The Negotiation of Bilateral Endogamy in the Middle Eastern Context: The Zikri Baluch Example

14 Jan

(Research Paper)

By Carroll McC. Pastner
Department of Anthropology,
University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405
New Jersey USA

Koh e Murad Turbat

Koh e Murad Turbat


In a furtherance of a recent and laudable departure from”lineage mentality” in the study of kinship and marriage in the majority, bilaterally organized Middle East, first-cousin marriage among the Pakistani Zikri Baluch is examined in terms of marital strategies pursued by networks of siblings and their spouses. Emphasis is placed on the cumulative implications of the variant motivations parents as marital negotiators have for themselves, for their sons, and for their daughters.

IT HAS BEEN OVER A DECADE since Khuri (1970) argued that in the Middle Eastern context patrilateral parallel-cousin (FBD) marriage is preferred over matrilateral parallel-cousin (MZD) and cross-cousin (FZD and MBD) marriage for essentially social psychological reasons. The nub of Khuri’s thesis is that because FBD marriage does not create new affinal relationships, it “nullifies” the effects of marriage on the intensity of family relationships and thereby contributes to familial harmony (Khuri 1970:616).2 Among the critics of this argument, Hammel and Goldberg (1971) and Eickelman (1981:130) briefly, but correctly, object to an oversimplification of the actual complexity of kin endogamy in the Middle East. Peters (1976:61-66) indicates the fallacy in Khuri’s (and others’) attribution of familial harmony only to close paternal kin. A related and crucial point (Peters 1976:32) is that descent and lineality are not the most significant social organizational variables in the majority of Middle Eastern settings. Khuri’s inappropriate adoption of the segmentary model and the kin-extension hypothesis lie at the root of his mistreatment of kinship and marriage; he is not alone in doing so.

The context in which kin endogamy is negotiated in most Middle Eastern settings is not one of agnation and segmentation, but rather involves the reckoning of reciprocal obligations and debts between bilateral kin. That bilaterality is “indiscriminate” and therefore incapable of differentiating bounded social groupings (Peters 1976:40), complicates the analysis of marital negotiation, but offers a far more accurate portrayal of the social organization than one which attributes lineage organization to inappropriate economic and political settings. A related point of departure from the major tendency in the literature is my concern with first-cousin marriage of any order, not just the FBD variant.3 Emphasis here is more suitably placed on the fact of bilaterality, the subsequent significance of matrilaterality, and the attendant relevance of previously established affinal connections. A setting in which first-cousin marriage is very intensely practiced affords an opportunity to discuss kin endogamy in the context of a revisionist perspective which breaks away from the prevalent “lineage mentality” in the analysis of Middle Eastern social organization.

Does such a perspective indicate a complete rejection of Khuri’s thesis? My contention is that there might be a social psychological component to FBD (or any other cousin) marriage in the Middle East, deriving not so much from specific consideration of the bride and groom, but rather from the ongoing concerns of those who arrange their marriage. As Geertz (1979:374) expresses it in the Moroccan context: “Any study of the patterns of actual marriage choices must be centered not on the marrying couple, but on their parents and their parents’ situations, concepts of their social worlds, and interests.” It is not that parents disregard the potential affinal relationships of their children, but that in the context of arranged marriage, parents perceive the eventual affinal connections of their offspring initally and primarily from their own perspective.4 The present discussion stresses a point for the most part unsystematically examined in the literature: that mothers and fathers can have different motivations in negotiating their children’s marriages, both for themselves, and separately in regard to their sons and daughters. The resultant pattern is one of overall consistency between the jural level of marriage preferences and the statistical level of actual marriages among the Zikri Baluch, but with an internal variation according to male and female perspectives.

An examination of the facilitators of a high rate of bilateral first-cousin marriage among the Zikri Baluch fisherfolk of coastal Pakistan has been made previously (C. Pastner 1979).5 Kin endogamy occurs in a demographically, culturally, and religiously circumscribed universe, socially delimited as follows: (1) demographically, kin endogamy is facilitated by marital exchange between four geographically dispersed communities, which in the context of patrivirilocality serve to expand the range of kin endogamy beyond the limits of single communities; (2) culturally, the Baluch regard themselves as a distinct endogamous entity vis-a-vis contiguous cultural and ethnic groups; (3) religiously, as members of a minority Islamic sect, Zikris do not countenance intermarriage with majority Sunni (orthodox) Muslims, nor vice versa; (4) socially, marriage occurs within a nonstratified context in which endogamy is phrased and in fact operates as the preferential exchange of children between same and opposite-sex siblings.

