Turkish Marriage Patterns

Marriage patterns in rural Turkey are noticeably influenced by endogamous preferences within both villages and kinship groups. Other important marriage rules and customs center on the requirement that prospective husbands pay a substantial bride price to their fathers-in-law. The financial demands related to marriage tend to delay the marriage age of poorer young men and to make it easier for older males to marry. This practice is often related to polygyny, the ability of a man to have more than one wife. Polygyny is allowable in Islamic tradition but is prohibited in Turkish law. Stirling observed only a small number of cases in the Turkish peasant villages he studied.

Village Endogamy

Data from the two locations of Stirling's ethnography show a uniform preference for marriage within the community as well as an interesting contrast in rates of endogamy. Both villages show a similar level of in-marriage among women currently resident within the village, 67% for Sakaltutan and 63% for Elbasi, indicating an approximate ratio of two women marrying and resident within their natal village for every one who marries out.

Rates of Endogamy for Women Residing in Village

Source: Turkish Village, pages 296-297

This outcome is a reflection of strong sense of solidarity within the corporate peasant community, also apparent in the tendency for almost every man to remain within his village over his lifetime.

The contrast in endogamous patterns appears in the differential out-marriage of women born in each community as opposed to its resident women. Sakalutan women show a low rate of remaining within their villages (just over 50%) and a high propensity to marry men in other locations. The in-marriage rate for Elbasi born women is considerably higher at almost 75%.

Rates of Endogamy for Women Born in Village

This discrepancy reflects an imbalance in female migration rates. At the time of Stirling's research Sakaltutan experienced a net loss of women, as the ratio of village out-marriage to in-marriage was 2:1. Elbasi experienced a net gain resulting from the reverse situation. These demographic peculiarities reveal a pattern of upward marriage or hypergamy which is quite different from endogamy and reflects an acknowledged status difference between communities. Elbasi is the richer location and can draw upon wives from more marginal settlements, from families who seek out more favourable domestic conditions for their daughters as well as affinal contacts in prominent communities. From another perspective, we can also conclude that the village with the most resources is able to better actualize the cultural ideal of endogamy.

Marriages among Kin

Additional preferences appear in marriages among coresident villagers and show a marked tendency for marriage between close relatives. There is a clear pattern of lineage endogamy generated by marriages between sons and daughters of brothers and other agnatic kin, accounting for approximately a quarter of all marriages. This is also known as parallel cousin marriage and is common in Middle Eastern societies. As elsewhere, the advantage of lineage endogamy in Turkey is the imposition of a bride price lower than those in contracts involving more distant social bonds. In-marriage also has the effect of retaining property within family lines, especially where women are allowed to inherit.

Kinship Connections between Sakaltutan Husbands and Wives

> Source: Turkish Village: page 202

Turkish village social patterns also show a marked preference for unions among non-agnatic kin and current affines, and only a 40% incidence of marriage between unrelated individuals. (See Turkish Village Chapter 9 for more details about marriage practices.)

© Brian Schwimmer, All rights reserved
Department of Anthropology
University of Manitoba
Page created 1995