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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Endogamy is the practice of marrying within a specific ethnic group, class, or social group, rejecting others on such bases as being unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships. A Danish endogamist, for example, would require that a marriage be only with another Dane.

Endogamy is common in many cultures and ethnic groups, but globalization tends to counteract this tendency by exposing isolated ethnic groups to a wider variety of people and cultures. Several ethnic religious groups are notably endogamous, although with the added dimension of requiring marital religious conversion, permitting an ostensibly endogamous marriage to be performed since the convert has accepted the partner's culture. Certain groups such as Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews[1] have practiced endogamy strictly as an inherent part of their religious beliefs and traditions.


Endogamy, proponents say, encourages group affiliation and bonding. It is a common practice among displanted cultures attempting to make roots in new countries as it encourages group solidarity and ensures greater control over group resources (which may be important to preserve when a group is attempting to establish itself within an alien culture). Endogamy helps minorities survive over a long time in societies with other practices and beliefs.

Famous examples of strictly endogamous religious groups have been the Assyrians, Jews, Yazidi in Northern Iraq (under Islamic majority), Turkmens and Armenians in Iran, Old Order Amish, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and the Parsi of India (a non-Hindu minority in India). Through the 1940-1950s in the United States, the Catholic Church was successful at keeping its people marrying within the Catholic community. Since the 1960s, that has been changing as well. The caste system in India is based on an order of (predominantly) endogamous groups. Its formation has been suggested to have originated from the social organization of these groups.

The isolationist practices of endogamy may lead to a group's extinction rather than its survival when genetic disease can affect a larger percentage of the population. For instance, while long serving to preserve their religion, the Samaritans' practice of endogamy now threatens this community: refusal to intermarry, in conjunction with their non-acceptance of converts, has led the population of this ethnic group to decrease to fewer than one thousand. Such a small gene pool has contributed to genetic disease within the community.

Endogamy also plays an important role in social stratification of different social factors, such as occupations, activities, or education. This type of social endogamy is apparent in the United States because occupations have become a chief form of social networking for many adults after college. For instance, actors and actresses generally marry or bond with people in a similar industry.

Class endogamy affects social mobility: children of top executives have an easier time following a similar path as their parents due to similarities between the two, but also the power that executives have in modern corporations allowing them to influence hiring and promotion decisions. Elite families generally contribute to endogamy within big business, producing social links that are carried forward and keep certain groups restrictive. There have been such rapid changes in business and technology, however, that new fields open up where people of achievement can create new hierarchies. Professions also establish endogamy: A child growing with doctor parents, for instance, learns to be at home in that world and is likely to choose a similar education and career; a son or daughter of a famous actor or musician has a much greater chance of becoming a successful performer compared to the son or daughter of an average worker.[2]

Fraternities and sororities at many universities in the United States are a good example of endogamy: Members generally date within these organizations, fostered by special events held exclusively between these organizations.

Endogamy causes groups to be less diversified because of the desire to stay within one's social group. For example, the percentage of interracial marriages in the United States is small compared to all marriages. With increased ethnic diversity and changing social attitudes among many people, younger people are entering into such marriages more often.[3]

See also


  1. ^ New Light on Origins of Ashkenazi in Europe - New York Times
  2. ^ Brudner, Lilyan A., and Douglas R. White. Class, Property, and Structural Endogamy: Visualizing Networked Histories, University of California, Irvine. Academic Publisher, 1997. 1-48. 14 Nov. 2007.
  3. ^ Belding, Theodore C. Nobility and Stupidity: Modeling the Evolution of Class Endogamy, University of Michigan. 2004. 1-25. 7 Nov. 2007.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

'ENDOGAMY (Gr. vbov, within, and 'yaµos, marriage), marriage within the tribe or community, the term adopted to express the custom compelling those of a tribe to marry among themselves. Endogamy was probably characteristic of the very early stages of social organization (see Family), and is to-day found only among races low in the scale of civilization. As a custom it is believed to have been preceded in most lands by the far more general rule of Exogamy. Lord Avebury (Origin of Civilisation, p. 154) points out that "there is not the opposition between exogamy and endogamy which Mr McLennan supposed." Some races which are endogamous as regards the tribe are exogamous as regards the gens. Thus the Abors, Kochs, Hos and other peoples of India, are forbidden to marry out of the tribe; but the tribe itself is divided into "keelis" or clans, and no man is allowed to take as wife a girl of his own "keeli." Endogamy must have in most cases arisen from racial pride, and a contempt, either well or ill founded, for the surrounding peoples.

Among the Ahtena of Alaska, though the tribes are extremely militant and constantly at war, the captured women are never made wives, but are used as slaves. Endogamy also prevails among tribes of Central America. With the Yerkalas of southern India a custom prevails by which the first two daughters of a family may be claimed by the maternal uncle as wives for his sons. The value of a wife is fixed at twenty pagodas (a 16th-century Indian coin equivalent to about five shillings), and should the uncle forgo his claim he is entitled to share in the price paid for his nieces. Among some of the Karen tribes marriages between near relatives are usual. The Douignaks, a branch of the Chukmas, seem to have practised endogamy; and they "abandoned the parent stem during the chiefship of Janubrix Khan about 1782. The reason of this split was a disagreement on the subject of marriages. The chief passed an order that the Douignaks should intermarry with the tribe in general. This was contrary to an ancient custom and caused discontent and eventually a break in the tribe" (Lewin's Hill Tracts of Chittagong, p. 65). This is interesting as being one of the few cases in which evidence of a change in this respect is available. The Kalangs of Java are endogamous, and every man must first prove his common descent before he can enter a family. The Manchu Tatars prohibit those who have the same family names from marrying. Among the Bedouins "a man has an exclusive right to the hand of his cousin." Hottentots seldom marry out of their own kraal, and David Livingstone quotes other examples. Endogamy seems to have existed in the Sandwich Islands and in New Zealand. A community of Javans near Surabaya, on the Teugger Hills, numbering about 1200 persons, distributed in about forty villages, and still following the ancient Hindu religion, is endogamous. Good examples of what biologists call "in-and-in breeding" are to be found in various fishing villages in Great Britain, such as Itchinferry, near Southampton, Portland Island, Bentham in Yorkshire, Mousehole and Newlyn in Mountsbay, Cornwall, Boulmer near Alnwick (where almost all the inhabitants are called Stephenson, Stanton or Stewart), Burnmouth, Ross and (to some extent) Eyemouth in Berwickshire, Boyndie in Banffshire, Rathen in Aberdeenshire, Buckhaven in Fifeshire, Portmahomack and Balnabruach in Eastern Ross.

In France may be mentioned the commune of Batz, near Le Broisic in Loire-Inferieur, many of the central cantons of Bretagne, and the singular society called Foreatines - supposed to be of Irish descent - living between St Arnaud and Bourges. Many other European examples might be mentioned, such as the Marans of Auvergne, a race of Spanish converted Jews accused of introducing syphilis into France; the Burins and Sermoyers, chiefly cattle-breeders, scattered over the department of Ain and especially in the arrondissement of Bourg-en-Bresse; the Vaqueros, shepherds in the Asturias Mountains; and the Jewish Chuetas of Majorca.

See Gilbert Malcolm Sproat's Scenes and Studies of Savage Life; Westermarck's History of Human Marriage (1894); Lord Avebury's Origin of Civilisation (1902); J. F. McLennan's Primitive Marriage (1865).

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