The household is much more than an economic `firm'. Within it, the main human physiological needs are met - shelter, rest, food and legitimate sex - and the most intimate and emotionally important social relations played out. If this appears a truism that applies to most human societies, it applies more to Turkish villages than to many. One reason for this is the very economic unity, which until recently tied the main occupation of men as well as women closely to the household group. A second reason is the strict segregation of the sexes and the fierce attitudes to feminine honour, which render it impossible for men and women to meet and co-operate except in and through their own households, or those of very close kin.
What goes on within the households is then a major part of village social life. An account of it involves both an account of the specific paired relationships that occur within it, and an account of the overall pattern these normally make. Such an account is not easy to give in a brief general form.
In my year's field work, the births, deaths, and marriages which involved changes
and adjustments in my census, somehow impressed me at the time as exceptions in a
stable pattern. Perhaps this attitude is allied to the surprise most people feel
at the size of other people's children when they have not seen them for a long time.
But this tendency to see the social world as something fixed is entirely misleading.
Every household and every relationship within it is changing all the time. As people
grow older they move from one socially defined group to another, and the circumstances
in which they have to play their roles change constantly.
Change of this kind does not of course imply an impermanent social order. The role of father is the same regardless of changes in the holders of the role; and in so far as young and old fathers or rich and poor fathers behave and are expected to behave differently, these differences are also a permanent part of the social order. Nevertheless any general description of, say, father-son relationships or mother-daughter-in-law is inadequate, because it cannot allow for all the special cases that from time to time arise. And there is a further source of error. Though roles are relatively permanent, the overall structure of the society is changing, and the observer may well confuse in a single description customary behaviours which are on their way out and customary behaviours which are on their way in.
These difficulties are increased in the case of Turkish villages by the high wall which quite literally surrounds every household. Unrelated men do not enter the households of other families, private personal feelings are not publicly discussed, sex and anything to do with it is taboo in many social contexts, and this flavour of impropriety, as in many western contexts, makes straightforward information difficult to obtain. In only a limited number of households were we able to observe closely the way people treated each other, and even then our very presence had clearly some effect on the situation. Moreover, some interesting and important types of relationship - those between women of the same generation marrying into the same household, for example - only occur in a small number of households at any one time, so that few cases are available for observation.
Although the quality alters, family and kinship relationships continue for life. But people constantly leave their households and join or set up new ones, and any discussion of the close kin relationships automatically leads one out of a single household. Brothers, for example, begin as children in their father's house, but end as heads of neighbouring households in their own right. At the cost of some overlap with the discussion of kinship (Chapter 8), I shall follow this lead when it is appropriate to do so. Very rarely a household may contain non-kin servants, but I knew none among my acquaintances and ignore these cases in my discussion.
Mathematically, the number of possible pairs of kin relation
ships in a joint household is large. I shall deal only with the more common and important ones. Because the most striking structural feature of the household is the division between the sexes, I classify them by this criterion - relations between men, relations between women, and relations between men and women.
Men form the permanent core of any normal household. The senior man, father or father's father of the other male members, owns the fabric of the house, and usually owns most or all of the land. His sons and grandsons are born into and remain in the household until his death, when one of his sons, usually the eldest, remains in this house as head, and the younger sons, sooner or later, set up their own independent households. The lifelong relation between male agnates of this minute lineage is the basis of the household as a continuing group.
Yet the men have normally much less to do with the actual life inside the household
than the women. Men farm in household groups, and they eat and sleep in their households.
But most of them spend as much of their time as possible away from the actual house.