Kin exogamy is not generally practiced by the Zikri Baluch for strategic economic and political reasons; simultaneously, kin endogamy is not motivated among the majority by corporate economic and political considerations, such as the retention of agricultural land or political office. In the presence of a high rate of close kin endogamy and the general absence of an explicit correlation between political economic strategy and marital strategy, the latter can be examined more easily in the context of consanguinity and affinity, providing a less “contaminated” view of the intersection of kinship and the negotiation of marriage. The accumulation of Zikri Baluch marital strategies reflects the outcome of compromises between (1) variant concerns of mothers and fathers in the negotiation of their male and female children’s marriages; (2) emphasis on sibling solidarity and  concomitant mutual calculations of the rights and obligations of siblingship; (3) ambivalence generated-by the normative emphasis on sibling solidarity; and (4) tactical advantages and disadvantages to the renewal of affinal connections. Because first-cousin marriage is so intensely practiced among the Zikri Baluch, compromise has had the statistical result of reinforcing the enmeshment of consanguineal and affinal ties. That is, there is more of a perpetuation of the “well-used social road” (Geertz 1979:375) than engagement in “lapsed affinity” (Peters 1976:4) On these well-used social roads, men and women effect and are affected by marital strategy in variant ways.

It should be emphasized that technically this is not an “endogamous system,” since it is not a closed system of kinship with a preference for inmarriage linked with a prohibition on outmarriage for both sexes; instead, preference is for keeping one’s daughters as close to the nuclear family as the incest prohibition permits (Pitt- Rivers 1977:165). Prohibition in the Muslim Middle East extends only to lineal and first-order collateral kin, thereby permitting marriage with not only FBC, but any first cousin. The limitations of “lineage mentality” are evident in a subsequently “disordered endogamous system,” because such a system makes ineffectual the conceptualization of a sharp dichotomy between agnatic and matrilateral kin as kin categories (Barth 1973:18). In the Zikri Baluch case, marital negotiation occurs in a particularly reticulate atmosphere, since parents who themselves are first cousins may very well contract a marriage for their child with that child’s own first cousin. The ensuing enmeshment of consanguineal and affinal connections is impossible to reduce to single-stranded bonds such as those suggested by Khuri (1970). Thus, while an important conceptual distinction between consanguine and affine is made by the Zikri Baluch, there cannot be an elaboration of behavioral distinctions between consanguine and affine (cf. Barth 1973:12), although, as will be suggested, this may be less true for women than for men. An examination of resultant “tangled networks of familial relationships” requires not a delineation of genealogical segmentation (Geertz 1979:324), but of how the content of consanguineal and affinal bonds is utilized variously in the negotiation of first-cousin marriage.

The present data were obtained in a Zikri Baluch fishing community on the Arabian Sea, thirty-four kilometers west of Karachi, Pakistan. Founded in the 1930s, the village in 1977 had a population of approximately six hundred, residing in about one hundred and fifty households. While female economic roles are restricted to the domestic sector, the vast majority of men are fishermen, using either lateen sailboats with two to six crewmen, or smaller, one-man boats. Men unable to secure positions on village boats either seek work on fishing launches operating out of Karachi harbor, or engage in migrant labor in Saudi Arabia and the gulf states.

A minority of villagers also own interest in agricultural property; they are the direct descendents of the village founder. The office of village headman (wadera) resides in this kin unit, the headmanship having passed successively to two sons of the village founder. As argued elsewhere (C. Pastner 1979), intense patriparallelism
in marriages contracted within this kin unit has facilitated unity among males maintaining joint interests in land and political office. While it may be dubious to explain FBD marriage generally as a means of preventing internal factions (Boon 1976:200), under certain circumstances it may represent a gamble that unity will be sustained,
although this is not to say that internal splintering may not occur in the future. The purpose here, however, is not to focus on this minority group, but on the majority of Zikri Baluch, who do not have such corporate economic and political motivations for patriparallel-cousin marriage.

