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'Honour' and the political economy of marriage

Payton, Joanne 2015. 'Honour' and the political economy of marriage. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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‘Honour’-based violence (HBV) is defined as a form of crime, predominantly against women, committed by the agnates of the victim, often in collaboration, which are justified by the victims’ perceived violation of social norms, particularly those around sexuality and gender roles. While HBV is often considered as a cultural phenomenon, I argue that the cross-cultural distribution of crimes fitting this definition prohibits a purely cultural explanation. I advance an alternate explanation for HBV through a deployment of the cultural materialist strategy and the anthropological theories of Pierre Bourdieu, Claude Lévi-Strauss (as interpreted by Gayle Rubin) and Eric Wolf. I argue that HBV is an epiphenomenon of the ‘exchange of women’ model of marriage transactions occurring within the patrilinear kinship structures typical of Central Eurasia, and that this is particularly marked amongst peoples with a history of agrarian and pastoral modes of production, in which kinship underwrites relations of resource and labour sharing. Within these scenarios, marriage is an aspect of the political economy of the group, since it extends or consolidates kinship networks. In post-agrarian neopatrimonial states, kinship relations remain salient to social status through nepotism and the intensification of subgroup identification. I argue that women’s embodiment of the standards of marriageability — their ‘honour’ — within their communities is a form of symbolic capital which inflects the status of their families, and their ability to participate in strategic marital exchanges. This theory is investigated through an extensive and historicised survey of kinship and marriage in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and through original survey data on marriage forms and attitudes and experiences of HBV in the region, suggesting that HBV and understandings of gender, marriage and kinship are intrinsically linked. Thus, this thesis argues that while HBV may appear to be enculturated, its aetiology may be material in nature. Efforts to reduce HBV in the Middle East should encompass reform of personal status laws which posit the patrilinear, patricentric family as the ideal model, and that campaigns to reduce forced and child marriage should be considered as part of the process to reduce HBV

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2023 16:22

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