Siblings and Spouses in the Context of Culture


Department of Anthropology, Brigham Young University, SWKT 884, Provo, UT 84606 (


In South India, siblings are more important than spouses, and the question of marital quality turns on the nature of the relationship between brothers and sisters. Here we examine the implications of a “sociocentric” perspective that does not privilege, in the way Western “egocentric” systems usually do, measures of individual happiness and satisfaction. Instead, the emphasis is on maintaining the solidarity of larger kinship structures, which, in South India, center on clans united by cross-cousin marriage—that is, marriage of a (male) ego either to his mother's brother's daughter or his father's sister's daughter. The quality of these structures, in turn, depends on the relationship between brothers and sisters, and we therefore conclude that siblings, not spouses, are the social center of gravity in this region.