Social and Personal Procreation in Lahore: Model Marriage

Last modified by Admin on 2018/02/08 13:42

Social and Personal Procreation in Lahore: Model Marriage

Michael D. Fischer and Wenonah Lyon

In Lahore marriage is explicitly regarded as the main vehicle for both group and personal reproduction. Most people discussing making new marriages will draw on arguments relating the welfare of the participants with the welfare of families involved. Despite broad socio-economic differences between people in Lahore, there is agreement on a number of basic principles underlying the arranging of marriages, especially when discussing model or ideal marriages. The manifestations of these principles are quite variable.

Based on research conducted by the authors between 1982 and 1992 using idealised, predictive and retrodictive accounts of arranged marriage - by men and women of different age, status and religion - we develop an analysis of how 'model' marriage is articulated in these accounts and, in particular, how the 'traditional' model of marriage can be stable enough to be widely shared in the larger community, while flexible enough to adapt to rapid social and economic change.


The initial material, on marriage arrangements in a lower income group in a new community in Lahore, was collected by Fischer in 1982-83, and was originally described by Fischer in his thesis. Subsequent fieldwork, primarily in three month stretches over the summer, was conducted in 1986, 1987, 1988 1990 and 1992. Lyon spent 1980-1983 in Lahore, and worked on a different problem in anthropology. She returned to Lahore in 1988 for a months' holiday, primarily spent in visiting friends, and returned for field work for three months in 1991 and 1992. These last two visits were concerned with marriage. In her 1992 fieldwork, she conducted a series of interviews with wealthy educated progressive Lahoris, middle class christian Lahoris, and members of the small professional class in Lahore.

Fischer's original research in 1982-3 included surveys and censuses, and a number of interviews with both wife and husband on the process of arranging a marriage. In his research, he focused on the criteria by which a suitable choice of partner is determined. He described a strategy rather than an actual model of marriage: lists of whom one married, qualities to be sought in a spouse, who found, evaluated and arranged a match. In subsequent work in the same community and with other groups in Lahore, we found very different strategies used in arranging a suitable marriage. The underlying model (or specification) of what constituted a suitable marriage appeared to be the same, however. Different constraints in each group lead to different matchmaking practices, but judging a 'proper marriage' remains relatively constant based on shared assumptions about marriages, individuals and families.


Initially, we want to outline some of the assumptions we attribute to our participants: Marriage is not simply socially validated biological reproduction, but social reproduction of the kin group and thus is of importance to more than the individual. Marriage is an arrangement between kin groups, not simply two individuals. It is intergenerational as well; a marriage has an impact on generations preceding and succeeding the couple. Marriages are ideally between equals. In practice, marriages are between putative equals, and one of the results of a marriage is a public confirmation of the respective status of the participating groups. Family and other social groups are ranked internally and externally, and a part of individual rank is determined by family rank. Individuals share more than family status - they share family traits and character, and people are similar to other members of their family. The behaviour of a person can be predicted from the behaviour of the rest of their family.

Equality is crucial to this picture of marriage: the equality of all Muslims is stressed in Islam. Muslims in Pakistan agree with this, of course, but add: 'equality is before Allah and this is a sinful world...' Rank is part of this life, and hierarchy and equality are both principles of social structuring in Lahore. 

Families are internally ranked, with parents taking precedence over children, elder brothers superior to young brothers, with different rights and obligations toward other kin members. They are, however, perceived as equivalent by members outside the kin group. Families within a group are, themselves, ranked in respect of one and other. Fischer (1991) discussed the relationship of marriage to social status: 'marrying one's children establishes, consolidates or improves the social position of the family and other members of the rishtidar.'

Generally speaking, for an individual, the immediate goal in arranging a marriage for one's child is not to improve social position - the goal is marrying one's child happily and well. A result of a marriage is to demonstrate social position, and a possible result is to reposition a family in a ranked order. There are usually a great many possible marriage partners of equivalent rank, and rank establishes the range of possible choices, not the choice. An important factor determining choice among this possible range is the identification of individuals and family characters and traits: if a mother or elder sister behaves in a certain way, it is assumed that the younger sister will do this as well. A divorce in the family has an impact on the marital chances of other family members. A man who respects his mother and sisters is assumed to likely respect his future wife as well. 

