuss about the Cultural Anthropology for Marriage Anthropological Perspectives.
Any definition of marriage from the cultural and anthropological perspective must begin with the definition of the components of marriage. According to the anthropological and historical understanding of marriage, it is the union between a man and a woman with the motive to bear children and pass the cultural heritages to a different generation. The union is therefore such that the children born of the woman are legitimately recognised as the offspring of both parents and hence have the right and privileges of children of both parents according to the culture-specific doctrines (Mitchell, Charters, & Albrecht, 2012). For any two people in most cultures to have a union in marriage, they must have gone through other stages of life as they mature to a level where they can responsibly take care of their own children. This implies that they must be responsible adults and have gone through several stages to prove to the community that they are able to bear and rear children. From this perspective, marriage can be viewed as a rite of passage for the adults and also as a social institution (Edwards, 2007). This essay will compare and contrast the two different concepts that give rise to two different forms of marriage from the perspectives of anthropology.
According to anthropologists, a rite of passage is a stage with rituals and activities which symbolises the transition of a person from one form or social category to another. Accordingly, rites of passage have three distinct phases; separation, transition and incorporation. During the separation phase, the individual has an abrupt loss of identity and ruptures ties with, family or the community and moves cross a boundary to a new status (Throsby, 2008). During this separation changes in behaviours an even styles are expected as the individual breaks away from the normal. During the transition phase, the individual is in the in-between time. With a lost identity and ruptured ties with the past, the person is able to move into a new identity and start building new ties with the new community and at a new status in the society. This is the time the changed behaviour and style is accepted in the new form of life and behavioural rehearsals and trainings may be provided by the community to ensure a smooth transition (Hewitt, Baxter, & Western, 2005). The final phase in rites of passage is the incorporation phase. Once the person has separated from the old self and transited into a new form, efforts are made by self and others to remove the individual out of isolation and reinforce the newly acquired identity. Religious and cultural ceremonies and meant to incorporate the individuals who is then welcomed into the new status with celebrations and exchange of gifts (Heard, 2011).
Marriage as a Rite of Passage
Marriage directly follows this format of passage from youth-hood to adulthood. As most anthropologists observe, in marriage, both the man and the woman separate themselves from their peers and families in order to join and become a family (Gibson, Waitt, Walmsley, & Connell, 2010). The process of courtship and dating entails the separation efforts and the rupturing of the original family ties in order to embrace new status in the society. Once separated, the two are isolated from the rest of the community and at one time they cannot relate either with the married or the unmarried. However, the society has methods and plans of bringing the two forward through teachings and training in order for them to fully embrace marriage. Ceremonies and weddings are meant to fully incorporate the married couple to parenthood and to encourage and teach them about their new status in the society. From this discussion, marriage is seen as a rite of passage with all the phases and rituals involved (Needham, 1971).
All people go through unmistakable phases of life. These stages are regularly set apart by soul changing experiences connoting the move starting with one life stage then onto the next by customs and accompanied by a change of status. A man is naturally introduced to society, as well as must be re-made through transitional experiences as a social individual, and acknowledged into society. Amid the move from soul changing experiences there are build up ceremonies that happen. They make social solidarity, which is important to hold a general public together. Ceremonies utilized as a part of soul changing experiences are comprehended in the terms of the members in their own implications. In any general public, the most widely recognized soul changing experience is marriage (Throsby, 2008). The sociological ideas of status, part conduct, and marriage as an organization all add to the move of single hood to marriage by ceremonies that connect with this soul changing experience.
