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Fostering Fealty: A Comparative Analysis of Tributary Allegiances of Adoptive Kinship

  • Peter Parkes (a1)

This article pursues conjectures raised in the conclusions of an earlier essay (Parkes 2001), where I suggested that Eugene Hammel's (1968) classic analysis of Serbian godparenthood might be extended to other kinds of constructed kinship attested in the historical ethnography of Europe and Asia. Hammel's notion of alternative social structures—configurations of mutually exclusive ties of patrilineal descent, affinal alliance, and godparenthood—was shown to apply to an analogous complex of descent, alliance, and fosterage or “milk kinship” in former mountain kingdoms of northern Pakistan. Milk kinship relations between descent lines established through infant fosterage constituted a similar system of unilateral ties of alliance between status groups. Indeed, fosterage in the Hindu Kush was a recognized institution of dynastic allegiance, tying all offspring of princely rulers to subordinate nobility, and thence interlinking successive status levels so as to form enchained factions of partisans, opposed as warring parties in the notorious succession disputes of these mountain kingdoms. In effect, milk kinship chains through fosterage comprised a structural analogue of asymmetric affinal alliance—whereby the transitive circulation of children replaced that of spouses interlinking descent lines of different status levels—just as did Serbian transactions of spiritual sponsorship according to Hammel.

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Apart from those colleagues gratefully acknowledged in my earlier article on milk kinship (Parkes 2001:4 n.), I have benefited from generous assistance from specialists in several of the other regions examined in this survey, especially Jan Bremmer, Gene Hammel, George Hewitt, Willy Jansen, Debbi Long, and Lynn Nelson. I am grateful for pertinent correspondence from Robert Brown, Timothy Cleaveland, and Craig Melchart, and for helpful comments from colleagues at the University of Kent, notably Janet Bagg, Roger Just, Bill Watson, and Angela Faunch at the Templeman Library. I also acknowledge valuable suggestions from anonymous reviewers of this and my earlier CSSH article, and apt editorial improvement by David Akin.
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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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