Choosing a spouse for one's child is an important business. It is a choice with no single right answer, and a choice often made with insufficient information. Ambiguity is part of the process, and many of the strategic processes Fischer describes are attempts to lessen ambiguity: how can you determine the standing and characters of the family you are considering arranging a marriage with? In looking at marriage strategies in the differing groups we studied, three factors seem to remain constant throughout: reduction of ambiguity, equivalence of members of the kin group, and similarity of family on a range of factors indicating equality of family groupings.

The first ethnographic example we look at involves an adopted child - which involves maximal ambiguity. If kinship determines personal qualities, how can the character of the girl be known? And who will marry her?

The informant had an adopted sister. His mother was a social worker during Partition. A female refugee was raped and became pregnant as a result. She wished to have nothing to do with the child. His mother took the girl home when she was two hours old. His father strongly objected, saying that they knew nothing of the baby's family. His mother said all right, she'd find another place - they would just keep the baby until a suitable place could be found. She asked her husband to help care for the child, since she had a great deal of work to do, and at the end of a week her husband declared this was his baby and no one was taking it.

When the girl was old enough to marry, they were very worried about arranging a marriage, then they heard about another family who had adopted a child, a boy, so they got in touch with the family immediately. A marriage was arranged, and both families were very pleased. That way, if the couple had a fight, no one could throw up to the other that they were adopted.

The family were well off, and very well educated. A grandfather at Oxford, a father at Aligarh - they took university for granted for men and women. They were from U.P., and came to Lahore at Partition by ship, with furniture and wall hangings and favourite dogs and horses. His grandmother's gardener had brought cuttings of all her favourite roses, hundreds of them. His family reminded me of characters in an E.M. Forester novel, but the English, not the Indian ones.

His parents' marriage had been arranged, and they were relatives - his mother was his grandfather's brother's son's daughter. All but one of his five siblings had married relatives. The marriages were not formally arranged, but the young people grew up in a very large extended family, and had paired off with parental approval. The exception was his sister, who was a doctor and married another doctor she had met working at the hospital. My informant commented that his father had strongly disapproved, and he had refused to go to the wedding. Only one sister had had a completely arranged marriage, to a kinsman she knew only slightly. 'And that,' he said, 'was the most successful marriage of the lot.' He himself was divorced, and so was one sister. His adopted sister had had a very unhappy marriage, and only his father's combination of threats and bribes had prevented his sister's husband from mistreating her even more badly. 'After my parents died, she had no one,' he said, 'her husband immediately took a second wife, but she continues to live with him, because she has no where else to go.' He and his siblings had little contact with his adopted sister's children, and, obviously, did not consider them kin. He thinks there will be great difficulty in arranging marriages for his adopted sisters' three sons.

The equality of kin groups is stressed here. His adopted sister could marry only some one with the same kind of kin - in this case, adopted kin, not real kin. It never occurred, apparently, to his parents or to the children themselves that his adopted sister's marriage might have occurred in the same way that the marriages of the other children occurred. Instead they sought some one similarly without kin. The equality of the kin group was of overwhelming importance because of its ambiguity, an unresolved, and unresolvable, ambiguity.


Work in Greentown was initially done in 1982. Most of the residents in Greentown had come to the area six to eight years earlier. Greentown is an area in the southern extreme of Lahore developed by the Lahore Development Authority to provide housing for civil servants, policemen and military servicemen. Instead the area was used satisfy two pressing needs for housing: after the civil war with East Pakistan, a number of Biharis fled to Lahore. One section of Greentown was designated as a relocation centre for these refugees, and some of the early refugees were allocated plots in the area. In addition, katchii abadi(squatters' communities) were allocated plots in Greentown to clear sites which the government wished to develop in central Lahore. Some of these katchii abaadi residents were given secure government employment as well. The remaining plots were allocated to civil servants and military servicemen, many of whom sold the plots to Lahore residents. Thus, in 1982, many of the residents had suddenly become homeowners, and this alone led to an increase in perceived status. It also offered increased possibilities for achieving higher status. In addition, in this new situation many of them were isolated geographically from old relations and had new relations to negotiate in Greentown itself. Marriage is arranged between equals; marriages provide a demonstration of status. Marriage in Greentown, then, could clarify the ambiguity inherent in changing status.

