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Eliciting Kinship Terminologies as Generative Idea Systems
Every community has multiple recognized types of social organization.Each type usually involves multiple actual organizations.Each organization is built up interactively by the use of a specific idea system: governmental organizations are built up by the use of governmental ideas, military organizations by the use of military ideas, economic organizations by the use of economic ideas, and so on. Each idea system has distinctive contents and a distinctive, coherent, logic. They are distinct social geometries. Kinship systems are built up by the use of kinship idea-systems. For brevity, we call kinship idea systems kinship maps. Kinship maps have been studied for over a century under the heading of “kinship terminologies.” This characterization involves assumptions that have distorted and obscured their true character, just as it would distort the true character of Euclidian geometry to call it a “geometrical nomenclature.”This paper describes a method for the field elicitation of kinship maps that both depends upon and confirms their logical structure as generative systems.It is an experimental method in the sense that every time it is applied, the application amounts to experimental test of a theory of kinship, and of social organization in general, as constructed from such idea systems and their instantiations. Every time the method works it serves as an experimental confirmation of the theory. So far, it has worked in every society where it has been applied.