Accepted Paper:

The matrifocal house in nDra-pa (Zhaba)  


Stéphane Gros (CNRS)

Paper short abstract:

This paper presents the first results of fieldwork research conducted in nDrapa (Zhaba) where a form of visiting system similar to that of the Na (Moso) is found. The paper identifies a matrifocal principle combined with a household-centric orientation, and calls for cross-regional comparisons.

Paper long abstract:

In nDrapa (Zhaba), a valley south of Ta'u (Daofu) in Kardze Prefecture (Sichuan province, China), a significant number of local Tibetan inhabitants practice a form of visiting system similar to that of the Na (Moso). The visiting system which is associated with the uxorilocal residence for offspring from a non-contractual sexual relationship has so far been described as a form of union based on a matrilineal rule of descent. This paper shifts the angle of analysis and proposes to foreground the importance of the household as a key social unit. Using data that was collected during fieldwork conducted mainly in five different villages in the Drapa valley, this paper demonstrates that, while matrilineality prevails, the visiting system is not necessarily dependent on the respect of the matrilineal descent rule. The prime factor to be taken into consideration here is the importance of maintaining some continuity in the household. It can be said Drapa society is a matrifocal, household-oriented society in which most people play no social roles other than their kinship ones, and where the house¬hold is their only basic social affiliation. Such an analysis can help fruitfully revisit the Na (or Moso) people practice of a non-contractual, non-obligatory, and non-exclusive visiting sexual system, and reconsidered it from a cross-regional perspective and across contemporary ethnic boundaries.

Panel RM-KG04
Naxi and Mosuo peoples in China and their Eastern Asian Neighbors