In the summer they are often working in the fields, or perhaps away from the village
altogether as migrant labourers. When they are at leisure, they will prefer to talk
in groups out of doors, or to foregather in guest rooms. I have seen men standing
out in a snowstorm under a sheltered wall rather than go to join their wives in the
house. Of course, the few richer villagers who own and preside over guest rooms stay
at home, but normally the guest room is strictly segregated from the rest of the
household. In winter, when no male guests except for very close neighbours and kin
were present, I have come across women sitting in the guest room with their men,
presumably solely for warmth. On one occasion, an unrelated but intimate neighbour
entered and on his own initiative ordered the women out. The younger ones went, but
two old women stood their ground. On other occasions, women and girls entered guest
rooms on some pretext - for example, to see a kinsman who had Just returned to the
village - and stayed as long as possible, but the men were plainly anxious to be
of them. The old mother of Haci Osman (H) of Sakaltutan, himself an old man, was permitted to sit silently in his often well-filled guest room evening after evening in the winter - a ribute to her old age and infirmity. Very occasionally then, women, mostly those who are past the menopause, penetrate to the male domain. On the other hand, one or two men shun the guest rooms and spend a good deal of time in their own homes. These are regarded as odd, and such conduct is due rather to unsatisfactory relations with other men rather than to love for or interest in the family.
The men's avoidance of the house, except for the specific purposes of eating and sleeping, reflects their wider social relationships. It is a simple if sometimes neglected fact that a higher position in any system of social relations involves a wider range of social ties outside it. The men's network and the women's touch at many points, but they are separate. The men's is wider, related to political power both in the village and in the wider society. One effect of the guest room and the informal open air groups of men is to maintain these wider relationships, and thus their clear superiority in village society.
No father normally hands over any land to his sons, nor makes any kind of will
or testament see pp. 94 and 107 for exceptions). The allocation of the estate is
left until after his death. He is unlikely to disinherit formally, but for a man
to leav the ancestral home is to forfeit his immediate rights to a livelihood from
the land, and to imperil his hopes of inheritance, since his brothers remaining at
home may well take the opportunity to
share the land between them and are likely to proe very difficult to dispossess. Moreover, marriage is a vital and essential step to adulthood, and it is always arranged and financed by the father, if he is alive. Serious quarrels between father and son never to my knowledge preceded the son's marriage.
Such quarrels certainly occurred. Hüsnü of Sakaltutan wanted his married son to go away to learn a plasterer's trade and earn money - the household was by no means a wealthy one. The son did not want to go. This matter came up several times in the headman's guest room - the current headman was a kinsman, whose guest room this family normally used (p. 243) but people seemed to make a joke of it. The son complained that the father did none of the household farm work, but kept all the proceeds. One day e helped himself to money from his father's money box. His father upbraided him, and the son drew a knife. He was not bluffing. Earlier that spring a man had been carried through the village over the snow to die in hospital in Kayseri from a bullet wound inflicted during a quarrel with his father - accidentally, according to the version of the incident that reached me. Hüsnü was separated from his son by the timely intervention of his own brother. I chanced to call the next day, when the headman (in the role of a kinsman, not of the headman), was presiding over a family conference to reconcile the pair. Round the tandir were sitting Hüsnü, the headman, another close neighbour and kinsman, the headman's mother, -and the children. My entry produced silence, then suddenly Hüsnü, ignoring me, burst into an unrestrained tirade against the vile inhuman ingratitude of such a son. The son was crouching against the wall of the room with his back to the others. Embarrassed, I did not stay long. The quarrel was settled, and in the spring the young man with other young men from the village went off to work, and came back by the harvest, already a plasterer, with money in his pocket.
Ömer, blessed with six sons, had trouble with his second. This young man
had become a plasterer young, and had enjoyed his taste of town life with money to
spend in his pocket. His father, by Sakaltutan standards, was well off for land,
but very much a villager, who went to town as little as possible. He married this
son to a daughter of the Hüsnü mentioned above, in January, with due ceremony.
Only a fortnight later, in spite
of strong pressure and against direct orders from the father, the son ws off again to Adana, leaving his new bride in his father's house. Soon we heard that he had been involved in an unsuccessful elopement in Adana. He failed to appear at the Sheker Bayrami at the end of Ramazan, which in I950 fell in June and July. He turned up soon after, ill, with very little left of his substantial earnings, and did nothing to help during the harvest. His father was very angry. `I cannot make him work' he said to me. The son was unrepentant, and announced to me his secret intention of abandoning his village wife and marrying in Adana. But five years later he had not done so.
