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Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, London


Kinship is understood dynamicallyandprocessuallybutkinshipterminologies are remarkably stable idea systems. They provide cultural continuity over time and are more resistant to modification than many types of cultural instantiations.Miskituspeakers in Nicaragua, however, have adopted new kin terms that appear to have fundamentally changed the idea system used to generate their kin terms historically. The shape of the changes that have occurred in Miskitu kin terminologies over time are the result of powerful economic, political and social forces introduced, in part, as a consequence of the geography of Mosquito Coast economies, migrations and political processes. We argue that the current use of kin terms is atypically hybrid and is not the result of a single, algebraically derivable idea system. Rather than negating the validity of mathematical approaches to kinship terminologies, the case of Miskitu kinship terminology suggests that core idea systems, although subject to change over time, movebetweeninformationallyeconomicalforms adapted to socioeconomic changes.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.


Structure and Dynamics

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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