Bilaterality in Zikri Baluch kinship is manifest in bilateral kinship terminology and a generally limited genealogical knowledge. Consanguinity, conceptualized as shared blood, includes recognition of nazdike siad (“near kin”), directly related through one’s parents, siblings, and children, along with dure siad (“far kin”), related through one’s grandparents. Consisting of both near and far kin, peskom (“father’s kin”), or posht (literally, “back,” or “spine”), are kin traced through one’s father, while maskom (“mother’s kin”), or lap (literally, “belly”), are those traced through one’s mother.

A systematic reckoning of both near and distant bilateral kin would embrace virtually all villagers, but as a result of residence patterns, there are internal subdivisions in the village. Conjugal families reside in their own one-room houses, but there is a clustering of the homes of fathers and married sons, and of married brothers at the death of the father. Conjugal families constitute autonomous commensal and economic units, although continuous exchange of food, goods, and services takes place between households, particularly those of parents and married children, and those of married siblings. For ritual purposes, such as weddings, funerals, and circumcisions, collateral kin from within and without the village are included in kin networks and the attendant exchange of goods and services. Corporate behavior necessitated by disputes also draws in kin from within and without the community. Nonkin, especially wadera (secular headmen) and pirs (living religious saints) can serve as mediators in disputes among Zikri Baluch of the same or different communities, and in confrontations with other religious and ethnic groups (S. Pastner 1978).

The calculation of debts and obligations between individuals and between households characterizes village social organization, whether the involvement is between kin, neighbors, friends, or patrons and clients. The operative premises in these categories of relationships are not contrastive since, for example, the economic dependence of a son on his father can make their relationship one of patronage as well as kinship (Geertz 1979:315). Reciprocity is what makes links, kin or otherwise, efficacious, with continuous calculation in dyadic reciprocity made necessary by the double strain-toward both symmetry and asymmetry-inherent in reciprocity itself (Lebra 1975:562). At any given time, asymmetry is possible if one in the exchange dyad is in debt to the other, even though in the long run the relationship may be in balance (Lebra 1975:557). Such strain is evident in the Zikri Baluch setting in a number of ways. For example, each household ideally consumes fresh fish every day, but this is dependent on the daily luck of individual fishermen or boat crews. Fish, therefore, frequently must be redistributed among households. While fish are often freely offered, households also engage in mahipindi (“fish begging”),which may or may not result in obtaining fish. Both hoarding and generous giving (Lebra 1975:562) on the part of men and women characterize not only the exchange of fish, but other forms of exchange, such as monetary loans, contributions to wedding expenses, donations of labor, and the provision of moral and physical support in disputes.

Exchange occurs both inside and outside the realm of kinship, but the jural weight of kin responsibility is especially heavy, since hak (“obligation”) obtains between kin, whereas between nonkin, marzi (“free choice”) applies. Relations between friends, neighbors, and patrons and clients can be transformed into relations of hak, but in this circumstance it is created deliberately, whereas it is an a priori given in the realm of kinship.6 Nonetheless, it is the summation of personal debts and obligations between kin, not simply the biogenetic distance between them, which determines effective kinship (Geertz 1979:316). Hak must be applied through reciprocal, patterned obligations if it is to function as more than simply a truism of how Zikri Baluch kinship ought to work. However, it is difficult to abrogate hak entirely when parents and children or siblings are involved. It should be noted also that while hak obtains between dyads, others can be drawn into webs of obligation and disputes arising during asymmetric phases in dyadic relationships. Thus, the relationship between same-sex siblings can be colored by the presence or lack of enmity between their spouses, and vice versa. In the short term this can be observed in the practice of mahi pindi; in the long term it is relevant to the role of siblings and their spouses in the negotiation of first-cousin marriage.

