Reconstituting Dowry and Brideprice in South China

Deborah Davis and Stevan Harrell

in Chinese Families in the Post-Mao Era

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 1993 | ISBN: 9780520077973
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520913578 | DOI:
Reconstituting Dowry and Brideprice in South China

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This chapter addresses theoretical debates in anthropology with regard to marital exchanges, which it uses to highlight the complexity of family dynamics and cultural exigencies as several generations of local residents experienced major transformations in the political economy during the last half-century. Most scholars who work on dowry and brideprice would agree that marital transfers affect and reflect relationships between the generations and between families. Jack Goody starts out arguing that dowry, which establishes a conjugal fund, is a form of “diverging devolution” common to complex stratified societies in Europe and Asia. For purposes of maintaining economic standing, families find it important to advance the status of daughters as well as sons, and so to allocate them a share in the parental estate. Goody contrasts dowry with bridewealth, a circulating fund common in classless societies.

Keywords: anthropology; marital exchanges; family; dowry; brideprice; Jack Goody; conjugal fund; bridewealth

Chapter.  11884 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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