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Cousin Marriages: Between Tradition, Genetic Risk and Cultural Change

Alison Shaw
Aviad Raz
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Cousin Marriages
    Book Description:

    Juxtaposing contributions from geneticists and anthropologists, this volume provides a contemporary overview of cousin marriage and what is happening at the interface of public policy, the management of genetic risk and changing cultural practices in the Middle East and in multi-ethnic Europe. It offers a cross-cultural exploration of practices of cousin marriage in the light of new genetic understanding of consanguineous marriage and its possible health risks. Overall, the volume presents a reflective, interdisciplinary analysis of the social and ethical issues raised by both the discourse of risk in cousin marriage, as well as existing and potential interventions to promote "healthy consanguinity" via new genetic technologies.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-493-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    Alison Shaw and Aviad Raz
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-32)
    Alison Shaw and Aviad Raz

    This book explores what is happening in different parts of the world to traditional practices of cousin marriages in the light of an increasingly global discourse of genetic risk and new and emerging technologies for managing this risk. Cousin marriages can be understood as marriages between people who are closely related, usually as biological kin and often as first cousins, but ‘cousin’ can also denote genealogically more distant kin or even a social category rather than a genealogical position. Cousin marriage is widely described in anthropological literature as the ‘preferred’ type of marriage in many populations, particularly in the Middle...

  6. Chapter 1 The Prevalence and Outcomes of Consanguineous Marriage in Contemporary Societies
    (pp. 33-45)
    Alan H. Bittles

    The purpose of this first chapter is to provide readers with background information on consanguineous marriage that is essential for contextualizing the issues discussed in the individual case studies presented across the three parts of this book. After defining consanguineous marriage from a medical genetics perspective, the chapter goes on to describe its current global prevalence; attitudes towards consanguinity in the major world religions; the civil status of consanguineous marriage in different parts of the world; recent trends in rates of consanguineous marriage; and the relationships between close kin marriage, health, and genetic disorders.

    There is no hard and fast...

  7. Chapter 2 Risk Calculations in Consanguinity
    (pp. 46-62)
    Leo P. ten Kate, Marieke E. Teeuw, Lidewij Henneman and Martina C. Cornel

    Lay knowledge holding that consanguinity of parents carries a risk for the health of their children is widespread, especially in Western countries, but the level of this risk is often overestimated. In this chapter we will discuss how to arrive at realistic estimates of these risks. Such estimates are based partly on mathematical reasoning (risk calculation) and partly on empirical data (observational studies). For a proper understanding, we must start with some indispensable basic knowledge of formal genetics and population genetics. Next we will demonstrate how to arrive at consanguinity risk estimates for single diseases. Risk estimates for all autosomal...

  8. Part I: Continuity and Change in Traditional Consanguineous Marriage

    • Chapter 3 Cousin Marriages and Inherited Blood Disorders in the Sultanate of Oman
      (pp. 65-87)
      Claire Beaudevin

      This chapter uses the case of inherited blood disorders (IBD) as a lens through which to examine the impacts of a global biomedical discourse of genetic risk in cousin marriage in the particular context of implementing genetics services in the Sultanate of Oman, and against the backdrop of a regional public health agenda regarding IBD in the Gulf states. IBD currently represent the very core of the emerging medical genetics services in Oman, as well as in several of the other oil-rich Gulf countries (Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia). Oman has experienced profound and rather extraordinary social upheavals...

    • Chapter 4 ‘Dangerous Liaisons’: Modern Biomedical Discourses and Changing Practices of Cousin Marriage in Southeastern Turkey
      (pp. 88-110)
      Laila Prager

      In recent years there have been public debates in some European countries on the genetic risks of so-called ‘customary marriages’, especially marriages between cousins. The European media maintain that in Western Europe cousin marriages have noticeably increased, as a result of the influx of migrants from the Middle East who – as many of the commentators declare with utter conviction – remain devoted to the ‘ traditional’ marriage practices of their countries of origin (cf. Elderen et al. 2010; Giordano et al. 1998: 244; Port and Bittles 2001: 97–98; 415–416). In the UK and in Germany, debate has centred on...

  9. Part II: Cousin Marriages within Migrant Populations in Europe

    • Chapter 5 British Pakistani Cousin Marriages and the Negotiation of Reproductive Risk
      (pp. 113-129)
      Alison Shaw

      Fifty years after substantial Pakistani migration to Britain began, there is no firm evidence of any significant decline in the rate of consanguineous and especially first cousin marriage among the children and grandchildren of pioneer-generation migrants. This contradicts the general expectation that cousin marriage will decline with urbanization, modernization and the transition to smaller families (see Introduction and chapter one of this volume). Since the 1980s, evidence has also accumulated showing that consanguineous marriage among British Pakistanis confers a significant health risk for children: the prevalence of many mostly very rare recessive genetic conditions is higher among British Pakistanis than...

