Village Endogamy

Physical distance has an obvious effect of the range of possible marriage partners, and we can expect that people will often marry the "girl next door" because of the ease and frequency of personal contact. However, some societies reinforce this tendency to transform geographically boundaries to less permeable social ones by encouraging or requiring marriage within a village or other territorial unit. The Yanomamo of Amazonia practice a marked endogamous system by forming settlements composed of paired localized lineages, which are bound to exchange women according to a specific cross cousin marriage rule. (See Yanomamo marriage). Exceptions occur only when villages have less than optimal populations and must contract outside marriages to acquire allies. A less rigid but still pronounced pattern of local endogamy is evident in Turkish villages. See Turkish marriage patterns).

Village endogamy, though widespread is far from universal. The Igbo of Nigeria, for example, follow the opposite tradition of village exogamy, according to which inhabitants of the same settlement, who are usually but not necessarily patrinlineally related kin, are forbidden to marry.

© Brian Schwimmer, All rights reserved
Department of Anthropology
University of Manitoba
Created: September 2003