Accepted paper:

Sisters, wives, death and rebirth: some evidence from Central India

Author:

Chris Gregory (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

The conjugal relationship is a pivotal feature of North Indian kinship, but not for the Halbi speakers of Central India. They define their ‘kingdom of the brother and sister’ in opposition to the ‘kingdom of the divine husband’ of the north. Death in Central India is the rebirth of the sibling relationship.

Paper long abstract:

The Halbi speakers of the Bastar plateau in Central India refer to their region as the 'Kingdom of the brother and sister', a statement that begins to make sense when seen in the light of the behaviour of brothers and sisters in life-cycle rituals, especially those at the death of a brother or sister. Sibling intimacy is a remarkable feature of Indian kinship in general and presents a stark contrast to other regions of the world such as Melanesia and Polynesia where mutual respect and distance is the prevailing ideology. 'Avoidance' relations of the Oceanic kind have been seen as proof of the universality of the incest taboo but a potential wife in central India is a maina bahin, a marriageable (maina) sister (bahin). Halbi speakers define their 'kingdom of the brother and sister' in opposition to the 'kingdom of the divine husband' of the north. Death in Central India is the rebirth of the sibling relation which, of course, includes both marriageable and unmarriageable sisters.

panel W085
Mourning, intimacy and the special character of the conjugal relationship