In both these cases the joint household survived acute tension, although in the short run, the sons could have supported themselves adequately without their fathers. In Sakaltutan, in two other cases, sons were apart from their fathers and on bad terms with them. The fathers had little or no land, and in one case the quarrel was said plausibly to be due to the bad relations between the son's stepmother and his wife. The other quarrel was more fundamental - the parents did not even visit or help their son when he had pneumonia. In another case, three brothers had set up independent households next to their father's house, because once again their wives and their stepmother could not work together. But they had remained on good terms with their father, and co-operation between stepmother and wives had survived the separation.
As a son approaches middle age and his father falls into dotage, control of household affairs may pass to the son. But formal respect for the father is never relaxed and he remains nominally head of the household. For example the village headman was about 35 years of age, and his official position and his self-importance gave the impression that he was in charge of his household. In fact, his old but still vigorous father was the real head, and had great influence on his son's public conduct as well. Old Ismet (T), much less vigorous, was treated with great deference and attention by his elder son - though not by his younger - but in this case the direction of household affairs was in the sons' hands.
brother or sister, or a son of his wife's brother or ster, and bring him up as his own son, and heir to his land. I knew of only one case of this kind in Sakaltutan. Haci Osman (H) had taken on an orphan child of his sister, who was also his father's brother's son's son's son (agnatic second cousin once removed). The villagers did not regard this young man as Haci Osman's heir, but he himself told me that contrary to village custom and Islamic law, he had formally adopted the boy under the Turkish Civil Code; the young man died while we were in the village, but he left a little son, who was, according to Haci Osman, heir to his not inconsiderable estate.
In Elbashï, a fairly well landed man had adopted a brother's son as his heir, and married him to his only daughter. I gathered that this young man had, in village eyes, lost his rights in his own father's home, although according to the Seriat, he had not, and although no modern legal arrangements had been made. In another case, a young man had been adopted by his father's brother, and had actually inherited his adopting father's house and fields and set up his own family there.
Where a man voluntarily takes a boy to be his heir, the relationship will plainly be as like a full father-son relationship as the two can make it. But the society does not recognise social as distinct from physiological fatherhood, and the equivalence would never therefore be complete. They would not use the terms `father' and `son' to each other.
Orphan children are common in this as in any society with a high death rate. Men
often therefore have children in their household who are not their own. In the past,
dead brothers' children seem normally to have been treated as servants and to have
lost their share of their grandfather's estate, which was divided between their fathers'
brothers, in accordance with the Seriat (Vesey-Fitzgerald (1931) p 121). Now their
right to their dead fathers' land is generally admitted. Stepchildren and other orphans
normally separate from their foster father's home as early as possible, and claim
their father's land. Such separations are not a sign of strained relations. In Elbashï,
two households had taken in refugees who came to the village from the east of Turkey,
as husbands to their daughters. In no other cases did I hear of a man actually living
under the authority of his father-in-law, but these two men came to the village with
no status and no kin of their own. In both cases, the couple had separated again by the time we reached the village, but were on good terms with the affinal foster home.
Seniority among brothers confers authority. The standard Turkish address to an elder brother is agabey, a compound formed of two words of social respect, aga and bey. In the village this is often abbreviated to agam, `my aga', thus coinciding, significantly, with one possible and common address to a father. Aga and agabey are often used informally to refer to an elder brother.
Sets of brothers are numerous, and most of them seemed to conform more or less to the ideal. They normally shared or attended the same guest room, helped each other in the harvest, minded each other's families during absences from the village, stood by each other in sickness, and supported each other in fights and feuds. Many men probably spent more of their waking hours in the company of their brothers than in the company of their wives. When Musa (K) lost his wife, his elder brother conducted the negotiations for a new wife, although both were middle-aged men with adult children. In Elbashï, I was discussing household fission with the second of four adult brothers, when he remarked, although they were separate, `Yet we are still together. We are under the orders of my elder brother'.
In a few cases the relationship may be even closer. Brothers are normally expected
to separate from their fathers household fairly soon after his death. The period
that in fact elapses varies from days to years, so that at any given time one may
expect to find one or two households that have not yet separated following on the
death of their father. In a very few cases separation may be indefinitely postponed.
Sakaltutan contained one such household
. The elder brother, a regular migrant and a vigorus personality, had clear authority over the other, who farmed their joint inheritance. In this case a third younger brother had separated from them. I heard of several similar joint fraternal households in other villages.
