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The Life Cycle

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Chapter Summary

As in other predominantly agricultural societies, in Eastern Turkestan, too, everyday life was punctuated by events of the life cycle. These rituals were both important vehicles for making and maintaining community and occasions for reciprocal exchange. Life-cycle rituals also involved individuals with whom kinship ties were loose or even non-existent. In contrast to religious rituals, the timing of which was prescribed by the Islamic calendar, life-cycle rituals depended on the important events of human life: birth, marriage, death and initiation rituals. Following birth the next major ritual in a boy?s life was his circumcision, which constituted the necessary precondition for him to enter the legal phase of maturity. The frequency of divorce and remarriage suggests that serial monogamy was much more frequent than polygamy. Celebrating female fertility, the transfer of presents and increased social status for the woman all run counter to the patriarchal ideology generally associated with Muslim societies.

Keywords: circumcision; death rituals; eastern Turkestan; female fertility; human community; life-cycle rituals; muslim societies; polygamy



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