In 1982, marriages occurring in Greentown were primarily of two sorts: those between very close kin, first cousins, or between non-kin. Marriage between the children of siblings consolidates pre-existing relationships and is minimally ambiguous with respect to the status of the contracting families: siblings have equal status, equal honour. But it offers maximal ambiguity in terms of the outside social order. No new information is offered to clarify the ranking of the contracting parties. It is a safe and honourable marriage. Marriage to an outsider, non-kin, involves a greater risk. Contracting parties have less information about one another, equality is asserted by the marriage but can be challenged. It provides maximum public information, providing a basis for ranking the immediate families of the bride and groom and also ranking and aligning the kin groups themselves. An external marriage increases and extends the sphere of contacts a family has, and demonstrates its capacity to do so. (Fischer 1991: 111.) The following two cases show some of the factors entering into arranging a marriage. Both had an impact on the status of the families concerned; these were not, however, crucial in determining the marriages.

Marriage to strangers:

The father of the family had worked as a peon in a government office, a low status job, but he had managed to educate his six children. He had also received some money when he immigrated to Pakistan during Partition, and had invested this money in government securities. In 1982, with two sons working, the family were well off.

He was an extremely competent man, and had considerably improved his own status. He had broken off all contact with his brother, after business disagreements, but had maintained good relations with his wife's family, who lived in Lahore. In fact, during marriage ceremonies, his wife's family supplied the people necessary to fill traditional patrikin roles. He arranged marriages for his children within his baradri but none married relatives.

He had retired, and spent much of his time in the market in Greentown talking to newly made friends. One of these friends, also retired, wanted to arrange a marriage for his son. The families exchanged visits, and a marriage was arranged.

The bridegroom was an accountant with a large bank in Lahore. The bride's two elder brothers had equivalent education to the groom, and one was, in fact, an accountant in a multinational corporation in Lahore. The bride herself had matriculated, and worked as a teacher in a private school owned by her elder sister. 

The marriage demonstrated that the status of the bride's father had, indeed, changed. It was certainly no cold-blooded affair showing how social climbing is managed in Lahore. Both families were Pathans. The two old man liked one another - they were friends. The brothers of the bride liked the potential bridegroom, they had much in common and thought their sister would be happy with him. The bride's mother had visited the household. She thought the family looked reasonable, and commented that they didn't fight. She also commented on the fact that the women of the household had a washing machine. This showed, she thought, that the men in the household were considerate, they spent money to make women's work easier.

Status was considered in arranging the matches of the children of the family. There are, however, a large number of families which satisfied the demand that marriage be between equals. Actual matches were determined on other grounds. 

The second Greentown marriage occurred in 1988, and was between kin, the children of two brothers.

Nassim had come to Lahore as a child, during Partition, with his widowed mother and two younger brothers. His mother had had kin in Lahore - not close kin, descendents of her grandfather's brother. They were, however, close enough kin to offer some aid. She had worked as a cleaner in offices, and Nassim had been apprenticed to an electrician. Nassim had married the daughter of the relative of his mother who had taken them in when they first came to Lahore.

Nassim and his younger brother had both gotten jobs in the Middle East, an opportunity for earning (and saving) much more money than they could have earned in Lahore itself. Nassim had returned after a few months, saying that the food did not agree with him and he was always ill. His brother continued to work.

Nassim was disapproved of by his neighbours. They felt he was feckless, improvident. He put his children to work early, rather than educating them. He was described as a lazy man. He said that his health prevented much work. His brother provided some financial support when Nassim was unemployed. A third brother, who never married and lived his Greentown with his mother, provided financial help as well.

In 1988, there was great contrast in the position of the two brothers. Nassim's family was one of the few families in Greentown that rented their house. Four of his sons were working, but Nassim himself was unemployed. He continued the education of his youngest son, who was eleven. He intends this son to be a computer programmer, and plans to live with him in his old age.