Of course, exceptions occur. Hayip (B) of Elbashï was the. youngest of three surviving brothers, but by far the most wealthy and successful. His elder brothers used his guest room frequently - by grace, not by right. Of three Sakaltutan brothers, the eldest had married into their mother's village, two hours away. The youngest made a reasonably comfortable income for his small family as a permanent worker in the Kayseri textile mill. Bektes the second, was for years allowed to work the whole of their joint small patrimony, from which he made a precarious and inadequate living. When a quarrel with his eldest brother over marriage arrangements precipitated a division of the land, he complained that his younger brother was `cold', and did nothing to help. Yet they remained on speaking terms.
More serious quarrels between brothers are not uncommon, usually over the division of the patrimony. I did not actually, hear of any cases of fratricide, though in two cases to my knowledge brother fired at brother, once in Sakaltutan (p. 125), and oce, in another village, on the very day on which I made a visit. The expected intimacy and the habitual physical proximity of brothers make these fraternal quarrels bitter and violent.
Half-brothers are fairly common in a society where polygamy is still possible, and where premature death and remarriage are common events. Yet no word exists to distinguish half- from full brothers. When the fact is relevant, a specific statement is necessary - `his mother was separate' or `his father was separate'.
Paternal half-brothers grow up in the same household, and in terms of enforced
intimacy their relationship is little different from that of full brothers. In fact,
they are less close. I knew no case of half-brothers growing up in a polygamous household
with living mothers still the current wives of their fathers. Rather one finds elder
brothers who are stepsons of the new wife, while the younger brothers are her full
sons. Often the elder stepsons leave the household before their father's death.
In Sakaltutan, Hasan (V) the plasterer and his two full brothers had left their father's household, leaving their half-brother behind. In Elbashï, a pair of full brothers had left their father's household and their stepmother and set up a joint household together, while another pair of younger full brothers, half-brothers of the first pair, remained and shared the paternal household after the father's death. In each pair, one brother went away to work as a migrant, while the other worked the land. By I951, both pairs had split, but all seemed on good terms. In both these cases, the father, exceptionally, allowed the separating sons to take a share of the land, which I understood to be a final settlement.
People are equally emphatic about the mutual love and cooperation due between maternal half-brothers. But in fact the circumstances are much more variable (p. 96) . The common interests and intense intimacy which bind paternal brothers are lackng. Maternal half-brothers are often not members of a single household, and even if they are, their interests in inheritance are different. Although they are spoken of as brothers, in fact the relationship is more like that of specially close non-agnatic cousins.
The men are the owners and the core of the household, yet they work and talk and amuse themselves as far as possible outside it. The grown women of a household are strangers brought in as wives from some other household, except, rarely, for daughters or sisters due to marry out, or to return to their husbands. They are all, in one way or another, appendages of the core of male agnates. Adult women have rights and interests in more than one household, yet they belong unequivocally to none. In spite of this marginal position, they work and talk and amuse themselves largely within the household in which they reside, and their presence is indispensable to its daily routine.
Because it is the women who come to their husbands, the types of relationship
between the women which are commonly found within households are more numerous than
those among the men. For men we had only to consider father-son, and
brother-brother relations. But among women there are at least four common types of relationship.
In simple households only mothers and daughters are present, but in large joint households, a number of women from diverse origins may live and work together. Relationships between them are not easy to observe, and the number of joint households on which we were able to collect evidence was small.
In other studies of joint patrilineal households, it has been plausibly argued
that the relationship between a bride and her mother-in-law is far more important
for the stability and success of her marriage than her relationship to her husband.
Fei, for example, draws a gloomy picture of the lot of a Chinese bride in
her husband's household (Fei (1939) pp. 45ff.). I therefore went to the field expecting to find this relationship one of `tension' and `hostility'. After field work I am surprised notat the tension, but at the comparatively smooth accomplishment of this violent change in her social environment which every young woman in turn must face. Certainly quarrels are fairly frequent, and the marked subordination and isolation of the new bride is itself a sign of `tension'; another observer might have described this same data in much sharper terms.
