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Mauritania Table of Contents


Maure Kinship and Marriage

The principal Maure kinship group is the patrilineage. Among sedentary Maures, the smallest segment of the patrilineage is a group of related males who, with their wives, sons, and unmarried daughters, constitute the extended family. Among nomadic groups, the significant unit is the camp group, consisting of several related lineage units and their extended families. The clan, the subtribe, and the tribal unit are groups of increasingly greater inclusiveness, each of which in principle is organized on the basis of patrilineal descent.

Marriage is almost always within the same clan, and lineages are endogamous as well. Islamic marriage prescriptions are generally followed, with the preferred marriage pattern between first cousins and strict prohibitions on marriage between other, specified relatives. In general, tradition emphasizes marriage within the lineage first, then within one's social level.

Polygyny is accepted among most Maure groups, but relatively few Maures actually have more than one wife at a time. Successive marriages are common, however, especially among elites. Marriage to a widow or a divorced woman entails a lower bride-price than a first marriage. Although levirate (marriage of a widow to her deceased husband's brother) is permitted, widows generally live with one of their sons rather than remarry.

Data as of June 1988