Kinship and Marriage System in Andoni Community

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2022

72 Pages













Kinship and marriage systems represent the ways in which humans organize relatedness and reproduction. This research examines Kinship and Marriage System in Andoni Community. The study adopted a critical historical method with primary and secondary sources consulted. These were done to ensure the objectivity of the study. This paper demonstrates that, in Andoni Kingdom marriage is a religious, social and economic responsibility on the part of every human being. This research also focuses on various kinship systems in Andoni community and further examines the relationship between kinship and marriage in Andoni community. From the study, we have seen that kinship plays an increasingly influential role in everyday discourse of traditional marriage system. This research submits that kinship is a cultural artifact created in every society. It is the product of Nigerian culture and society and it is a kind of social behaviour. Hence, we should see kinship as a product of interpersonal communication, cultural practices that enhances marital values and rites in the society since it is produced and created by society and people who live in it.


1.1 Background of Study

Mbiti (1977) has opined that, in Africa within each lineage, there is a deep sense of kingship. As he put it, “kinship is one of the strongest forces in traditional African life”. According to him, kinship is reckoned through birth, and therefore, blood and marriage. It is kinship that controls social relationship in a given community. It governs marital customs and regulations and regulates the behaviour of an individual towards the other; it is extended to cover plants and animals through the totemic system. He further asserted;

“The kinship system is like a vast network stretching laterally (horizontally) in every direction to embrace everybody in any given local group. This means that each individual is a brother or sister, father or cousin or brother-in-law, uncle or aunt or something else to everybody else. On discovering his relationship with another, the individual concerned refers to each other as brother, nephew, uncle, mother. A person has literally hundreds of fathers, mothers, uncles, wives, sons and daughters”

Again, Mbiti adds that the kinship system extends vertically to include the departed and the unborn. In Andoni Kingdom marriage is a religious, social and economic responsibility on the part of every human being. It is part of the rhythm of life in which everyone must participate.

What all these boil down to is the paramount importance of kinship in relation to marriage among the Andoni people of Rivers State, Nigeria. Everyone is expected to marry and contribute to the perpetuation of the lineage through procreation. Even though marriage is obligatory, but you just do not marry anyone you see or come in contact with. The choice of a marriage partner is government by kinship relatedness as determined by the culture of the people.

1.2 Statement of Problem

Marriage and the family are society’s first and most fundamental way of making provision for its economic needs. It is a duty in which the entire community is involved. Marriage is the greatest hope of everyone and bearing children subsequently. To remain unmarried at a ripe age is abominable and contrary to the law of nature. For the society, an unmarried person has rejected society and society rejects him in return. Men and women are scorned and mocked at if they remain unmarried. An unmarried woman is a public disgrace; she is mocked at and ridiculed by other women; her own instinct is outraged. (Mair, 1977).

It seems this is the reason why marriage and kinship in Africa and especially in Andoni kingdom go together. The problem is all the more compounded in Andoni kingdom where they do not go too much outside to marry. Mostly, they marry among themselves. And yet kinship relatedness forbids marrying close blood relations in the kindred. How are the choices made? Who marry whom and who is the one not to be married? Is there any room for mistake and how are mistakes corrected after marriage has been contracted. All these and more are the problems of this research project. In spite of all these, the problem is that the choice of a married partner is not easy especially in a society that is firmly gripped and governed by kinship laws and taboos that made such choices problematic.

1.3 Objectives of Study

The aim of this study is to assess the role of kinship and marriage system in Andoni. Other specific objectives were;

(i) To undertake critical survey of the origin, migration and ethnography of Andoni.
(ii) To survey and bring to light the practice of kinship and marriage system in Andoni.
(iii) Lastly to see if there is any future hope and prospects for a proper understanding of kinship and marriage system in Andoni kingdom.

1.4 Research Methodology

The research method employed was a critical historical method with primary and secondary sources consulted. Interviews were also conducted along with participant observation. The data collected were qualitatively analysed.

