avunculate


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avunculate

(əˈvʌŋkjʊlɪt)
n
(Anthropology & Ethnology) the custom in some societies of assigning rights and duties to a maternal uncle concerning his sister's son
adj
(Anthropology & Ethnology) of, relating to, or governed by this custom
Translations
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Both types of alliance are equally necessary to increase mutuality in segmentary groups prone to division and to multiply the overall wealth in people of descent groups (as well as the avunculate relations between them).
(4) This literature has an interesting queer prehistory, too, in essays on bachelors and old maids or what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick calls "Tales of the Avunculate: Queer Tutelage in The Importance of Being Earnest" (52-72).
Things like the prominence of the avunculate (the tie between mother's brother and sister's son) and the prevalence of animal imagery, according to Glosecki, point to an earlier culture that was matrilineal and totemic.
While the prevalence of the avunculate in Beowulf can be said to reflect the presence of an older culture where such relationships had a power and meaning, the full relevance of which is likely lost to the later Anglo-Saxons, for Tolkien's Middle-earth such depth of cultural history is not a condition of its creation.
Consider, for example, the avunculate and its association with matrilineal society, for Glosecki an important totemic reflex.
The figure of the benevolent unmarried uncle lives on in the figure of what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has termed "the avunculate." (32) In her analysis of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Sedgwick discusses the ways in which aunts and uncles, whose "intimate access to children needn't depend on their own pairings or procreation" have the potential to occupy an important role in the cultural politics of the family, providing children with "the possibility of alternate life trajectories" including "nonconforming or nonreproductive sexualities" ("Avunculate" 63).
(32.) See Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, "Tales of the Avunculate: The Importance of Being Earnest in Tendencies (Durham: Duke UP, 1993) 52-72.
Seeking to counter the ways "the nuclear family becomes a practically impermeable axiom of Victorian culture" (2), she employs a term from cultural anthropology, avunculate. In shifting attention to the uncle and to fluid kinship networks, thereby unsettling narratives of the rise of the nuclear family, she wishes to map out exogamous instead of endogamous relations and exchanges, ones not subject to patrilineage and social paternalism.
As the avunculate provided the Victorian cultural imagination with a commercial metaphor, her project necessarily brings into commerce varied discourses, methodologies, and approaches (feminism, Marxism, new historicism, poststructuralism, anthropology) with diverse texts.
While the Anglo-Saxon kinship system seems generally to be bilateral (one can inherit from either father's or mother's side), agnatically biased (at least at the aristocratic level), and lacking any clear evidence of corporate kindreds and clan holdings, Glosecki explores the extent to which one can find residues of the matrilineal in Beowulf, as especially reflected in the sister's-son avunculate, in Hygd's offer of the throne to Beowulf (in preference to her unready son), and in inheritence patterns not strongly patrilineal.
Keeping in mind that "the domestic group in preindustrial societies is usually the economic group,"(56) I view reflexes of the avunculate in Beowulf and the wills as traces of totemism.
In theory, then, the preexistence of an exogamous matriliny--the Grow kinship system--would explain why patrilineal kinship terms converge, why the avunculate leaves traces in Old English sources, why the "spindle-kin" retain notable status right to the end of the period, and why the Anglo-Saxon wills enrich nephews at the expense of sons.