Friday, February 23, 2007

Carnival and endogamy

It seems that German Carnival floats will be back to normal this year, at least in Düsseldorf. Last year, after the Cartoon hoo-ha, the subject of Islam was banned as a target of satire. It was one of the many cases of pre-emptive censorship confirming Europe's spinelessness. Well, one vertebra may not a backbone make, but it's better than none.

The organisers don't publicise the floats before the big day, but there are photos here of some that were banned last year. One shows four Muslim women. The first wears a head-scarf, the second a niqab and the third a burqa. The fourth is inside a bin-bag.

Speaking of which, Stanley Kurtz puts the restrictions on Muslim women into a broader context of a society based on patrilineal family loyalty and honour. He takes you on a not-entirely mind-contorting journey through the anthropological concepts of endogeny and exogeny, parallel-cousin marriage and cross-cousin marriage and cultural con- and discon-tinuity. But it is a fascinating exposure of Arab exceptionalism - almost the only social group in the world to prefer marriage within the patriarchal group to outside it and so reject the benefits of what many anthropologists, including Levi-Strauss, had seen as a fundamental human survival technique.

There are two parts, here and here, with more promised.

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