1.5 Scope of the study

This study focused specifically on kinship and marriage system in Andoni Kingdom, and it is also limited to this scope. However, the result findings go beyond this scope as it can also apply to other areas in Nigeria.

1.6 Limitation of the Study

The researcher faced so many limitations in the course of this study.

(i) The time limits coupled with limited finance at the researcher’s disposal was inadequate.
(ii) Educational factor: Oral interviews were conducted instead of questionnaires which would have saved time.

1.7 Significance of Study

The study is significant in the following ways;

(i) The study will be of so much importance to Andoni people.
(ii) The study will help in increasing knowledge and literature on the issue under investigation.
(iii) It will serve as a reference point for further research on the topic.

1.8 Definition of Terms

The definition of terms is limited to as it is used in the project.

(i) Kinship : This is where a bond of relationship extends to a range of relatives so that a whole group of related persons are recognized as an entity.
(ii) Marriage : The state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.


2.1 Kinship

Kinship is one of the main organizing principles of human societies which have its roots in the predominant extended family. Kinship describes and establishes a network of enduring relationships between individuals and groups on the model of biological relationships between parents and children, between siblings and between marital partners. Radcliffe-Brown (1952) define kinship as a social construct that expresses the social relationship between an ego, his parents and siblings.

Onwujeogwu (1995) sees kinship as a socially recognized relationship traced through the parent-child relationship. For Lucy (1972), kinship is the expression of social relationships in a biological idiom. Generally, kinship is a network of relations expressed in ties of obligations, claims to resources, statutes, property rights, duties, power, privileges, authority and obedience, social security, mutual assistance and sexual behavior (Ewuruigwe, 1994:85). From the foregoing, blood ties happen to be the basis for kinship. However kinship goes beyond actual biological ties or a common ancestry; but they are socially constructed by people within a culture. This position is confirmed by Ewuruigwe (1994) when he asserted that kinship is a socially recognized fact based on the assumption of genealogical connection between a person and his forebears, real or putative. This is so because apart from the nuclear and extended biological links, Africans have what social anthropologists usually refer to as fictional or pseudo-kinship which includes; ritual kinship, fictive kinship and comprado kinship (Schusky, cited in Charles 2005). It is on this basis that Ewuruigwe (1994) established that kinship could be derived from four principles;

a. Blood or consanguinity
b. Marriage or affinity
c. Adoption and
d. Ritual or fiction e.g. Godfather

Thus, Ingiabuna (2012) posited that a kin could be one’s biological relation, or affinals – people related through marriage and similarly, those adopted into one’s family or groups are kins as well as one’s Godparents in church baptism or political life etc.

2.1.1 The basics of kinship

Investigation into kinship again means distinguishing different fields of interconnected social realities. These may be summed up as follows: terminological systems; systems of descent and affiliation; marriage rules; and a connected domain, discussions on shared and transmitted bodily substances. I will discuss each of these individually since they also reflect the evolution of anthropological investigations into the domain of kinship itself. It is however crucial to understand that the separation of these domains is an epistemological artefact and that in social interaction all four play combined roles. Let me start by investigating terminological systems – usually also the first step that the researcher in the domain of kinship studies undertakes in the field. As we have seen in the introduction to this chapter, kinship is a mass of networks of relatedness which radiates from each individual, and this network expresses itself in a biological idiom (Tonkinson 1991).

The biological idiom we are talking about is a set of words or expressions kinship terms that are largely attributed through what Fox (1996) calls the basic facts of life: conception and birth. What is meant here is that whatever the local term that stands for 'mother' may be and whatever other relationships or things may be expressed by this term, at it is very basis it describes the unique relationship between a person and a woman from whose womb he or she was born. Every language and, in some cases, even every dialect has its own set of such words that distribute the network of relationships around the individual we take as our starting point (called Ego): mother, father, uncle, brother, sister, cousin and so on. However, the structure of this network or terminological map (the list of categories) is culturally ascribed and unique while also following a few universal rules. Categories of people, sometimes also called classes, mean here all possible genealogical positions around Ego. For example, in English, the word 'uncle' designates in fact four categories and not just one: one’s mother’s brother, one’s father’s brother, one’s mother’s sister’s husband and one’s father’s sister’s husband. In other languages and cultures, this may be very different.

