The republic of cousins: women's oppression in Mediterranean society

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Al Saqi Books, Dec 1, 1983 - Social Science - 181 pages
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The social position of women in many of the countries ringing the Mediterranean is notoriously inferior. Across North Africa and along much of the Mediterranean's eastern shore, the 'crime of honour' - in which a woman suspected of having violated a stringent code of sexual behaviour is murdered by members of her own family - is rarely punished severely. Women spend their entire lives under the formal control and 'protection'of their fathers, brothers, husbands.

In this classic work, now in its fifth edition in France, Germaine Tillion argues that this extreme form of oppression is not an aberration specific to Islam, but part of a legacy from pagan prehistory that weighs upon Christian and Muslim society alike. The rise of the Republic of Cousins was a unique Mediterranean social innovation whereby the immemorial incest taboo was relaxed and marriage between first cousins in the paternal line became common. It set the stage for the debasement of the female condition and for much else besides, from economic expansionism to high birthrates. In the hinterlands of the Mediterranean's northern shore, the Republic of Cousins ultimately gave way to the modern Republic of Citizens, though not without leaving deep traces in European and eventually American society. On the southern shore it still persists widely to this day, and many of its practices have been absorbed into Islam so profoundly that they are considered Islamic in origin by the peoples of Morocco and Algeria themselves.

In support of her thesis Tillion draws upon authors as diverse as Herodotus, Saint Paul, and Ibn Khaldun, on legend and literature, ethnography and personal history, sociological investigation and fascinating anecdote. The Republic of Cousins is a work of engaging charm and impressive scope, a blend of scientific insight, irreverent wit, and provocative speculation.

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Concerning EthnologyPreface to the Fourth Edition
From the Republic of BrothersinLaw to
The PalaeoPolitical Age

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About the author (1983)

Germaine Tillion, former Director of Studies of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris, is an anthropologist with unrivalled knowledge of nomads and settled agriculturalists in North Africa. She lived in Algeria for several years before the Second World War, and was active in the Resistance during the war. She was arrested and deported to Ravensbruck concentration camp, and later campaigned against the use of torture by French forces during the war for Algerian independence. In the course of a long career, she made twenty-one research trips to Morocco and Algeria, concentrating on areas of nomadism.

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