Nowhere do the contraction and maintenance of bonds of obligation between Zikri Baluch kin gain more significance than in the negotiation of first-cousin marriage. Unions are preferentially contracted between nakozak (either FBC or MBC) or druzak (either FZC or MZC). This is not a closed system of exchange, but one generally conceived of as “delayed reciprocity,” in which a bride or groom should be forthcoming from the uncle or aunt who previously received a bride or groom. The Zikri Baluch are well aware of the major detractions from attainment of this ideal: a potential mate of the correct sex or age range simply may not exist, or poor relations between siblings may prevent negotiation. What they do not always stress explicitly, but which will be considered below, is that successful negotiations depend not only upon the status of the relations between siblings, but upon those between their spouses as well.

Each marriage is negotiated individually, and involves material transactions carried out prior to the wedding, which are regarded as essential to the legitimacy of the marriage. Marital prestations are not reduced or eliminated in the instance of first-cousin marriage. Both sides donate bridal clothing and domestic furnishings, but the groom, with the aid of his father and other kin, also provides gold earrings and, importantly, a house for himself and his bride. Negotiations break down if these contractual conditions are not met or are protracted unduly. Siblings may make an informal agreement that their preadolescent children will marry eventually, but formal negotiations never commence until a girl reaches puberty, and normatively initiated by the boy’s family. Girls marry at about age fifteen, and have virtually no say in the choice of a spouse. Since males must be at least partly financially independent enough to support a household, they are ordinarily in their mid-twenties, and can exert some veto power in their parents’ choice of mate.

While fathers are involved in the more formal aspect of marital negotiation, namely, the drawing up of the marriage contract, the role of mothers should not be discounted or deemphasized; sexual segregation absolutely requires that women be fully involved (Altourki 1977). Marriage negotiation necessitates two parallel networks, male and female, because of the dichotomization of Zikri Baluch social life into male and female spheres.7 Made viable by the nonseverence of married women’s ties to their natal kin and communities, the female network is particularly significant in view of patrivirilocality. Visits, especially on religious holidays, take place regularly, and most women give birth to their first and sometimes their subsequent children in their natal homes. In addition, the wives of men working abroad often reside with their parents, not their in-laws.

It should be emphasized that mothers and fathers have separate concerns in marital negotiation, both for themselves and for their sons and daughters. Let us examine first the extent to which marital strategy is linked with economic strategy; more specifically, with the recruitment of boat crews. With the important exception of married and unmarried sons crewing for their fathers, there is little integration of kinship with the social patterning of maritime operations.8 Crew formation is highly flexible, involving frequent changes in boat affiliation, and the creation of marital links is not used explicitly as a means of maximizing this particular aspect of economic strategy. Nonetheless, in view of the absence of anticipatory inheritance, and the concern for the economic futures of their sons, fathers can be faced with too many sons and too few positions on their own boats. This concern is exacerbated by a normative emphasis on patrivirilocality. The few instances of male community exogamy (see below), appear to have provided employment opportunities for sons outside the village. An alternative and more common solution, which is being adopted increasingly, is migrant labor in the Persian Gulf.9 If reliance on migrant labor continues to augment, it would have important implications for future marriage arrangements, since it would decrease the economic dependence of sons on their fathers for the accumulation of capital necessary for marriage.

Fathers have different concerns and strategies in the negotiation of their daughters’ marriages. The option of community exogamy for females widens the marital pool, but girls should be affianced as soon as possible after the attainment of puberty, and it is up to their fathers to see that this is not delayed unduly. This temporal pressure is not as relevant in the case of sons, but, on the other hand, there are greater financial obligations in the marriage of sons. Thus, there are two major concerns faced by fathers: the financial vulnerability of sons and the moral vulnerability of daughters.

Mothers are preoccupied similarly with these financial and moral matters. However, as Rosen (1978:571) suggests in the Moroccan case, it may be that women have a more “sociological” approach to marital negotiation than do men. Zikri Baluch women overtly are aware of how individual marriages feed into and alter the networks through which they operationalize their domestic statuses. The concerns of mothers for their sons’ and daughters’ marriages differ, since, in both structural and social-psychological terms, bringing in a daughter-in-law contrasts with sending out a daughter, in a patrivirilocal context. Even in a community-endogamous union, brides reside near their in-laws, not their parents, and their introduction alters previously established female networks based on continuous interaction, cooperation, and conflict.