A bride and a daughter-in-law are both in the village called gelin, clearly by etymology `the one who comes'. She is expected to do all the more menial tasks in the household, and to wait on her mother-in-law. No sign of mutual affection is permitted her and her new husband, except in complete privacy, and like all young persons, she is not expected to initiate conversation with elders, or to argue with her husband or his senior kin. But she is under no formal restrictions or taboos, and informants invariably stated firmly that the bride must be treated like one's own daughter. Menial tasks and respectful silence before elders are no less expected of daughters than of brides, so the lowly status of the girl and her nominal daughterhood are not inconsistent.
On the whole, as I have said, it was the close co-operation between mother-in-law and her gelin which surprised us. In cases which we knew intimately, jobs and baby minding were shared with apparent amity. One girl expressed great affection for her husband's mother, saying that she got on better with her than with her own mother. In another instance in a fairly well-to-do household, a girl was left by the death of her mother-in-law to keep house single-handed for three small boys, her husband and her father-in-law. She said how much she missed her mother-in-law, who alone had defended her against the men, and dated her own miseries from her death.
At the other extreme, we heard of cases where girls deserted their husbands because
they could not stand their mothers-in-law. One girl who had eloped from her father's
home because, so we were told, her stepmother beat her, found her mother-in-law much
worse. She was found ostensibly trying to drown herself in the pool above the village.
In Sakaltutan, one woman turned her husband's old mother out of the house. But this
was an exceptional case (p. 115).
When people who have had little or nothing to do with each other beforehand are pitchforked into extreme intimacy within a single household, such contingent factors as personality, the relative standing of natal and marital households, and the degree of difference of custom of the two households are bound to affect the development of relationships. On the other hand, every girl knows that this is her inevitable fate and is well drilled in respect for her mother-in-law. The body of domestic customs and skills within village society is highly uniform, so that she is bound to find a great deal that is familiar. She has no alternative to submission except the scandal and disgrace associated with divorce, and then to repeat her experience elsewhere under less favourable circumstances. If she stays on she has hopes of a son, who will immediately improve her position in her marital home, and eventually make it possible for her to be mistress in her own household. Her mother-in-law also wants a grandson, and has no wish to endanger the son's marriage, which has usually been a costly investment, nor to strain her son's relationship to herself. On both sides, therefore, the system provides rewards for success, and penalties for failure. Both sides know what is expected of them. If most daughters-in-law find it possible to co-operate with their mothers-in-law under these circumstances, it is not after all surprising. Tensions exist, but they should not be overt; and normally, they are not.
People pity a woman whose husband takes another wife. Yet
a wife gains companionship, and help with household chores. The villagers say firmly that a man must provide equally for both wives. In one of the four cases, the explicit point of taking second wife was to provide a son, and the first wife, who was incapable of bearing children, actually co-operated in procuring her. In another, the aim was also to produce more sons, because the first wife failed to bear more than one. Co-wives are expected to quarrel, but they do not always do so.
Sometimes co-wives do not share a household. One man in Elbashï had married his brother's widow, and visited her on alternate nights, but did not shift his residence. In another case, a man of Sakaltutan had taken two widows in addition to his first wife who lived in his own household; the others both lived in their own households. His three widows were all still alive at the time of our stay. This type of case seems to be a sort of business arrangement to the benefit of all parties. Marriage to a brother's widow has obvious advantages in preventing any outsider getting his hands on the patrimonial land and house. Marriage to a widow with her own household is less easy to interpret because no case was current during my field work. A widow's life is hard - in the past it was even harder - and even a share of a husband to protect and advise on practical matters-is a great advantage, especially if she is able to retain her independence through control of her former husband's house and land. The new husband gains some additional income from the land he helps to work, and the prospect of more sons, with little additional responsibility.
main living room. The old father slept in the guest room.
Examples of dissension between women are not of course difficult to find. Women are normally said to be the cause of the splitting of households, and in fact this is generally true. How far this dissension is itself the reflection of the structural cleavage already existing between the husbands, I am not sure (p. 133). One split at least appeared to be due to personal rather than structural factors. Two brothers married two sisters, and all four lived together for a long time. One of the women, howevr, lost all her babies and eventually her husband divorced her, reluctantly, it seems, and took another wife. Now, instead of being sisters, the two wives were strangers to each other. Within a year the household had split. Nevertheless, tensions between brothers and between their growing families must add to the difficulties of amicable co-operation between women in a large joint household.
