Kinship and Rituals Among the Meo of Northern India

Kinship and Rituals Among the Meo of Northern India

Product ID: 12701

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Author: Raymond Jamous
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2003
Language: English
Pages: 198
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0195664590


In the study of family and kinship, social anthropologists have often focused on unilineal descent groups or on marriage, but rarely on the specific nature of the brother-sister relationship. Until now this relation has been reduced either to one of siblingship, more often, consanguinity, or to a form of incest prohibition that leads to matrimonial exchange. This book presents the kinship system of the Meo, a Muslim community of Rajput caste of north India, where the brother-sister relationship transcends the distinctions between consanguines and affines to pervade relations both before and after marriage.

The author develops the notion of metasiblingship to convey the specific nature of this relationship. In the vocabulary of kinship studies, metasiblingship is defined as the chain of two brother-sister pairs linked by a marriage. It is enacted in life-cycle rites in the complementarity between the father’s (married0 sister, who leads these ceremonies, and the mother’s brother, who is responsible for the principal prostrations.

In terms of family and kinship, and associated ceremonies, myths and legends, the Meo have long been regarded as unusual among Indian Muslims. The forbid what is regarded as a diacritical Muslim kinship practice-matrilineal parallel-cousin marriage-as well as cross-cousin marriage, and follow north Indian, Hindu kinship rules. Following the example of Louis Dumont, Raymond Jamous engages with the Meo kinship terminology, the relation of kinship and territory, marriage alliance, and marriage rituals and prestations-all of which are classical kinship themes. What emerges is a completely new perspective on the structure of north Indian kinship, transcending and encompassing the opposition of the alliance and descent approaches.

This book is of interest and importance both as an ethnography of the Meo and as a contribution to kinship theory. It will be useful to scholars of sociology, anthropology, and religion.


Illustrations and Tables


The Meo: a caste and a faith

Meo kinship vocabulary

Kinship and territory

The marriage alliance

Marriage ceremonies: Ritual prestations

The Meo kinship System: a comparative view