Mothers are concerned particularly about their female offspring, and emphasize the need for daughters, especially as new brides, to have the backing of consanguineal kin in their tenuous position of new affine. Incoming brides with only dure siad (“far kin”), or no kin at all, in their conjugal community, are severely restricted by sexual segregation, and undeniably disadvantaged if they do not get along with those adults with whom they spend the majority of their time-their female affines. One way to alleviate the susceptibility of daughters is for mothers to attempt to position them in already viable and potentially advantageous female networks. Fathers as well may attempt to aid in their sons’ network formation, but because of patrivirilocality, and because sons are older when they marry, they are in a less vulnerable position than their sisters in the delineation of personal networks.

The Zikri Baluch espousal that marriage first of all links two families, and secondarily links two individuals, is fortified by a parallel attitude that conjugality is successful if the parents of the couple get along (and if children result from the union). A low divorce rate and the absence of polygyny sustain the importance of the affinal link for the Zikri Baluch. What is significant is that they incorporate an ideal of affinal renewal which serves to convolute consanguinity and affinity. In their view marriage in itself does not constitute or create kinship, but marriage is a means of strengthening already existing consanguinity which, in turn, is reputed to maximize conditions for harmonious affinal linkages.

As recorded elsewhere (C. Pastner 1979), in a sample of 171 marriages among two generations of Zikri Baluch, 109, or 64 percent, are between actual first cousins, 40, or 23 percent, are between classificatory kin (including 17 cross-generation marriages), and 22, or 13 percent, are between nonkin.1 0 While the marriage data were collected only in the village in which fieldwork was conducted, the statistics reflect the facts of marital exchange and residential transfer by married couples among the four communities constituting the geographic boundaries of Zikri Baluch conjugality.’ 1

For the purposes of the present discussion, the 26 marriages of the direct descendents of the village founder are subtracted, because the economic and political considerations constraining their marital strategies are not relevant to the majority of villagers.12 Table 1 summarizes the remaining 145 unions, and distinguishes between community endogamy and exogamy for men and women. No significant variation was found between the two generations in marriage patterns. The vast majority of men (93 percent) marry into their natal community, while there is a slight tendency among women to marry exogamously (54 percent). While the aim here is not to measure expected and observed frequencies of cousin marriage, the statistical significance of the data for the long-term demography of kin endogamy should not be overstated. Nonetheless, while the?mphasis on community endogamy for men obviously promotes a high rate of first-cousin marriage (Gilbert and Hammel 1966), the Zikri Baluch rate is significantly higher than among the majority of Middle Eastern marriage pools, and cannot be accounted for on solely demographic grounds. 13

Kin and Nonkin Marriage( N=1 45)

———————————Community —Endogamous ——————– Community —Exogamous
———————————Men ————– Women      ———————      Men  ——- Women
First Cousin ————— 85 —————— 49 ————————————— 8 ————- 44
N=93 (64%)

Cousin———————- 32  ——————13  ————————————- 1  ————- 20
N=33 (23%)

Nonkin ——————– 18  ——————- 4  ————————————— 1 ————– 15
N=19 (13%)

Total 145 (100%) —– 135 (93%)   ——- 66 (46%)  ————————– 10 (7%)  —– 79(54%)
Table 2 summarizes actual first-cousin marriage, again distinguishing between community endogamy and exogamy for men and women. While the overall pattern is one of bilateral-cousin marriage, with community endogamy for men (eighty-five out of ninety-three marriages) and a mix of community endogamy (forty-nine marriages) and community exogamy (forty-four marriages) for women, male unions are skewed more toward matrilateral (61 percent) than patrilateral (39 percent firstcousin marriage. While patrivirilocality, and subsequently first-cousin marriage of any order, are contributive factors, there may be additional consideration in the higher rates of MBD and, especially, MZD marriage.

