Kinship Organizations, Research Paper Example

Examples of how San kinship system impacts their interactions.

San tribe of South Africa descended from inhabitants who occupied this territory for about 2 million years. Anthropologists have traced their migration as emerging from sub-Sahara Africa. Precisely, they were described as a Stone Age people due to their physical characteristics of small stature and dark brown skin color. They expressed many cultural differences from other African tribes. This included how they stored liquids. When similar tribes made pottery they designed ostrich egg-shells as containers. Also, war weapons were made out of wood stones and bones unlike metals used by their counterparts (Haviland, 2010).

Culturally, San occupation encompassed hunting and fishing being considered nomads. Their life style consisted of transitory settlement dwellings constructed of rocks as open shelters. Family groups contained 12-30 members with chief controlling resources as they travelled from one place to the next. This kinships system is traditionally classified as foraging bands in contemporary anthropological analysis. Socially, San tribe of Africa were a peace loving people thriving on crayfish, mussels, perlemoen and  large fish bones found in the coastal caves appeared as evidence of a diet rich in protein and vitamins (Haviland, 2010).

Three specific examples of how San kinship system impacts their interactions are culture of distribution and exchange; reciprocity and division of labor practices. Every kinship culture develops from some distribution and exchange economic foundation. In San’s kinship specifically parents were responsible for offering their offspring food, clothing and shelter until they are capable of obtaining those goods and services for themselves. Consequently they were to be reciprocated when parents are in need. However, this exchange embodies three phases which directly impact kinship interactions. They are reciprocal, redistributive, and market  (Haviland, 2010).

Reciprocal was expressed from the perspectives of generalized; balanced and negative. In generalized reciprocity there is no expectation that the goods or services would be returned. It is often classified as a gift or sharing interaction as a means of survival in the spirit of community. As generalized reciprocity is extended it forms a redistributive model. Balanced reciprocity denotes a more business like relationship whereby the expectation of return is equivalent to that which was extended ( Haviland, 2010).

Negative reciprocity is a mechanism whereby the entity receiving the service or goods tries to get as much as possible from the other side without recompense saying thank you. It is considered in modern culture exploitation and not kinship behavior. More importantly, it is described as a culture of strangers. Hence, redistributive and market are embodied in reciprocity practices which enhance kinship relationships within communities. Conclusively, division of labor ensures that work is balanced within the household with each person responsible for accomplishing a portion of tasks (Carsten, 2004).

Compare this to your own society.

Does kinship impact these same behaviors in your own life? Why or why not?

When generalized reciprocity is examined in its true sense there are no such interactions among kinship in the American society. For example, while contained in the distribution and exchange phenomenon parents are expected to provide shelter, clothing and food for children many do not live up to that obligation. Therefore, children are put up for adoption or the department of children and families have to take on that responsibility.

More importantly, we live in a society whereby children are taking parents to court and parent are children for interactions which ought to be conserved kinship reciprocal relationships. Courts are granting judgments without affirming the reciprocity of the kinships relationship. Also, may elderly are placed in nursing homes, assisted living facilities due to applications of negative reciprocity, which are considered elements of ingratitude.


Carsten, J (2004). After Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Haviland, W. Prins, H. McBride, B., & Walrath, D. (2010). Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge, (13th Edition).  New York. Wadsworth