Men wield authority. No woman was head of a household with a grown man in it, and where a husband chooses to be unreasonable and selfish, the only recourse of a woman is flight. Wives are occasionally beaten by their husbands; open references to such beatings always arouse much mirth. Men decide all matters concerning the farming routine, all major sales and purchases, the marriage of children, visits to the doctor, in fact, everything of importance.
Women do of course influence their husbands in all these decisions. They can remind,
argue, wheedle, scold, and their views on some matters may carry the day. But almost
invariably it is the man who actually makes the decision. One man in Sakaltutan reversed
a decision to sell a plough, and people laughed and said he was under his wife's
thumb. In this household
the land belonged largely to the wife. In one or two other cases, a man of weak character or intellect was dominated by a wife of detrmination and ability, but his submissiveness cost him his neighbours' respect.
Women do not look to their husbands for companionship; still less do men look to their wives. It is taken for granted that there is no common ground for conversation. A man must never show affection for his wife in front of anyone else. When a soldier returned to the village after years of absence, his kin and neighbours gathered round to welcome and embrace him. The ceremony lasted for hours, as one person after another heard the news and hastened to the guest room. His greeting for his wife was left over till bedtime - she could not even see him until all the others had finished with him. When men left Elbashï on their way to Mecca, their sisters and mothers embraced them publicly and histrionically at the boarding of the lorry - but not their wives. Within the household, before close kin, the taboo on public affection is even stronger. Nobody talks about `love' except occasionally in cases of adultery and elopement. The relationship is limited to economic co-operation and to sexual intimacy. Women frequently said to my wife that they did not love their husbands - not only in specific cases, but as a general description of village life. Men spoke very little of their relationship to their wives, and when they did, it was of the common bed, of their prowess therein, and of their large families that they boasted. More than once, men remarked to me in jest: `We love our wives at night.'
Such a relationship between wife and husband permits a viable household to be
built on any pair of the opposite sex who are each of them economically and physiologically
efficient, and who can achieve a fairly low level of co-operation in the face of
misfortune, interfering kin, and personal misunderstandings. Not all marriages are
of this minimal type. In some cases a very real degree of mutual concern and affection
may develop. One man who had left his father and was extremely poor had remained
in the village as a herdsman instead of going off with the labour migrants because
even after three children he did not wish to leave his wife. (It was she who told
my wife of their unwillingness to part - I did not discuss the matter with him.)
Eventually he did join
the labour migrants and achieved a much greater prosperity.
The notion of `successful' marriage in terms of personal relations does not exist in the village. The main criterion of success is the existence of healthy sons. Success is inconspicuous. If a wife is driven out or runs away, or dies, her husband normally loses no time in replacing her; a new wife may be installed in no more than a week (p. 195). Every household needs an efficient woman to cook its daily bread, and care for the small children. A woman who is chronically ill may well be replaced, or my find a new wife brought in to share her husband. If she fails within a reasonable number of years to produce sons, she is also likely to be replaced, or added to.
A mother is thought of as protective and indulgent to her small sons, in contrast to father who is stern and exacting. Of course, mothers discipline their sons, and are often driven to temporary distraction by their small children. But in general the good mother is comforter and defender against paternal wrath.
Adult men treat mothers with respect, and have an unshakeable duty to care for them. But they and not their mothers are in charge of the household. Men are automatically superior, and sons will give orders to their mothers when necessary.
The tie between mother and son holds the household together under the strain of
the arrival of a daughter-in-law. Only one full son had left his father's house prematurely,
whereas all other cases in both villages of premature separation were cases of stepsons
removing their new wife from the stepmother-in-law (p.
132). Where the mother-son tie is weak, the new bride is able to persuade her
husband to set up an independent household, where it is strong, she has to submit.
Widows are sure of a place i their son's household until death. In only one case
did a woman, after protracted quarrels, manage to drive her old
mother-in-law out of the house - and this husband was one of the feeblest men in the village. Allr old widows living alone were childless, or at least sonless.