While genealogically identical marriages can have different meanings, because they can result from different strategies (Eickelman 1981:132), an attempt can be made to discern social patterning in the empirical marital networks of the Zikri Baluch. Keeping in mind the accumulation of social and economic debts between kin, the marriages of one’s children serve to intensify one’s own network of reciprocity if an affinal link is fed into an already existing kin linkage. In arranging their children’s marriages, fathers, in contrast to mothers, attempt to minimize the overloading of their own networks of consanguineal obligation. While male sibling solidarity is fortified by jural norms, this does not prevent competitiveness and rivalry from characterizing fraternal relationships. Residential propinquity, for example, is as likely to result in disaffection as in solidarity between brothers. Another source of conflict is inheritance, since it is only after the death of the father that boats pass on to sons, and there is no guarantee that the amount of property will match the number of sons. While adult brothers are economically independent of one another, they are supposed to be supportive of one another as well. Inequalities in wealth, however, can lead to rivalry or transform the relationship into one of patronage. Economically less successful brothers may attempt to contract FBC unions for their children in the hope of solidifying an alliance with a more fortunate brother, but this strategy may or may not work out, and in actuality men more frequently negotiate successfully with their brothers-in-law than with their brothers.

First-cousinM arriage( N=93)
———————————————–Community — Endogamous ————- Community — Exogamous
————————————————– Men  ———— Women  ——————- Men ————  Women
N=32 (35%) ——————————–  30  —————- 19  ————————– 2  ——————13
N=25 (26%)  ——————————– 22  —————- 12  ————————– 3  ——————13
57 (61%) ————————————  52 —————— 31 ————————– 5  —————— 26

N=21 (23%)——————————— 20 —————— 15 —————————- 1 —————— 6

N=15 (16%)——————————- 13 ——————— 3 —————————– 2 ——————12
Total 36 (39%) ————————— 33 ——————– 18 —————————- 3 ——————18

Reliance and ambivalence characterize the kin networks of women as well, but not in quite the same way. More specifically, female sibling solidarity appears stronger than its male counterpart. With far fewer independent economic resources, sisters cannot make the financial demands on one another which brothers can. However, married sisters residing in the same community frequently exchange services, such as child care, sewing, and housework, and if they live in different communities, they exchange gifts at regular intervals. Sisters are motivated to forge alliances in important noneconomic ways, because, along with their mother, they can provide a buffer between themselves and their respective female affines. This role is filled most effectively if sisters are married into the same community, although frequent visitations between residentially separated sisters also promote alliance. The basic source of competition and rivalry, namely, real or potential economic inequality, which can characterize male sibling relationships, is not relevant to female siblingship. Consequently, in their more “sociological” perspective on marital negotiation, women explicitly recognize that sister’s daughter makes a compatible daughter-inlaw, and that to marry a daughter to a sister’s son is likewise advantageous.1 4

Just as affinity is incapable of delineating jurally defined groups in this setting, to speak of matrilaterality and patrilaterality in marriage patterns does not assume the carving out of groups along such lines. Nonetheless, sibling solidarity can be discussed in an appropriate bilateral context. To emphasize same-sex sibling solidarity,
particularly among women, is not to minimize opposite-sex sibling solidarity. Because of sexual segregation, practiced generally, and necessitated by the intensity of first-cousin marriage (Creswell 1976:113), brother-sister relationships are the closest same-generation, cross-sex relationships likely to develop prior to the growth of social intimacy in a compatible marriage. Along with cross-sex sibling solidarity, another factor in the negotiation of MBD-FZS marriage is the relationship between the spouses of the siblings. In the presence of a second-generation first-cousin marriage, the fathers of the couple are first cousins as well as affines in the case of MBC unions, as are the mothers in the case of FZC unions. Since patrivirilocality demographically constricts the universe of marital negotiation for sons, and thereby emphasizes marriage with a first cousin of any order, the structural significance of the combined marital-negotiator-brother-in-law-cousin relationship cannot be unravelled easily. However, with the territorially more expansive network of marital negotiation for daughters, it appears that, like MZS marriage, FZS marriage, in the instance of second-generation first-cousin marriage, provides consanguineal input into both the female network of marital negotiation and the status of daughter-inlaw.

