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On joking relationships

Abstract
Opening Paragraph

The publication of Mr. F. J. Pedler's note on what are called ‘joking relationships’, following on two other papers on the same subject by Professor Henri Labouret and Mademoiselle Denise Paulme, suggests that some general theoretical discussion of the nature of these relationships may be of interest to readers of Africa.

Résumé

LA PARENTÉ À PLAISANTERIES

On constate chez plusieurs tribus africaines l'existence des rapports sociaux coutumiers tels que les interéssés ont le droit, et même le devoir, de s'injurier. Ce sont les parentés ou les alliances à plaisanteries. Le but de cette article est d'indiquer les conditions générales dans lesquelles ces usages se trouvent. C'est quand la structure sociale est telle qu'entre deux personnes il y a à la fois liaison et séparation que l'on trouve ou des relations de respect exagéré et de pudeur, ou leurs contraires, des relations de sans-gêne ou d'irrespect, de raillerie ou de badinage grossier, voire même obscène. Ce sont deux moyens alternatifs d'établir une alliance qui peut s'appeler extra-juridique.

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page 195 note 1 Joking Relationships in East Africa’, Africa, vol. xiii, p. 170.

page 195 note 2 La Parenté à Plaisanteries en Afrique Occidentale’, Africa, vol. ii, p. 244.

page 195 note 3 Parenté à Plaisanteries et Alliance par le Sang en Afrique Occidentale’, Africa, vol. xii, p. 433.

page 195 note 4 Professor Marcel Mauss has published a brief theoretical discussion of the subject in the Annuaire de l'École Pratique des Hautes Études, Section des Sciences religieuses, 19271928. It is also dealt with by Dr Eggan F. in Social Anthropology of North American Tribes, 1937, pp. 7581.

page 196 note 1 Africa, vol. xii, p. 438.

page 196 note 2 Those who are not familiar with these widespread customs will find descriptions in Junod, Life of a South African Tribe, Neuchâtel, vol. i, pp. 229–37, and in Social Anthropology of North American Tribes, edited by Eggan F., Chicago, 1937, PP. 55–7.

page 198 note 1 Landes Ruth in, Co-operation and Competition among Primitive Peoples, 1937, p. 103.

page 199 note 1 Incidentally it may be said that it was hardly satisfactory for the magistrate to establish a precedent whereby the man, who was observing what was a permitted and may even have been an obligatory custom, was declared guilty of common assault, even with extenuating circumstances. It seems quite possible that the man may have committed a breach of etiquette in teasing the woman in the presence of her mother's brother, for in many parts of the world it is regarded as improper for two persons in a joking relationship to tease one another (particularly if any obscenity is involved) in the presence of certain relatives of either of them. But the breach of etiquette would still not make it an assault. A little knowledge of anthropology would have enabled the magistrate, by putting the appropriate questions to the witnesses, to have obtained a fuller understanding of the case and all that was involved in it.

page 200 note 1 See, for example, the kinship systems described in Social Anthropology of North American Tribes, edited by Eggan Fred, University of Chicago Press, 1937; and Mead Margaret, ‘Kinship in the Admiralty Islands’, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. xxxiv, pp. 243–56.

page 202 note 1 For examples see Labouret, Les Tribus du Rameau Lobi, 1931, p. 248, and Roy Sarat Chandra, The Oraons of Chota Nagpur, Ranchi, 1915, pp. 352–4.

page 202 note 2 Hoernlé A. Winifred, ‘Social Organization of the Nama Hottentot; American Anthropologist, N.S., vol. xxvii, 1925, pp. 124.

page 203 note 1 The Mother's Brother in South Africa’, South African Journal of Science, vol. xxi, 1924.

page 203 note 2 There are some societies in which the relation between a mother's brother and a sister's son is approximately symmetrical, and therefore one of equality. This seems to be so in the Western Islands of Torres Straits, but we have no information as to any teasing or joking, though it is said that each of the two relatives may take the property of the other.

page 204 note 1 Life of a South African Tribe, vol. i, p. 255.

page 205 note 1 For the kinship terminology of the VaNdau see , ‘Das Verwandtschafts-system der Vandau’, in Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1922, pp. 4151.

page 205 note 2 For an account of the Cherokee see , in Social Anthropology of North American Tribes, pp. 285338.

page 207 note 1 See , ‘Essai sur le Don’, Année Sociologique, Nouvelle Série, tome i, pp. 30186.

page 207 note 2 Africa, vol. ii, p. 245.

page 207 note 3 , ‘Zande Blood-brotherhood’, Africa, vol. vi, 1933, pp. 369401.

page 208 note 1 ‘Essai sur le Don’.

page 210 note 1 The general theory outlined in this paper is one that I have presented in lectures at various universities since 1909 as part of the general study of the forms of social structure. In arriving at the present formulation of it I have been helped by discussions with Dr. Meyer Fortes.

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Africa
  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
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