Changing aspects of economic and family structures in Kalārdasht, a district in Northern Iran, up to 1978
This thesis is offered as a contribution to the ethnography of Iran. As such it is concerned with the description of some aspects of the economic and familial life in Kalardasht, a mountainous district in the Caspian provinces of Iran. It is concerned with the examination of the process of continuity and change in the economic and family structures in rural Iran and attempts to show how the structure of the family is changed by the involvement of the younger generation in an economy based on non-agricultural wage labour. The study is based on fieldwork carried out in four villages of the district from August 1977 to October 1978. One of these villages, Rudbarak, has experienced dramatic change, due to economic and administrative penetration of the region. The other three villages, due to their relative isolation, have retained their traditional way of life to a greater extent. A comparative dimension is inherent in the research sample: while analysis of the isolated villages provides some insight into the traditional economic structure and domestic organization, analysis of the rapidly changing village furnishes data on the areas of economic and familial life where change has taken, and is taking, place. The thesis is divided into two major parts. The first part offers an introduction to the villages under study and describes the traditional economy and recent changes in the economic structure. It illustrates the significance of external factors in transforming the socio-economic structure of the villages in the region; it also showns how over the past two decades the traditional subsistence economy of some of these villages has given way to wage labour based on non-agricultural activities. The second part deals with family organization and focuses on two particular aspects: marriage and the structure of the household. The study of changes in the traditional family in Rudbarak, and comparison with the three isolated villages, reveals important changes taking place in both the marriage system and the developmental cycle of the household. The new economic independence of young men. facilitated by the availability of non-agricultural employment, not only allows them a greater voice in the selection of their brides, but it also modifies traditional criteria in the evaluation of a· potential suitor and traditional expectations in regard to marriage transactions. The ideal and actual patterns of formation of domestic groups among different socio-economic sections are discussed and it is argued. that these various groups differ in terms of the realization of the ideal pattern. Further, the impact of socio-economic changes on the structure of the household is not uniform among the various socio-economic groups. However, the data from Kalardasht suggest that it is misleading to analyse the process of change in family structure solely. in terms of residential arrangements. For instance, the very fact that due to the availability of outside work, a married son now has the option of leaving the father's household has repercussions not only in the sphere of his relationship with the father but also on other interpersonal relationships within the household (e.g., mother-in-law and the bride).