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Conceptions of Motherhood in Nuclear and Extended Families, with Special Reference to Comparative Studies Involving African Societies

Niara Sudarkasa


One of the most significant contributions of anthropology, dating back to the 19th century theorists, is the proposition that all kinship is cultural. The early comparative studies of kinship in various societies around the world, carried out by scholars such as Lewis Henry Morgan (1870) and W.H.R. Rivers (1924), demonstrated that kinship positions and kinship terminologies did not bear a one-to-one relationship to biology at all. As a matter of fact, the biological acts of mating and procreation might be termed natures precursors to culturally defined kinship. In all known human societies, kinship was and is created and terminated by rules, regulations, and behavior that was, and is, culturally prescribed, proscribed or preferred. Thus, in human societies, when we speak of kinship, we cannot oppose nature to culture because nature itself has become enculturated. Even motherhood, which many might assume to be an obvious fact of nature, is in reality a facet of culture.

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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