    • Chapter 6 A Cousin Marriage Equals a Forced Marriage: Transnational Marriages between Closely Related Spouses in Denmark
      (pp. 130-153)
      Anika Liversage and Mikkel Rytter

      In some Western European countries immigrants’ transnational consanguineous marriages have been debated from the perspective of genetic risk (see chapter five, this volume). In Denmark, consanguineous immigrant marriages have also been the topic of public and political debate. However, the discussions have primarily centred not on health issues but on the risk that transnational consanguineous marriages are forced marriages. To counter this concern, the Danish Parliament in 2003 introduced the ‘rule of supposition of forced marriage’ – often referred to simply as either the ‘rule of supposition’ or as ‘the cousin rule’ – which made it very difficult for a married couple...

    • Chapter 7 Changing Patterns oF Partner Choice? Cousin Marriages among Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands
      (pp. 154-172)
      Oka Storms and Edien Bartels

      In the Netherlands, the majority population regards marriage between cousins as incestuous and inviting the risk of having disabled offspring; the practice is, therefore, taboo. In present-day politics in the Netherlands, cousin marriage is also directly associated with forced marriage (see chapter six on the similar political stance adopted in Denmark). The current government therefore proposes to enact a law prohibiting cousin marriage in cases of forced marriage.¹ Furthermore, consanguineous unions among immigrant groups – specifically Dutch Moroccans and Turks – are also subject to political debate in the context of immigration policy. However, the (recent) political debate on the prohibition of...

  10. Part III: Consanguinity and Managing Genetic Risk

    • Chapter 8 Using Community Genetics for Healthy Consanguinity
      (pp. 175-184)
      Joël Zlotogora

      Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Israeli population has witnessed many changes and a very significant health improvement was achieved. For instance, the infant mortality rates declined more than tenfold from 37.3 in 1955 to 3.6 per 1,000 live births in 2011. However, across this time period, a significant gap has remained between infant mortality rates in the Israel’s Jewish population (2.7 per 1,000 live births in 2011) and among Israel’s non-Jews (6.6 per 1,000 live births in 2011) (Statistical abstracts of Israel 2013). These differences have been explained by the higher rates of congenital...

    • Chapter 9 Premarital Carrier Testing and Matching in Jewish Communities
      (pp. 185-201)
      Aviad E. Raz

      This chapter focuses on the use of carrier screening for premarital matching, as it has developed in Jewish communities characterized by endogamy (and sometimes consanguinity), high prevalence of severe recessive diseases, arranged marriages, and a religious ban on abortion. When administered by the state, such programmes for ‘healthy endogamy’ (see chapter eight, this volume) may result in criticism for their medicalization of spouse selection, marriage and family planning. Although the Jewish programme, which was developed by the community and for the community, has often received justified praise, this chapter will also consider some of its downsides, including the stigmatization of...

    • Chapter 10 Preconception Care for Consanguineous Couples in the Netherlands
      (pp. 202-217)
      Marieke E. Teeuw, Pascal Borry and Leo P. ten Kate

      Current counselling and screening recommendations for consanguineous couples before a pregnancy (also referred to as the preconception phase) focus on taking a thorough medical history and informing couples about their increased risk, but no additional screening is advised based on consanguinity alone (Bennett et al. 2002; Modell and Darr 2002). If the couple has a ‘positive’ family history for a genetic disorder (if there is a known family history of a genetic condition), genetic counsellors can predict the percentage of additional risk for a child with this specific disorder and can offer, if available, carrier and prenatal testing to the...

  11. Afterword The Marriage of Cousins in Victorian England
    (pp. 218-228)
    Adam Kuper

    Charles Darwin married his cousin Emma Wedgwood in January 1839, a few weeks before his thirtieth birthday. Emma was not only his first cousin. She was also his sister-in-law. Her oldest brother, ‘young Jos’, had married Charles’s sister, Caroline, in 1837 (Figure 11.1).

    Cousin marriage was eminently respectable. In 1840, a year after Charles Darwin’s wedding, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who was her mother’s brother’s son. The Prime Minister, Melbourne, did suggest that their close relationship might be a problem, but the press was more concerned that Albert had no money and might be a...

  12. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 229-234)
  13. Index
    (pp. 235-238)