The terminological map lists of categories that are locally distinguished constitute a terminological system. The number of such basic terminological systems invented by human societies is limited.

2.1.2 Kinship Terminologies

According to Morgan (1891), Terminological systems were the first elements of kinship systems to attract anthropologists’ attention, starting with Lewis Morgan’s Systems of affinity and consanguinity of the human family (1871) as one of the major starting blocks for a new discipline. Morgan, who collected terminological systems through corresponding with people from different parts of the world, concluded that despite the diversity in the ways cultures and languages describe a person’s genealogical environment, there are important structural similarities that seem to be systemic. He produced a first typology that has since been amended many times by various anthropologists, for example Murdock (1949), but that remains widely in use today. What this typology does is present a few basic ways today one would say algorithms of mapping the genealogical grid into classes and terms. Nowadays, anthropologists distinguish five such basic systems they call unsatisfactorily but explicably from a historical point of view by the names of the groups in which these systems are supposed to be found: Dravidian, Iroquois, Hawaiian, Sudanese and Eskimo, with some further subtypes such as Crow, Omaha, Aluridja etc. The Dravidian is a very widespread system. It is found on all continents and among the most diverse cultures, even though it is usually associated with small-scale societies (Goldthorpe, 1981). The main feature of this system is what is called bifurcate merging.

Modo (2004), adds that Bifurcate merging means that categories are bifurcated one generation above Ego (his or her parent’s generation) according to gender, but their children are merged again in Ego’s generation. What may here sound complex is in fact a very straightforward procedure of distinguishing fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts following a different principle from that we find in Euro-American terminologies. Ego (the speaker) distinguishes the ‘father’ from the ‘mother’ for which one uses two distinct terms. The father’s brother, however, since he is of the same gender as the father, is called 'father' as well. The mother’s sister, since she is of the same gender as the mother, is called 'mother'. The father’s sister, on the other hand, since she is of a different gender from the speaker’s father, is called 'aunt' (or FZ, father’s sister). Similarly, the mother’s brother, since he is of a different gender from the speaker’s mother, is called 'uncle' (or MB, mother’s brother). In other words, only the mother’s brother is an 'uncle' and only the father’s sister is an 'aunt' if we use the English words. This is the basic feature from which all other features are derived in so-called Dravidian systems. Dravidian terminologies are usually extended in such a way that every person with whom one has a relationship of any kind needs to be addressed or referred to by a kinship term. This extension to people other than close genealogical relations follows a very precise algorithm, always according to the principle of bifurcate merging mentioned above. My mother’s mother’s sister is a mother’s mother, but my father’s father’s sister is of a distinct class (Modo, 2004).

2.1.3 Descent and Affiliation

While terminologies are among the most important elements researchers need to record in the domain of kinship studies, they are not the only aspects concerning the network of relatedness based on a biological idiom (Malinowski, 1967). With the emergence of the British structural-functionalist school at the beginning of the 20th century with scholars such as Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, Fortes, Evans-Pritchard and others, research increasingly concentrated on the relationship between kinship and political and economic systems. How people were recruited into corporate groups and how these groups also become landowners or land users, for example, became an important aspect of research. Anthropologists were particularly interested in the relationship between social organisation as discussed above and kinship and it was during this period that the notions of lineage and clan received their most comprehensive definitions and articulations. Early on, researchers recognised that these categories’ principal mode of recruiting people was the control of descent and the transmission of membership and ownership from one generation to the next.


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Kinship and Marriage System in Andoni Community
History and International Studies
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ISBN (Book)
Kinship, Andoni, marriage system, Rivers State, Nigeria
Quote paper
MfonAbasi Okon (Author), 2022, Kinship and Marriage System in Andoni Community, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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