Kinship and Ritual in a South Indian Microregion

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Fieldwork carried out in the Tirunelvell District of Tamil Nadu, South India, has led to the delineation of a 'micro-region’ of three agricultural villages This micro-region acquires its sociological unity by virtue of a system of inter-caste relationships and prestations which embraces all these villages and which manifests itself equally in the religious, economic, political and administrative spheres. In particular, the various specialist caste-groups perform their respective services for clienteles made-up of all or part of the population of the micro-region concerned. One aspect of each specialist's duty is his role in the life-crisis rituals of his clients. These rituals are themselves subsequently re-examined from the opposite perspective, namely with reference to the intra-caste relationships which they bring into play. Particular attention is paid to female puberty rites and to marriage; these are considered as a single ritual complex, concerned with caste purity and the legitimation of off-spring. The phenomenon of marriage between a man and his elder sister’s daughter is examined. There is a discussion of the problems which this practice raises for the conventional view of the 'Dravidian' marriage system, and an alternative structure is suggested for the kinship terminology in the present case. It is argued throughout that the problems being considered are best approached from a sociological, structural perspective, and a three-level model of social reality is adapted for this purpose. As a complement to this, the study concludes with a critique of the recently-advanced 'cultural' and 'ethnosociological' approaches in South Asian anthropology.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Durham University
Publication statusPublished - 1978


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