Family Honour and the Purity of the Family’s Essence: A Relational Models Approach

These four models are  communal sharing, authority ranking, equality matching, and  market pricing. Each of these models is applied for different purposes. Communal sharing is applied when the participants in the relationship can be treated as equivalent; authority ranking is applied when relationship partners have asymmetric positions in a linear hierarchy Needs clearer definition—does it apply when both partners desire an unequal power distribution? Or just one partner?; equality matching is applied when the goal is an even distribution of resources; and market pricing is applied when the partners base their relationship on cost-benefit analyses. Though the four models are equally important for structuring social lives, we will only focus on communal sharing because of its relevance to honour concerns.

In a communal sharing relationship partners see each other as equivalent and undifferentiated. They treat each other not according to individual identities but according to the shared identity– people within the group are the same, outsiders are different. This principle of equivalence means that people take whatever they need and contribute with whatever they can. Members of the group do not keep track of what each member takes and gives (Fiske, 1992; Fiske & Haslam, 2005). Communal sharing organizes the relationship when people have in common something socially meaningful that differentiates them from outsiders. Some of the most intense communal relationships are constituted through sharing related to the body; participants share several aspects of their bodies (i.e., tattoos, clothes) or there is something that their bodies share in common (anessence). Thereby, communion is generated and developed by acts such as giving birth, nursing, breastfeeding, going through rites of blood sharing (i.e., blood brotherhood), commensal eating and drinking, and skin-to-skin contact. Sharing bodily substances creates a categorical bond among people. Thus, the act of sharing substances is a material sign of a social relation. It strengthens the social cohesion and the identification with the in-group (Fiske, 1992; Fiske, 2004; Fiske & Fiske, 2007).

When people perceive that everyone in the in-group shares essential substances (i.e., blood, food, or drinks), they apply a communal relationship model (Fiske, 1992; Fiske, 2004; Fiske & Fiske, 2007). Generally, communion makes people feel that all members of the group are of the same kind, are united by a common identity, or a common essence. This collective essence raises concerns about contamination of the group, i.e., fears that they can be vulnerable to pollution. Once one member is polluted, the whole group can be contaminated (Fiske, 1992).

Because family cohesion and loyalty to the family are especially important in cultures of honour, we should find in these cultures particularly strong communal relationships within families, which should result in concerns about the purity of the family’s essence. The pollution of the shared essence within a group is mostly related to sexual issues, specifically sexual penetration. Accordingly, women in cultures of honour are expected to have sexual shame. They are expected to protect their virginity until getting married and be restrained in their relations with men (Rodriguez Mosquera et al., 2002). Men are expected to conserve their masculinity. The contamination of the essence can happen when a person gets penetrated. Anthropological evidence shows that in a male homosexual relationship, little stigma is attached to the man who penetrates. The slur is directed to the one who is penetrated (Carrier, 1977).

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