Social Structure and Dravidian Kin Terminology in a Raj Gond Village of South-Central India

Author: 
Bernstein, Howard Barnett
Year: 
1978

     My purpose in this dissertation is to present a coherent, comprehensible, and accurate description and analysis of Raj Gond social structure and kin terminology. . . . In particular, I try to describe the social structure in terms of named units given in the vernacular of the Raj Gonds, Gondi, and to 'translate' the native definitions of these units, of their mutual interrelations, and of the means by which individual persons are severally identified with these units and articulate their interrelations. In the course of writing this account I have found that the Raj Gonds' own cultural definitions of the kinds of relationships and identities that we commonly label 'kinship' are descriptively and analytically powerful and useful in researching an understanding of the structural foundations of Raj Gond social organization as well as of the semantic processes of the kin terminology, and it is this power and utility that I aim to demonstrate."
     After an introductory chapter comes "a chapter on the setting of Raj Gond social life," followed by one that "presents Raj Gond social structure as a system of culturally defined units and culturally defined processes by which the units are interrelated." The fourth chapter "is concerned, first, with the rules of marriage by which the daughter-exchange relations of the structural units are supposed to occur, and, second, with the organizational manifestations of social structure in the patterns of actual marriages and in the organization of Persa Pen worship." Then "the theoretical perspective changes from that of social structure and organization to that of 'kinship.'" This begins an extensive analysis of the kin terminology. "The concluding chapter begins . . . by summing up Raj Gond social structure and its kinship aspect as a set of categories, principles, and processes: (1) sex, (2) levels of shared ancestry, (3) shared nourishment, (4) marriage of opposites, (5) equivalence of alternate generations, (6) relative age, and (7) hierarchical opposition. . . . Finally, I review . . . how the Raj Gond kin terminology is structured and functions as a South Indian 'Dravidian' terminology, with implications for further comparative studies of kin terminologies, Dravidian and otherwise.

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