His brother continued work in the Middle East. He has a large two-storied house in Greentown, his sons went to college, his daughters matriculated. He has a colour television, a refrigerator, the boys all have motor bikes. 

Nassim went to his younger brother and asked his brother to give him a daughter, to marry his eldest son. Nassim's brother refused. He did agree for his eldest son to marry Nassim's daughter.

A marriage between the children of two brothers emphasizes the solidarity of the family, the equal status of its members. People often describe a marriage between brothers' children as providing a safe place to marry one's daughter, where one knows she will be well looked after. Nassim's brother refused to marry his daughter into his elder brother's family. The girl would have a dramatic change in comfort and living standards. This he was not willing to do, despite the request of his elder brother. Marriage of his elder son to his brother's daughter would have no such consequences. His brother's daughter would join her husband in his house, and things would go on much as before.

 In practice, parents considered both personal and group interests. Nassim's brother considered the personal happiness and interests of his daughter in refusing a match, despite the theoretic requirement for a brother, particularly a younger brother, to accede to the wishes of his elder brother in arranging the marriages of his children. He recognized the obligations of kin while protecting the interests of his children.

Protecting the interests of one's child is a major concern in arranging a marriage. In Lahore, the personal preferences of a child are an important consideration in arranging a match. (Parents wish their children to be happy.) This is stressed and explicitly considered in considering the suitability of any individual marriage. Marriages arranged by elder family members are often seen as best protecting both personal and familial interests by both elders and the young. An arranged marriage is commonly described as ideal by the great majority of Lahoris. However, 'arranged' has different interpretations in different situations. (For many informants, 'arranged marriages' include those matches based on personal preference of the couple, who have then asked their parents to talk to the other set of parents. The parents, if all is agreeable, then arrange the match.) Ideologically, marriage in Greentown, a lower-income district in Lahore, should be arranged by the parents of the couple, and the bride and groom should be unacquainted before the marriage. Upper-class, urban, educated, westernized informants disagreed strongly with this, both in practice and as an ideal.

Education of children, male and female, is taken for granted. The boys go to Aitchison, the girls to a variety of schools - all single sex. The schools themselves are very competitive, and maintain their very high ratings in standardized tests by dropping students that do not score well. After secondary school, the children go to universities, often in the U.S.

Young men and women meet each other through siblings of the opposite sex. Young men are expected to be careful whom they bring home - none of the girls observe purdah, but boys are responsible for their sisters' reputation. One current practice in Lahore is for young women to go in a group, borrowing the car and driver, to Gulberg Main Market. The car drives around the square several times, the girls look at the young men in the market and buy an ice cream. Then they come home. The girls (and young men) spend hours on the phone discussing attractive young people they've seen. They get information about the young men from brothers and cousins and exchange it over the phone. Occasionally, a young man will call a young woman he's seen in Gulberg Main Market. They see, of course, only suitable cute boys driving suitably late model Toyoto Cilicas. Girls without male siblings are at a disadvantage, but they often adopt a best friend's brother as an honorary brother. They also have male cousins. Young men drive, young women have drivers. The young women with her own car does not cruise Gulberg Main Market - groups of girls plus a driver is respectable. Girls on their own is not. The male drivers are expected by the parents to check any untoward behaviour, and an elderly male driver who has known the children since birth often succeeds in doing so. 

More traditional families, who would not consider allowing their daughters to go out to buy an ice cream with their friends at Gulberg Main Market, and whose sons would not bring friends home to meet their sisters, give dinner parties to which appropriate young men are invited. Young people meet at family gatherings, where affinal and consanguineal relatives are present. Access to young women is controlled, and young men and women are expected to choose a spouse from among these permitted partners.

Cars driving around Gulberg Main Market is a fairly recent innovation, but friends who married in the early sixties describe a similar approach to marriage. 

My next informant. in her late forties, is from a  very wealthy family but is not, herself, wealthy. She has worked at different jobs, journalism, public relations, etc., since we first met in the early eighties. She has a masters degree from an American university. Both her grandfathers and their brothers were knighted. 