From an anthropological perspective, social institutions are creations of the society to function as the building blocks of the society. As such, social institutions must be made up by people who come together under the watch of the traditions and with a common goal which is for the good of the whole community. Anthropologists view marriage as a social institution due to several important aspects of marriage (Becker, 1973). First, marriage, like any other institution is recognised and approved by the society as a union between individuals who are committed to one another. The union is expected to be stable and encompass intimate relationship that will benefit the unit itself and the community at large (Heard, 2011). Secondly, as a social institution, marriage must recognise and abide with the rules and regulations of the society and be open to all the members of the society to help them. The cultural and religious deliverables of marriage are based on this realisation and guided by the principles of culture and traditions that the two people who are in union subscribe to. Thirdly, marriage as a union involves contractual agreement between the people who are getting into the union and with the witnessing of the society and the community members. This contractual agreement, whether written or traditionally applied binds the two people tother in a union that is not easy to break (Coontz, 2005).
Marriage as a Social Institution
Just like any other social institution, marriage has specific roles in the development and success of the society. First, marriage is a tool that is designed to ensure that there is social reproduction. Through marriage, a family is born and the members must be able to provide for, protect and shelter one another. Parents have a responsibility to bear and socialise their children while still teaching them about their own traditions and customs. It is the first learning centre for the society. In many instances, wayward children can be traced back to a dysfunctional family structure and this indicates a failure on the side of the parents. In communities and society where wealth and property must be passed on from a generation to another, inheritance within marriage is a single sure way to ensure that the wealth of the family, clan and the community remains to be used and to benefit the intended community (Bracher, 1990). Inheritance of property and traditions is a core purpose of marriage in most traditions.
Comparing the two perspectives of marriage, there are several major similarities and differences. The similarities that exist include the functions of the marriage and the marriage structure. In regard to the functions, marriage is instituted in order to provide the society with a means for continuity and progress. It is through marriage, either as a rite of passage or a social institution that children are born and raised according to the teachings of the community (Needham, 1971). In addition, it is also through marriage that the intellectual and material property of the community is passed from one generation to another in order to serve the needs of these generations. Societies that have successfully retained their traditions and cultural heritages are the ones that have been able to sustain their marriages and effectively pass on the traditions to their children (Nanda & Warms, 2014). With modernisation and interaction, however, this is likely to significantly change.
The structure of marriage is also a very important similarity between the two perspectives. In both, marriage comprises a single union between two people with a culturally defined objective and motive. Although polygamous was common in several cultures, anthropologists identify these as different forms of marriage each with a specific contractual agreement and with specific objectives but with a common party (Hewitt et al., 2005). Marriage from both perspectives was also accompanied by rituals and ceremonies that marked the intended institution or transition. In addition, teaching and training was important in both perspectives to ensure the stability of marriage.
Functions of Marriage
Despite these similarities, marriage as a rite of passage and as a social institution are perspectives that have different qualities altogether. As a rite of passage, marriage has three phases that are not quite clear when we consider it as a social institution. In addition, marriage as a rite of passage is seen as a stage that everyone has to go through in the society. However, from the perspective of marriage as a social institution, it is agreeable that not everyone was supposed to get into marriage. Rather, it was not mandatory for members of a community to get married although it was perceived to be the norm. Thirdly, as a social institution, marriage is a continuous function of the society. This is not present in the rite of passage perspective which sees marriage only as a life stage and with no the permanence expected of a social institution.
Anthropology gives different perspectives of marriage, there are people who view marriage as a rite of passage while others consider it a social institution (Heard, 2011). Despite the perspective differences, marriage is an important unit in the society and cultural anthropology would be deficient without the concept of marriage. From this discussion, therefore marriage is both a rite of passage and a social institution (Altman & Hickson, 2010). This argument is based on two major observations. First, getting into marriage is a rite of passage as indicated by the states involved. This means that the people entering into marriage have to separate themselves from the history and move on to a common future. Traditional ceremonies mark this rite of passage. Secondly, once the ceremonies marking the passage are complete and the married couple start living a married life, what then develops is a social institution that is based on the norms and the traditions of the society. This implies that the two diverse perspectives give more information of the same thing but from different viewpoints. When we view an already established family, marriage is seen as the origin of an important social institution. However, when we consider the making of the union between two people, we seem marriage as a rite of passage that changes the social status of the people involved.
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