The mother-son relationship is probably more important to a woman than any other personal relationship. It is in itself of very great emotional importance, and it is also the key to satisfactory relations with other members of the household. The mother of sons will almost certainly be a confident and respected member of the household, or of one of the households, in which her sons live. Without sons, an old woman may if lucky be tolerated in her husband's household; otherwise she may have nowhere to go at all.
By contrast, the most important relationship of a man is not to women at all, but to his agnates - to his father and his brothers, if any. This lack of symmetry is both an example and a consequence of the sharp inferiority of women.
The fact that a woman's relation with her son is more important to her than that with her husband, and that a man's relation with his mother is more important, as a rule, than that with his wife reflects the stress in the society on procreation as the end of relations between the sexes, rather than sexual attraction and satisfaction.
Girls are deferential and distant with their husband's fathers. In two cases,
neither of them in the villages in which we worked, we heard of specific complaints
about the unreasonable demands of a father-in-law in expecting work, and in Elbashï
a scandal resulted from an old man making advances, firmly (and plausibly) stated
to have been unsuccessful, to his son's wife. To her husband's brothers, who may
at the beginning be part of the same household, respect is due, and from them, if
need be, help is expected. Adultery with them seems generally to be considered unthinkable.
One young man slept for a year or so in a single-roomed house with his brother's
wife, while his brother was away, but the circumstances aroused no scandal or adverse
comment that reached my ears, and all informants whom I questioned insisted that
they had no suspicions. Brothers frequently took charge of each other's families
in each other's absence, and a brother would be a perfectly respectable person to
take a man's wife to town to the doctor or on some other long journey. Each would
their duties to the other, but in general the relation seemed to be one of friendly restraint.
A girl only lives in her natal home for the first thirteen to seventeen years of her life. Her relations with the male members of her own household are therefore not only attenuated by the segregation of the sexes, but cut short early
Fathers are disappointed in the birth of a daughter. A man, asked how many children he has, will normally omit his daughters altogether from the count. People often bemoan the trouble of bringing up daughters only to see them pass to someone else just as soon as they become useful, at the point at which a son not only remains to help his household himself but provides the occasion for recruiting a further worker. Moreover, daughters are not a man's business. All small children belong to the province of women, and growing girls remain so.
Nevertheless, most fathers are affectionate towards their daughters. Little girls
sometimes come into the men's sitting rooms with their brothers. I have seen men
cuddle and kiss their little daughters in public, and I have also seen them taking
very firm action against disobedience. Later, a father watches over the propriety
of his daughter's behaviour, and is the main party, through intermediaries, to the
negotiations for her marriage. He should spend at least the equivalent of the marriage
payment on her trousseau, and people almost invariably insisted that they were out
of pocket after the marriage of their daughters (p.
After marriage, a girl returns home at intervals, and a good and comfortably placed father will make her annually a gift of clothes. I was told that a husband may leave the entire provision of his wife's clothes to her family, though clearly this is not invariably the case. If she is wronged by her husband's household her father will receive her. If she is ill, she returns to his house for care. A stern father may refuse to let his daughter use his house as a refuge from her husband. Two cases of this kind in Elbashï were said in the recent past to have led to suicides, though in both the history was a complicated one. But whether affectionate or not, a father and daughter are not intimate in the way a father and son can be intimate, because their socially prescribed fields of interest and activity are wide apart.
Small siblings play together, and small girls act as nursemaids to the young of both sexes. The sexes tend to separate for play quite young, and little boys tend to go with their fathers and little girls with their mothers. The respectful terms of address for elder siblings, agabey for brother, and abla for sister are invariably used, never personal names. Yet younger brothers as they grow up begin to assert their male prerogatives. I saw an eight-year-old boy giving peremptory orders to a fourteen-year-old sister, which she carried out, without his parents intervening or correcting him.
Once a girl has left her natal household, her brother's contact with her diminishes sharply. Her welfare and that of her children is very much his concern, but there is no intimacy, no grounds for conversation, no seeking each other's company. If a woman is ill, a brother will be troubled. Bektes (V) suddenly disappeared from Sakaltutan late one evening, and I discovered that word had come that his sister, who was married in another village four hours away, and whom he had not seen for years, was seriously ill. He had set out immediately. On the other hand, he seldom spoke to another sister who lived quite close to him in Sakaltutan. From the sister's point of view, her brothers succeed her father as the point of refuge and defence against her husband and his kin. If this need does not arise she will have little or nothing to do with them.
