Incest, Endogamy & Exogamy: Definition & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has an M.A in instructional education.

Across nearly every society, there are three main rules that have governed marriage: incest, exogamy, and endogamy. Learn more about the definitions of incest, endogamy, and exogamy, and review examples of each. Updated: 10/20/2021

Rules Governing Marriage

Movies and TV dramas have done a pretty good job of convincing the Western world that marriage takes place when a guy and a girl fall in love from across a crowded room. Then, after a series of mishaps and reconciliations, they walk into the sunset, forever starry-eyed and in love. Although this makes for a great chick flick, it's really not the way marriage occurs in most of the world.

On the contrary, marriage across the globe is usually regulated by the rules and structure of a society. Three of these rules are the rules of the incest taboo, exogamy, and endogamy. In today's lesson, we will seek to break down these rules and give some examples of them from around the globe.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Bride Price, Dowry & Other Economic Marriage Customs

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Rules Governing Marriage
  • 0:45 Incest Taboo
  • 1:40 Exogamy
  • 2:55 Endogamy
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Incest Taboo

Because incest taboos are found in all cultures, we'll start with this topic. As the name implies, an incest taboo prohibits sexual intercourse or marriage between different categories of kin. In speaking of the incest taboo, anthropologists note that no modern society allows the marriage of mother to son, father to daughter, or sister to brother.

In our more modernized culture, this taboo has grown to include extended family relationships as well. For example, cousins don't marry cousins. This is also an example of the incest taboo.

Still, it should be noted that some past societies did allow marriage between these now prohibited groups. However, even in ancient times, these marriages were usually only reserved for royal families trying to keep the reins of power tightly within their bloodline. A great example of this is Cleopatra, who's believed to have been married off to at least two of her brothers.

Exogamy

Our next governing rule of marriage is exogamy. Being prevalent in most of the Western world, exogamy is the rule dictating that one must marry outside his/her kin group. However, in some cultures, exogamy can also extend to forbid marrying within one's own community, tribe, or village. Playing on words to make this one a bit easier to remember, exogamy states that one must exit his group in order to pick his bride!

Anthropologists often assert that this is done in areas in which cooperation between differing tribes is necessary for survival. For instance, if one tribe only hunts, and another tribe only plants, the best way for them to ensure sharing is to marry off members of their society to one another.

An excellent example of exogamy, cited by the work of Carol and Melvin Ember, is the Rani Khera village of India, in which women from both far and near villages travel to Rani Khera to marry its men. Again, citing the work of the Embers for another example, the average !Kung tribesman of Africa travels at least 40 miles to find a wife. And we Westerners think long-distance relationships are a drag! Imagine 40 miles in the heat of Africa or India!

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Resources created by teachers for teachers

Over 30,000 video lessons & teaching resources‐all in one place.
Video lessons
Quizzes & Worksheets
Classroom Integration
Lesson Plans

I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.

Jennifer B.
Teacher
Jennifer B.
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account