Social ills, II

February 10, 2012

I dug out my old anthropology course paper on the rehousing case study I referred to in my previous post.  My concluding paragraph reads,

When the urban, matrilocal Bethnal Greeners are transplanted to suburban housing estates, their family structure is altered from one of three generations to one of two.  The emphasis on the mother-daughter relationship is eclipsed by that of husband and wife.  Young and Willmott sense this is not a desirable state of affairs, in which women are very dependent on their husbands and very lonely, and in which the three generations cannot exchange services to their mutual benefit.  Yet they do not seem to see the close ties between women, especially between mother and daughter, as stemming from positive economic motive implying female control over home industry, but rather as a reflection of job insecurity in the public sphere dominated by men.  Whatever social organization is “better” for both men and women and whatever the economic and residential arrangements that this would require would be, it is clear that these three spheres are inextricably intertwined.  We cannot examine kinship relationships except in the context of past and present economic and environmental circumstances.  Perhaps in this way we will discover how to manipulate a system in which both men and women will enjoy equal access to both the domestic and public spheres.

The case study, or ethnography, I was writing about was Family and Kinship in East London, written by Michael Young and Peter Willmott, and published by Penguin Books in 1962.  I wrote my paper in December of 1977 for an anthropology class, and I called it, “The Effect of World War II on ‘Mum’ and the Family.”

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