News, Anthropology, Polygamy

This is one for which I need help.

Is there a serious debate, in the U.S., on the issue of polygamy?

Don’t really have access to U.S. television news. Been getting information through many other methods (many of them online). But this one is about television news in the U.S. and it could be interesting.

The latest Borowitz Report (Andy Borowitz’s spoofs, called “shockers”) is about polygamy:

CNN Switches to All-Polygamy Format

One thing about the Borowitz Report is that it often brings my attention to something in the actual news. Then, it’s easy for me to look it up on diverse news services and to dig up more details by going to diverse sources. Because it’s a spoof, the Borowitz Report doesn’t impose its conclusions on me. And it’s usually timely enough that it’s possible for me to read the deeper analysis instead of being caught up in all the knee-jerk reactions.

But, in this case, it’s about television news and mainstream media. My guess is that CNN ran a few stories on Warren Jeffs and such. And there are obviously some entrenched opinions on both sides. But given the fact that kinship systems, including marriage practises, are among the core areas of cultural anthropology, are there people (anthropologists and non-anthropologists) who are discussing polygamy in a broad way? In fact, are people talking about marriage in diverse contexts? Isn’t there anyone talking about the social basis of marriage?

For some reason, in the U.S., many people seem to assume that marriage has to do mostly with love, sexuality, or religion. And people there often think of polygamy as a way for a man to have sexual intercourse with many women. Perhaps because of Hugh Heffner’s life story. But isn’t Warren Beatty proof that you don’t need to be married to have sexual relationships with many different women?

Because of this association of marriage with sexuality, it’s often difficult to get people to discuss the social issues associated with polygyny and other kinship systems. For instance, the actual power afforded women in a polygynous household. Or the economic basis of marriage systems.
The debate over polygamy has been brewing for a while here in Canada and probably in the U.S. (where it’s connected with religion). But I’ve yet to see a serious attempt to discuss it in a thoughtful fashion.

Can anyone prove me wrong?

Thanks.

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

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