When she was 17, a student at Kinnaird, she met a young man she liked and wanted to marry. Her parents had always considered themselves very modern and liberal, but they didn't like this young man. He came from a feudal family, was charming and rich and played polo and was very handsome. His family was quite conservative, his sisters and later wife observed purdah. Her mother pointed out to her that he was fine as a friend, but afterwards, she'd just go back to that village in Baluchistan. In remembering the romance, she agrees whole heartedly with her parents: any marriage would have been a disaster.

Normally, she should have married after her elder sister but her parents were concerned about her 'wildness' and her love for this young man. 

A distant cousin who was in the army began coming round. His parents were divorced, and she hadn't met him until she was 17. Her mother never said anything to her about marrying him, he'd just be around the house when she came home from school two or three times a week. 

Then, an old aunt said something: she was dressed in a pair of old torn blue jeans, and the woman said if the boy was still willing to marry her after seeing her like this he must love her. So she found out that this was a courtship. A few months later, she agreed to marry him. At the time, she said, she felt she could never marry the man she wanted to marry so she might as well marry the man her parents preferred.

This is not the stereotyped arranged marriage of South Asia. It is, however, a marriage in which the interests and preferences of both young woman and parents are recognized as legitimate. The woman would not marry against her parents wishes; the parents would not compel her to marry someone they chose. Her parents were persuasive rather than demanding obedience, and, in discussing the marriage of her own sons, she seems to behave much as her parents did. 

Now, almost thirty years later, her elder son is engaged. He graduated from an American university, and took a job in Karachi, where her best friend lives. Her friend has a daughter. The two women had daydreamed, when their children were babies, about a possible match... 'But we never mentioned it to anyone, especially the children. That would have been the kiss of death...' Her old friend welcomed her son gladly, and he visited the family regularly. One day, he called his mother on the telephone and asked her how she would feel about a match with her friend's daughter. 'She's very special, I think they intend her for some one in the family,' she told her son. 'That was all it took,' she said, 'a bit of opposition and my son and the girl ended up getting engaged.' Both families are extremely pleased.

The second son is home for the holidays, and a girl (half Irazi, the mother says rather indignantly) comes over and visits him very often. The girl , the woman suspects, is lying to her parents about where she is going. 'She's probably bribed the driver.'

'But its better for her to come here than for them to sneak out some where in the car. The police have taken to stopping cars with a man and woman in them and demanding to see their marriage lines.' 

Other women have commented on restrictions today that did not occur when they were young women. A friend laughed when I asked her if her marriage had been arranged: 'I would never have permitted such a thing.' She had chosen a suitable man, and her parents were quite pleased with her choice. She felt however that, under the current regime she might have to arrange her two sons' marriages - "there's no way they can meet young women these days," she said.

Another informant, a woman doctor educated in the United States, pointed out other problems involved in a marriage choice that ignores traditional South Asian marriage arrangements. She said that you can't take part of something, like a love match, and ignore the rest, like the nuclear family. She is living in an extended family with separate eating arrangements. Her mother does the shopping, handles the cooking, lives in another apartment, and she feels she has the best combination of nuclear and extended families.

She herself is divorced. Her first marriage was an arranged marriage, to her father's sister's son. This lasted three years, and she has a daughter from that marriage. Her second marriage was a love match, and lasted eight years. She has a son. She says if her daughter meets someone fine. She has talked about it to the girl. But it is hard to meet people. I commented that a mutual friend's daughter had it easier, since she had an older brother who brought friends home. Her daughter's brother was much younger...the woman said that there were a lot of first cousins in the compound, some older than her daughter, who brought friends home.

I asked what sort of person she wanted her daughter to marry, and she said someone like them...they wanted to marry into a family as similar as theirs as possible. She said she had talked to her daughter, and she'd asked her daughter if she would be interested in marrying some one from a different social class. Her daughter said no.

The same emphasis on 'people like us' was made by a conservative Shia family. The husband and wife had come from quite different economic backgrounds. The wife's family is one of the richest in Pakistan. The husband was a middle class university lecturer, her teacher. The husband and wife had a love match, and her family disapproved of the marriage.

I interviewed the wife, husband and two oldest children together. The son was about thirteen, the daughter about fifteen. Initially, I chatted with the children and husband. The husband, on hearing what I was doing, flatly denied that any one in Greentown arranged marriages for the children and was quite dogmatic about a number of factors concerning marriage.