Do women in fact differentiate between sisters-in-law who are cousins and those who are not? Aside from general observational impressions, there are at least two concrete reasons for believing that they do. First, sisters-in-law who are cousins are apt to refer to one another as cousin, not sister-in-law. Second, sisters-in-law exchange sewing and such services gratis only if they are also first cousins; otherwise, payment is required. In other words, consanguineal investment is taken into account in women’s assessments of affinity. Likewise, in recognizing the vulnerability of their daughters as brides, they attempt to invest consanguinity in their daughters’ female affinal networks. MZS marriage is the best means of achieving this goal; an alternative solution is FZS marriage, in the context of second-generation first-cousin marriage.

The overall suggestion here is that in view of preferential kin endogamy, and in terms of the separate interests of men and women in marital negotiation for their sons and daughters, women try to maximize consanguinity more than men do. Relative to women, men spread out their affinal connections, while women seek to feed affinity into their consanguineal networks. While marital strategy from the male point of view is not pursued explicitly in tandem with occupational strategy, there may be advantages to creating and maintaining a variety of linkages within an overall kin-endogamous setting. For example, financial loans are often necessary for the purchase and repair of boats and fishing equipment, and to maintain a relatively wide network within which to contract these loans is advantageous to men. Women, on the other hand, are not directly concerned with such financial considerations. In their foremost concern with the effects of marriage on the composition (the internal order and hierarchy) of their networks (Rosen 1978:571), women are more intent on creating advantage in the utilization of networks in coping with their domestic status. Ultimately, of course, resultant marital arrangements represent the implementation of compromises between conjugal pairs, siblings, and spouses of siblings, as well as among the networks entailed therein.

Marriage in the Middle Eastern context constitutes a complex system based noton positive categorial preferences (i.e., marriage rules), but on preferred individual unions. Since the majority of marriages in this ethnographic context are not between first cousins, what general relevance does the Zikri Baluch case have? First, it indicates that instead of assuming that exogamy is a deviation from endogamy (or vice versa), the demographic and other facilitators, as well as the advantage of either endogamy or exogamy, must be determined empirically. Second, it serves as a reminder that in the Middle East all arranged marriages, kin or nonkin, are operationalized through personal networks characterized by alternations in relations of dominance and dependence. To focus on networks of negotiation represents a departure from most previous approaches which, in emphasizing the derivation of prescriptive rules, have overly stressed FBD marriage or “the ‘most remarkable’ marriage strategies rather than the entire range of available marriage strategies” Eickelman (1981:131). Since social, economic, and political advantage can accrue to either exogamy or endogamy, in both the kin and the territorial sense, the analytic task is to ascertain social patterning in the accumulation of marital strategies.

Hedged in only by fundamental demographic constraints and the distribution of relations between siblings and siblings’ spouses, the Zikri Baluch are unusual only in their statistical fulfillment of a moral and normative convention which is pervasive but seldom realized in the Middle East. Among the Zikri Baluch kin exogamy is not used to gain access to political arenas or agricultural and other forms of property. By the same token, among the majority of them, kin endogamy involves no explicit corporate political or economic advantage. This is not to say that marital links have no political or economic relevance whatsoever, but that in the pursuit of marital strategy, it cannot be assumed a priori that such advantages emanate from marital alliance.

Since this is a highly pragmatic system of marriage, it must be viewed not only in ideological terms, but in pragmatic terms which focus upon reciprocity and negotiation in the actualization of social relationships (Rosen 1979:101). In order to assess the demographic patterns and structural arrangements resulting from marital negotiation in the Zikri Baluch and any other Middle Eastern case, it is necessary to recognize the interconnected differences between (1) male and female networks in the negotiation of marriage, and (2) the implications of marital strategy for sons and daughters. To focus solely on males as marital negotiators and as the objects of marital negotiation in settings characterized by pervasive sexual segregation is an unjustifiably narrow view, which neglects “the intense and precarious ‘dialectical’ relationship between men and women” in the Middle East (Fernea and Malarkey 1975:197). While both men and women calculate the activation and deactivation of their kin connections, they manipulate and elaborate kinship in different ways because their kin networks serve different functions. While Zikri Baluch women seek to further the entanglement of kinship through marital strategy, men attempt to prevent an overload in their kin obligations. The overall and significant pattern, however, is of extreme reticulation in kinship.

