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This edition: Kinship and Descent

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Episode Details

The lesson opens with pictures of Chinese immigrants of the 1850s to the 1900s, explaining how immigrants of that time faced enormous challenges when they moved to the United States. They faced discrimination and a sense of isolation because they lacked the assistance that had been provided through strong kinship ties in China. The lesson explains that kinships, or the strong familial networks within which individuals function, are made up of groups of family members that provide the essentials for survival. The lesson explains descent groups and lineages and points out that not all lineages trace descent the same way. Several kinds of descent groups are illustrated, and Chinese patrilineal descent is featured. Particular attention is given to explaining this complex system, in which a lineage goes back only four to six generations; conflicts arise in households that have become very large over time, and so brothers splinter off and begin lineages of their own. The concept of clan (tsu) is discussed at length. Different systems of kinship are illustrated, where each group has established varying methods of defining relatives. The video explains the Eskimo, Iroquois, and Hawaiian systems.