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Hum Nat. 2011 Jul;22(1-2):177-200. doi: 10.1007/s12110-011-9108-6. Epub 2011 May 31.

The matrilocal tribe: an organization of demic expansion.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, 102 Stewart Building, Salt Lake City, UT 84102, USA.


This article integrates (1) research in the historical dynamics of state societies relating group solidarity and group expansion to cultural frontiers, (2) comparative research in anthropology relating matrilocality to a particular variety of internal politics and a particular form of warfare, and (3) interdisciplinary reconstructions of large-scale "demic expansions" and associated kinship systems in prehistory. The argument is that "metaethnic frontiers," where very different cultures clash, are centers for the formation of larger, more enduring, and more militarily effective groups. In small-scale non-state societies, the major path toward the formation of such groups is the establishment of cross-cutting ties among men. This often involves the adoption of matrilocal norms. The current distribution of matrilocality and matrilineality around the world may be partly a residue of major demic expansions in prehistory involving matrilocal tribes. This hypothesis is evaluated with a range of evidence, including information regarding the spread of two language families, Bantu and Austronesian.

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