Correction: hypergamy-hypothesis

Mikael Aktor aktor at
Mon May 13 09:56:26 UTC 1996

Thanks for valuable answers by Deavadas and Peter Claus. Obviously, the
subject is far from being exhausted, however, and more information /
reflection is welcome. I believe that the basic theme here, the relation
between women and land, is central. Land is often gendered as female, and
what is fascinating about Quigley's suggestions is that they indicate
relations between the two that are more than merely literary.

In fact, Declan Quigley responded to my first mail. Although he is not a
member of this list, it seems, another member was kind enough as to forward
the post to him. As his subsequent answer to me showed that my summary of
the pages referred to was not quite accurate his remarks ought to be forwarded:

>Date: Fri, 10 May 1996 10:58:36 +0000
>To: Mikael Aktor <aktor at>
>From: dquigley at (Declan Quigley)
>Subject: hypergamy

>I have just been forwarded the note you
>circulated concerning the argument I make about hypergamy in _The
>Interpretation of Caste_. In fact this is not MY hypothesis: it is Richard
>G. Fox's (1970 - see my book for the full reference) as I point out on
>p.111, and I simply combine his insights with Parry's work on hypergamy in
>north India and mine on isogamy in the Kathmandu Valley.
>Readers of your note might infer that this is THE main argument of my book
>when of course it is not.  In that particular chapter I am simply trying to
>integrate some of the material on caste and kinship into the general
>'king-centred' perspective on caste which seems to me the only one which
>makes much sense.  And in particular I am trying to show that hypergamy
>(which initially seems to imply a transgressing of caste boundaries) is not
>abnormal wherever one finds caste: quite the reverse.  On the question of
>the character of tribute marriages, I am not suggesting any uniform rule
>concerning control over land.  At one end of the spectrum there could be a
>situation where previous power-holders were simply swept away and the
>newcomers did not need to establish marriage ties with the erstwhile
>aristoracy (as was the case in the Kathmandu Valley at the end of the 18th
>century).  At the other, ruling lineages in one locality might establish
>tributary marriages with more powerful neighbours, giving daughters and
>nothing else, in the hope of _preventing_ more coercive political and
>economic control - alliance rather than threatened subjugation.  Marriage
>alliances among Nepal's Chetri lineages seem to follow this kind of
>pattern.  And, then, presumably there have been all sorts of variations in
>between these two extremes of alliance and outright hostility.


>For a more fleshed-out version of the argument with
>reference to one particular locale and its recent history, I refer you to
>the recent book I have edited with David N. Gellner: _Contested
>Hierarchies: A Collaborative Ethnography of Caste among the Newars of the
>Kathmandu Valley, Nepal_, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.



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

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