The Anthropology of Marriage in Lowland South America:
Bending and Breaking the Rules

Edited by Paul Valentine, Stephen Beckerman, and Catherine Alès

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"Foremost scholars of indigenous Amazonia explore the vast and interesting gap between rules and practice, demonstrating how sociocultural systems endure and even prosper due to the flexibility, creativity, and resilience of the people within them."--Jeremy M. Campbell, author of Conjuring Property: Speculation and Environmental Futures in the Brazilian Amazon

"A landmark volume and a major contribution to the study of kinship and marriage in Amazonian societies, an area of the world that has been pivotal to our understanding of the biocultural dimensions of cousin marriage and polygamy."--Nancy E. Levine, author of The Dynamics of Polyandry: Kinship, Domesticity, and Population on the Tibetan Border


This volume reveals that individuals in Amazonian cultures often disregard or reinterpret the marriage rules of their societies—rules that anthropologists previously thought reflected practice. It is the first book to consider not just what the rules are but how people in these societies negotiate, manipulate, and break them in choosing whom to marry.


Using ethnographic case studies that draw on previously unpublished material from well-known indigenous cultures, The Anthropology of Marriage in Lowland South America defies the tendency to focus only on the social structure of kinship and marriage that is so common in kinship studies. Instead, the contributors to this volume examine the people that conform to or deviate from that structure and their reasons for doing so. They look not only at deviations in kinship behavior motivated by gender, economics, politics, history, ecology, and sentimentality but also at how globalization and modernization are changing the ancestral norms and values themselves. This is a richly diverse portrayal of agency and individual choice alongside normative kinship and marriage systems in a region that has long been central to anthropological studies of indigenous life.

Paul Valentine is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of East London. Stephen Beckerman is adjunct professor at the University of Utah. Together, Valentine and Beckerman have coedited Revenge in the Cultures of Lowland South America and Cultures of Multiple Fathers: The Theory and Practice of Partible Paternity in Lowland South America. Catherine Alès is director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research, Paris, and is the author of Yanomami, l’ire et le désir.
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