Stéphane Gros (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), "Matrifocality and the House in Drapa (Zhaba)"
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The practice of a non-contractual, nonobligatory, and nonexclusive visiting sexual system among a matrilineal group in Southwest China has generated as much interest in anthropology as in the mass media. The Na (or Moso) who live on the border between Yunnan and Sichuan (near Lake Lugu) have come to be regarded internationally as an unusual case in the ethnography of the region. The Na case, though a striking example of a matrilineal system in an overall regional patrilineal environment, is not unique. These cases have to be considered from a cross-regional perspective and across contemporary ethnic boundaries. In Drapa (Zhaba), a valley south of Ta'u (Daofu) in Kardze Prefecture, a significant number of local Tibetan inhabitants still practice a form of visiting system. The visiting system which is associated with the uxorilocal residence for offspring from a non-contractual sexual relationship has so far been described as a form of union based on a matrilineal rule of descent. Using data that was collected during fieldwork conducted mainly in five different villages in the Drapa valley, this paper demonstrates that, while matrilineality prevails, the visiting system is not necessarily dependent on the respect of the matrilineal descent rule. The prime factor to be taken into consideration here is the importance of maintaining some continuity in the household. It can be said Drapa society is a matrifocal, household-oriented society in which most people play no social roles other than their kinship ones, and where the household is their only basic social affiliation. The matrifocal principle, when understood in combination with the household-centric orientation, should also be considered as a more general set of ideas with regards the house as a more complex set of relations that linked together the building, the household members, and forces associated with them, such as fortune, luck, prosperity, etc.
International conference “Territories, Communities, and Exchanges in the Sino-Tibetan Kham Borderlands,” Februray 18-20, 2016. This conference is an outcome of a collaborative ERC-funded research project (Starting grant no. 283870). For more information, please visit the project's Website: http://kham.cnrs.fr
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