The wife came in, and I asked her about marriages in her family. She said that in her family everybody married cousins. The children laughed at this, since their father had just denied that anyone in Pakistan married relatives or had a preference for relatives. She said they wanted to keep the wealth in the family, and then you know relatives... Her sister married her grandmother's cousin's son, not a close relative, she said, but it was an arranged marriage and the two had known each other for a long time.

I asked how she would go about arranging her children's marriage. She said first she would look at relatives, then ask her friends.

I asked them what would be important in arranging a marriage. People like ourselves. Most important, the same religion - Shias. They would have to be Shias. The mother said if they were Shias, that was all that was important.

I asked about zat, and she said it wasn't important.

I said if their daughter met a wonderful young man, of the highest character, with a PhD in physics, and he was the son of a sweeper, they'd accept the marriage? The girl laughed. The mother laughed as well. The daughter laughed and said, 'after he gets the nobel prize, mummy, then can I marry him?' The mother was somewhat discomposed, and and said, after a minute, 'In Pakistan, sons of sweepers can't get PhD's so it would never come up.'

Mutual friends say that the wife's relatives disapprove of her husband still. But friends and relatives agree that she does not regret her choice. She does, however, fully intend to arrange the marriages of her children.

Religion is an important issue among Lahore, middle class, Christians as well. Christians are a small community, and arranging marriages is difficult. Middle class Christians value education, and educate both sons and daughters. Women in the community tend to have more employment opportunities than men. While working, and at school, women meet Muslim men. Marrying outside the faith is a problem. As one informant pointed out, Muslim men can be very good looking, and the girl is attracted. 

'And again it is Muslims they meet...look at these nurses in the hospitals, it is Muslims they meet, it is Muslims they talk to about their work... and look at the women in the labs, again it is Muslims they meet...So they naturally tend to associate with Muslims, and it is Muslims that they marry...'

The educated and well-off Christian community in Lahore has tried several schemes to provide an opportunity for young men and women to meet, and for parents to find out about other parents with children to marry. They tried a summer camp for young teenagers, but parents would not send their children. They considered a marriage bureau, but decided it would be too difficult to vet clients. How could they guarantee the respectability of people they did not know? The problem is similar to that in Greentown in 1982, and like people in Greentown they seized on quite small indications of the character and standing of those they were considering marrying.

The sorts of comments made by my Christian informants were very similar to those made by my Muslim informants: one finds out about the family, because members of a family are assumed to be the same. A man will treat his wife as he treats his father treats his mother, and if a man shows respect and consideration for his parents, he will have the same attitude to his wife. Like Muslims, Christians say that the family is important:

' One thing my mother liked about him was his father. My mother-in-law was a doctor, and he would going on saying doctor doctor, and my mother said he respects his wife so much. And his son will also respect and love you....and then when she first met my husband he was smoking and as soon as his father and mother came into the room he right away put out his cigarette...and he was a major in the army and she said that you know a man of that status, if he can respect his father so much he will be respectful and nice and this shows he has tradition and care...'

Another informant, in describing her marriage, emphasized the importance of family background. 

'Mainly it is knowing the families, the grandfathers. Now when I married, my father in law didn't know my family but at the engagement party this person she came and touched my grandmother's feet as a sign of respect... and my father in law he said how do you know this family? This person told him that my grandfather had converted his family, and so my father in law, it made him feel more confident about my side of the family and made him feel better about his son, and you know it makes a difference, it makes you feel confident about the family.'

Christians use the same criteria as Muslims in determining if the match is suitable: the families are similar, more or less equal in wealth, status and honour. The young woman is seen to be some one that will fit well into the groom's household, and that household is seen as a secure place to send a daughter. Personal preferences are considered, but the match must fit into the overall expectations of marriage in Lahore, the general perception of a marital relationship as one kin relationship among many that are activated by a marriage.

The middle class urban professional, like middle class Christians, are a small community. There is a small number of potential spouses to choose from, and this pool is separated. In addition, the educated professional middle class, like the educated urban elite, want educated spouses for their children. This has caused problems in families which have traditionally married relatives, since there is often educational discrepancy between different branches of the family. Particularly, parents are concerned about their daughters marring young men from the countryside. Like Christians, professional young people meet people they wish to marry. If the proposed spouses are suitable, parents are delighted - they are quite concerned at the problems in making a match.

