The "control-over-land"-hypothesis of hypergamy

Mikael Aktor aktor at
Thu May 9 11:53:51 UTC 1996

Dear Indologists,

In a recent and remarkable book <Declan Quigley: _The Interpretation of
Caste_, Oxford, Clarendon, 1993, pp. 111-113> the author advances the
hypothesis that hypergamy can be explained in relation to strategies of
territorial expansions. His main idea seems to be that dominant families
from a more well-established political-administrative urban elite settled in
new urban centres in rural surroundings. At a certain point these families
would establish their sons in the surrounding villages together with wives
from the local land-owning families of lower rank, thereby obtaining control
over new land. While the land-owning families in the villages thus would
accept to enter into hypergamous relations with the princes (and benefit
from that), the landless families would insist on isogamy in order, at
least, to prevent the "even less powerful from entering their ranks."
Conclusion: "... hypergamy and isogamy are two sides of the same
hierarchical coin. Both are attempts to maximize one's status given the
political constraints of a society where power ultimately derives from
control over land."

Though all this is valuable, Quigley fails to answer the more tangible
questions that his hypothesis accumulate: Was / is land in fact transferred
from the wife-giving family to the wife-receiving - or what else is the
meaning here of "control over land"? In general, all information regarding
transactions of land in connection with marriage in pre-industrial India
would be very welcome. 

Kind regards

Mikael Aktor

Institute for History of Religions, University og Copenhagen,
Njalsgade 80, DK-2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark.

Phone: (45) 3532 8954 - Fax: (45) 3532 8956 - E-mail: aktor at

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list