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This dissertation examines siblingship in the Garifuna village of Hopkins, an Afro-Amerindian community in southern Belize. It is based on intensive interviews with individual informants and comprehensive genealogical and demographic data that I collected during fieldwork there in 1987-89.

In this study, I describe variations of Garifuna siblingship and changes in siblingship over time. I consider relationships between individual siblings and investigate sibling groups acting in solidarity or disunion towards other Garifuna social units and the outside world. I evaluate sibling interdependencies from childhood to old age in ordinary affairs and at times of crisis. In addition to looking at differences between full-siblings and half-siblings, I also examine how more distant kinship ties and affairs between unrelated persons are sometimes expressed in an idiom of fictive siblingship.

Garifuna siblingship is analyzed in terms of gender roles, economic status, and property ownership and in relationship to parenting, godparenting, marriage, inheritance, emigration, employment, child fosterage, personal kindreds, social networks, and household composition. Through examination of siblingship in patterns of emotional and economic support, domestic and political authority, affective bonding, child rearing, food sharing, and job seeking, I elucidate the factors that activate and strengthen or weaken such relationships.

Garifuna siblingship is a cultural-symbolic ideal as well as a behavioral practice, and this study assesses the relationship of cultural values to actual behavior. Siblingship ideals are related to broader Garifuna ideals about egalitarianism and individualism and to non-Garifuna cultural influences from outside the community such as churches, schools, and government agencies.


Fulbright Grant; Tinker/Mellon Field Research Grant; UNM GSA; International Book Project

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UNM Department of Anthropology

First Committee Member (Chair)

Mari Lyn Salvador

Second Committee Member

Jane Hood

Third Committee Member

Jane Lancaster

Fourth Committee Member

Karl Schwerin

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