One young man accompanied a friend to a stage performance in a local girl's college. He saw one of the students, acting as an usher, and met her. He told his parents he wished to marry her. His parents contacted her parents, the match was seen as suitable. The young people were allowed to talk on the phone once a week for three months. Then the two families began meeting, having dinner, going to the park. After another two months, the families asked the young people if they still wished to marry. When they said they did, a marriage was arranged and took place almost immediately.

This is more similar to Greentown in 1992 than it first appears. Sixteen and seventeen year old relatives of the bride and groom are very interested in evaluating the relatives of affinal kin as potential spouses - at one marriage I sat in front of three girls busy evaluating the cuteness of the groom's relatives, in much the same way that my friend's daughter used in talking to her friend after going to Gulberg. Marriages between two separate families often leads to other matches, and the girls are aware that the young men they see are potential spouses. 

Marriages among relatives is common, and the young people frequently know one another very well. Upper class Pakistanis are, obviously, more liberal in their treatment of children: they rely on sons and drivers to make sure the girls come to no harm. (Protecting the girl and her reputation is crucial.) 

But they have considerably more information about the people their children are going to meet than parents in Greentown. Very often, fathers have gone to Aitcheson and know the fathers of the young men their sons bring home. They know about the families of the children their children meet, and frequently can trace some kind of connection to them. Women do volunteer work, and meet other women like themselves on committees. If they don't know the family, they have a kin member who does. If the children appear to be pairing off, they determine if it is a suitable match and arrange to break it off if its not. The breaking off is often fairly subtle - allow the young woman to go to school in the States, arrange for another young man to come around regularly. Occasionally, children marry against their parents' wishes. Parents rage and then do what parents generally have done in this case: they accept the marriage with as much grace as possible. There have been occasional elopements in Greentown, and parents behave in precisely the same way.

In Greentown in 1982, families were far more more strict about contact between young men and women. In 1992, this has been relaxed somewhat. In 1982, residents had assumed a new status, one higher than that they had previously held. They were concerned to behave properly, to demonstrate that this new status is, of course, an accurate expression of their actual rank. In addition, they were in a new environment, one in which the neighbours were not known as well. They were surrounded by strangers, and indicators were seized on to try to assess the character and qualities of these new people. Quite small indications were used to make important, major decisions about the moral, social and financial worth of these unknown qualities. 

In 1992, strangers had become school fellows of one's children, neighbours who came in for tea, people that you knew well. The sons of families which were quite strict in 1982 had male friends in 1992 who had partly grown up in the household, running in and out, given a welcome, fed and chided (if necessary) by the mothers of the household. There are young men 'like brothers'. Sometimes, this results in marriages being arranged. Sometimes, even, young men ask their parents to arrange such a marriage with the friend of a sister and this is done. 

Such matches take account of both individual preferences and the requirements of the kin group. There is a range of possible partners, and if the young man expresses a preference for a suitable partner the families involved agree to the match. In 1982, considered hypothetically, people said that such an expressed preference would result in rejection of the match. (It is difficult to know if actual occurrences would be dealt with in that way.) In 1982, if a young man had an opportunity to feel a preference for a particular young woman, she must have been behaving badly. In 1992, the young people had grown up together.

Specifications, External Knowledge and Knowledge Distribution

The notion of 'rule' in anthropology has become contentious in recent years. This is particularly so when we are attributing rules to individuals making decisions. A consultant explains his brother's 'bad marriage' as follows: 

Every time we would go over to [her] house she would be sitting reading the Urdu newspaper like this [modelling]. From this we knew she was well educated. After the marriage she came into our house and gave me a present, which had written on the front, [his name] . I am always the big joker, so I say "This is not for me", and she says it is. I say "This is not my name." She looks at the name, and says, "Oh, this is not for you!" I knew then that she was not educated. (conversation in 1990, marriage in 1983)

He and his family probably do not have an explicit rule, if looking at newspaper then can read and thus is educated. This is not deductively logical: there is no logical necessity between looking at a paper, and being educated. Indeed this turns out to be an incorrect premise, using either the deductive or heuristic approach. What was applied to make this reading of the situation was the specification of a formal deductive world. The specification becomes the higher order model, and it is through the understanding of this model that the girl was able to deceive.

