The Implications of Marriage Rules and Descent: Categories for Merina Social Structures



Contrary to previous accounts, the Merina have cognatic, endogamous descent categories. As a result of Merina imperialism and French colonialism they are now dispersed all over Madagascar. Those of free descent still prefer to marry endogamously, although embarrassed at the taint of incest attaching to it, and to be buried in the tombs of the original villages around Tananarive which they consider home. The equally numerous population of slave descent has no such ties. They pride themselves on marrying exogamously and establish tombs in the villages where they have settled. The free not only thus maintain attachment to their traditional groupings but derive benefit from them for social and spatial mobility.