Anthropology and Development by Lucy Mair (auth.)

By Lucy Mair (auth.)

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Such households do not represent any older tradition; they are wholly the product of modem conditions. They have been observed principally in Caribbean countries, and their existence has often been accounted for by the assumption that the peoples of those countries are sexually promiscuous and their men have no sense of responsibility towards their children or themothers of those children. R. T. Smith (1956) showed from a study made in (then) British Guiana that it is largely because men have so strong a sense of responsibility towards their own mothers that they cannot always support the mothers of their own children.

A detailed account of life in such a family in Mysore was written very recently (Hobson, 1978). The house described stood in a street, with a narrow space between it and the next. All the women slept in one room, each on a rush mat with her children around her,and all the men in another, the room where they also ate. In the floor of this room was a sunken area where those who needed ritual purification must wash, and anyone could; any women might wash any of the children. Each woman kept her personal possessions in a locked box in the sleeping room.

Later the mining areas of southern and central Africa drew their labour force from distant parts of the continent; at first these workers too were constrained by long-term contracts which it was a criminal offence to break, but as time went on a period of spontaneous migration came to be taken for granted as a part of every man's life. There was similar migration from the Caribbean Islands to the United States, and indeed from Ireland to England. Since the end of the Second World War Family and Kinship 37 there has been large-scale migration oflabour from the poorer to the richer European countries, perhaps to be seen at its most striking when peasants from southern France are found working on the oil rigs in the North Sea.

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