The household is not simply a number of people tied to each other in pairs, but a group, with its own internal structure. Divisions within it rest mainly on the three obvious principles, sex, age or generation, and family.
The contrast between men and women is sharply emphasised in every way. They are separate in work and leisure. The division of labour is clear, and in full households is strictly observed. Men do the heavy work in the fields, control all transport, and conduct all relations with the outside world, including almost all buying and selling. They make all major decisions, at least ostensibly, and defend the household and its honour.
Women carry out all domestic tasks, manure fields near the
village, prepare fuel, and submit to the will of their men, at least outwardly. The women of a large household may in extreme cases be a heterogeneous collection of imported wives. In theory, their very presence is at their husband's pleasure, and they have no formal security of tenure.
Yet in another sense they are the indispensable fabric of the household, indeed they are the household. A large area of activity within the household is beneath the notice of the men, and this guarantees to the women an autonomy to manage their own affairs without interference. They accept the fact of their own overall inferiority as part of the metaphysical order, but their immersion in a world of their own greatly mitigates this inferiority. They see and understand the indispensability of their own activities, but they know of the world of men in the guest room only at second hand.
The major household resources are in the hands of the household head. Though the women have no generally acknowledged rights to minor domestic products as they have, for example, in rural Ireland, (Arensberg and Kimball (1940) p. 48). Some of them sold us, or tried to sell us, donkey bags which they had made, and in at least one case, kept the money. Women will trade eggs, chickens and grain with pedlars on their own initiative. But many women had obvious difficulties when coping with money, and their use of these resources was at their husband's pleasure. They do not trade outside the village; they go to towns very rarely - many of them never.
In a straightforward sense the mutual separateness and dependence of men and women holds the household together. Neither men nor women can live outside a household. They are also held together by the direct ties between them. But less obviously women are bound to each other by their relationship to men, and men by their relationships to women. It is the husband/son who unites mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and the brothers that bring the wives together. Conversely, it follows from the fact that sons leave the paternal home to escape a stepmother, that the mother/son tie is one factor which binds the son to the father. Finally, one of the main responsibilities that unite the agnate male core of a household as a group is their joint duty to safeguard the honour of their women.
Between parents and children, the gulf of generation is wide
and clear. The social distinctness and the enforced deference are thought of as due to generation differences. Outside the simple family, the generation differences and the age differenes may not coincide. For example, if a man takes a young wife as a replacement, half-brothers may differ by twenty, even forty years in extreme cases, and nephews may be older than their uncles. In these cases it is seniority by age rather than normal seniority by generation that counts. Both among men and women, seniority of generation and age confers authority and privilege, and divides, or in large households ranks, the household population. Girls are expected to be deferential to older women, to wait upon them, and to speak only when spoken to. Equally, boys and young men defer to and obey their male seniors. But there is no uniting of the sexes among the generation lines. Brothers do not group themselves with their sisters against their parents, nor husbands with wives against their children. Men are superior - adult sons command their mothers, and adult brothers their elder sisters.
Only about one village household in four contained more than one married couple, and even fewer two or more established families see Table 2, p 38). Each young couple is expected to have a room of their own; and once they have their own children, each couple becomes a separate family unit with interests to some extent in conflict with the interests of others in the household. People often spoke of the desire of the young family for independence, and a tug of war always takes place between the pressure of the young family to escape and the pressure of the rest of the household, especially the household head, to keep them loyally attached.
The paired relationships which I discussed above operate within a group organised on these three different and not entirely consistent principles. The way they work out in any given case depends largely on the overall structural pattern of the particular household. Of course, personal idiosyncracies and likes and dislikes play a great part, but they do so within a traditional household structure, and not in an arbitrary way. Indeed, this particular society, by the strength of its rules of conduct, and especially by the social segregation of the sexes and of young and old, minimises the potential disruption caused by personal dislike.
Updated Friday, October 23, 1998