Large-scale holistic models of social phenomena follow from the modes of representation used by anthropologists, systems theory and structuralism, which were (and are) influential in social analysis. With exceptions, neither systems theory nor structuralism were adapted well for social analysis. Systems theory is largely conceptualised in anthropology as a means of presenting relationships as a fixed network of influences, often with more attention to the means of representation than content. Although the elements of the system can take on new states based on the behaviour of other elements, there is no mechanism for changing the elements and their links to other elements. Similarly structuralism, which has had a very successful run in the physical sciences, is used as a means of establishing patterns: the holy grail of content-free analysis. Both adaptations miss the point. The reason these tools have been successful elsewhere is because they permit a more explicit focus on content. The remarkable thing about differential equations in physics is not that these 'exist' in the data, but that we can use them as conceptual tools to establish regularities between different kinds of content in the data. In the physical sciences where these methods are used successfully they are used to describe the local behaviour of a relatively simple situation. If these are applied to a complex situation, especially over time, their power to describe decreases rapidly.

In trying to describe a large complex set of behaviour, such as arranging marriages, using a fixed large-scale global model is a hopeless enterprise. Even if a 'snap-shot' of such a structure could be so modelled, it would be unable to cope with future instances of this social structure. Social change ensures that this structure will not persist very long. Such a model is not very suitable for the kinds of data that anthropologists collect, for the most part small-scale accounts of individuals and their interactions. 

However, we believe that concepts of system and structure are essential for social analysis, but only if we concede that a system is not itself an object which globally defines local (e.g. small-scale) interactions, but the product of local interactions, and that structures are important because of their content, and not their form.

The theoretical position at the onset of this research framed human problem solving in social situations as a social activity: different people interacting to solve a problem, each with their own interests that were joint in a particular context. Because of the differences in interests of the participants it was assumed that the systemic view (the analytic view) would vary from the views of the participants in the situation; they would not be entirely aware of the situation they were jointly creating with others. However, it was implicitly assumed that each individual had a more or less complete view and more or less complete knowledge about his or her own activities. One of the consequences of a social knowledge-based orientation was that we had to examine the knowledge that people were bringing to solve the problem under scrutiny, that of arranging a marriage. By the end of the research it was apparent that the situation was rather different from that assumed. It was confirmed that many different individuals contributed to the solution. What appeared to break down was the assumption of complete knowledge of individuals. A great many of the activities that people engaged in were supported by the use of other people's knowledge (or their assumed knowledge) in meeting goals, and correspondingly providing the use of their own knowledge to others. Arranging a marriage was a human problem solving activity, though not of one human. Rather, it was the result of a number of cooperative and non-cooperative exchanges and uses of knowledge distributed throughout the community. In other words, a lot of the knowledge that people appeared to mobilize was knowledge about mobilizing other people's knowledge; specifications of the use of knowledge that they did not know, but knew about.

Decision processes are characteristically modelled using an 'ideal' self-contained decision maker, representative of a homogeneous group of such decision makers. Although theoretical abstraction is necessary, this level of abstraction fails to capture the heterogeneous composition of social groups. It also offers no prospect for modelling aspects of social processes which depend on the heterogeneous distribution of knowledge within a social group. 

This suggests two hypotheses about social change in general, which should be testable using existing ethnographic data from other areas. First, after change sufficient to alter social roles the affected individuals will adopt behaviour that they associate with these new roles, but in a reduced and 'uncreative' manner. These behaviours will be supported and reinforced by others in the community.This will be followed by rapid social change as people become more experienced in their new circumstances. Second, a general feature of individual life in all societies is changing status, and we should find similar 'reduced' behaviour on the part of individuals as they change status, which may play a part in supporting the stability of social norms over time.

Created by Admin on 2010/10/03 07:39
Unless otherwise indicated © 2007-2019 AnthroNexus
v 2019.1