Lastly, to separate out affinal and consanguineal connections is not to revert to the genealogical models which previously have hindered the examination of kinship and marriage in the Middle East. It simply recognizes that the Zikri Baluch conceptualize consanguinity and affinity as different, and that they deliberately seek to feed or not to feed one into the other. This is a major consideration to take into account in the examination of any Middle Eastern group engaging in intense kin endogamy. In Middle Eastern settings not so characterized, it is a question of ascertaining the alternative empirical content of the implementation of maritalstrategy through networks of marital negotiation.

1. The research on which this paper is based was conducted in 1976-77 under the auspices of a postdoctoral grant from the American Institute of Pakistan Studies. I thank my colleague and companion in the field, Stephen Pastner, and acknowledge the generous and stimulating comments of Dale Eickelman and Richard Kurin.

2. According to Khuri (1970:615) MZD and cross-cousin marriage are disadvantageous because of role conflict between “joking” and “formal and reserved” familial relationships.

3. The literature is varied in theoretical intent, but focuses primarily on FBD marriage. Aside from those cited elsewhere in the text, some of the main discussions include Barth (1954), Patai (1955, 1965), Murphy and Kasden (1959, 1967), Ayoub (1959), Goldberg (1967), Keyser (1974), and Meeker (1976).

4. The extent to which marriages are parentally arranged in the Muslim Middle East must not be deemphasized (Youssef 1978:80). Guardians substitute for deceased parents in marital negotiation.

5. There is some debate as to whether Pakistan should be included ethnographically in South Asia or in the Middle East. The latter designation is accurate for the Baluch since they are historically, culturally, and linguistically linked with the Iranian and the Afghan Baluch (Gulick 1976:9).

6. Johnson and Bond (1974) remind us to be wary of societal caricatures which mutually exclusively stress the predominance of kinship obligations on the one hand, or, on the other, individual choice and self-interest. Zikri Baluch are typical in their operationalization of both premises, although ideologically kinship obligation is emphasized. See S. Pastner (1978) for a discussion of how normative and real behavior intersect in political and religious leadership among the Zikri Baluch.

7. The extent to which men and women have limited social contact with one another is made evident in sex-based territoriality which, consistent with the sexual division of labor, relegates the beach and the sea to men, and the village to women. This territoriality is enforced on children when they reach seven or eight years of age.

8. At one point in 1976, of 66 crew members on 28 multicrew boats operating out of the village, 23 were the sons of captains; only 8 of the crewmen were brothers or sons-inlaw of captains.

9. On a brief return visit to the village in 1979, S. Pastner found that 20 percent of the adult male labor force was abroad.

10. Creswell (1976:105-6) makes a case for including such unions with first-cousin marriages. A more conservative view is taken here, so that cross-generational marriages are included in the category of classificatory-cousin marriage.

11. The other three communities include a Zikri Baluch mohalla (“neighborhood”) in Karachi, and two fishing villages, approximately fourteen and twenty kilometers, respectively, to the west along the coast from the village in which fieldwork was conducted. Until fairly recently the four communities were mutually accessible only by boat or camel; bus service is now available.

12. Of the twenty-six marriages contracted in the two generations descended from the village founder, eleven are between first patriparallel cousins and six are between second patriparallel cousins.

13. Because of the overemphasis in the literature on FBD marriage, it is difficult to make comparisons. According to Antoun (1976:166-68), 10 to 15 percent is a typical rate of FBD marriage, but this provides no indication of the significance (or lack thereof) of MZD or cross-cousin marriage.

14. Khuri (1970:616) indicates such advantages for women in MZC marriage, but at the same time (incorrectly) emphasizes in a bilateral, nonsegmentary setting the incongruity of parent-in-law and uncle/aunt relationships in cross-cousin marriage. The actual reasons for the contraction or noncontraction of crosscousin marriage must be sought elsewhere; namely, in the viability of negotiation between cross-sex siblings and their spouses.

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This article has been Published:
Journal of Anthropological Research,
Vol. 37, No. 4 (Winter, 1981), pp. 305-318
University of New Mexico

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