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Forbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriage [Paperback]

by Martin Ottenheimer
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 1996 0252065409 978-0252065408 First Edition
Forbidden Relatives challenges the belief - widely held in the United States - that legislation against marriage between first cousins is based on a biological risk to offspring. In fact, its author maintains, the U.S. prohibition against such unions originated largely because of the belief that it would promote more rapid assimilation of immigrants. A social anthropologist, Martin Ottenheimer questioned U.S. laws against cousin marriage because his research into marriage patterns around the world showed no European countries prohibit such unions. He examines the historical development of U.S. laws governing marriage, contrasts them with European laws, and analyzes the genetic implications of first cousin marriage. Modern genetic evidence, Ottenheimer says, doesn't support the concept that children of these unions are at any special risk.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 179 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; First Edition edition (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252065409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252065408
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #826,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
99 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have we made a Taboo-boo? December 20, 2000
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a work of social anthropology. The author is a professor of anthropology at Kansas State University. It is a quick and easy read even if you managed to avoid anthropology classes in school like I did. References in the text are conveniently relegated to the ten page bibliography.
Students of human societies will find this book fascinating of course. Family historians who may find that their lines "cross" more than once due to cousin marriage will also learn a great deal from this book. The acceptability and legality of cousin marriage has varied over time and cultures for a variety of reasons. This book is a guide to understanding those historical and cultural reasons. From Leviticus to Archbishop Parker's Table in the Book of Common Prayer, marriage prohibitions based on the degrees of consanguinity have effected how our families combine for millennia. This book is important background to understanding how families came to be the way they are.
The book examines the social and legal prohibitions against cousin marriage in the United States by reviewing their history and comparing U.S. prohibitions to laws and customs about cousin marriage around the world. It reviews the biological evidence regarding the negative impacts of cousin marriage. Finally, the social impacts of cousin marriage and its prohibitions are briefly discussed.
Thirty-one U.S. states have some form of prohibition against cousin marriage. Nineteen states have no such prohibitive laws. No European nation prohibits cousin marriages. Why do these prohibitions exist and why the variance between nations and states? This book answers those questions directly.
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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great help with a lot of information! March 7, 1999
This book covers just about everything you could know about cousin relationships. It dips back into the history and how the rumors were created. You get religious perspectives and state laws. I would definately recommend this book to anyone who is looking for the truth in cousin relationships.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well presented discussion on a difficult subject February 4, 1999
By A Customer
If this book does nothing else, it will make you think. It asks questions that many of us believe are not even a part of our lives, and yet the context of the issues demonstrates how such a remote subject could affect us directly.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have! March 27, 2001
By "cnme"
Martin Ottenheimer's research is thorough and impeccable. The only drawback to this book is its technical difficulty. However, the value of the information is worth the effort. Martin covers everything from laws to religious beliefs and everything in between.
Much social stigma exists about cousin marriages as a result of misinformation. Martin's book goes to great length to dispel those myths and explaining the origin of the taboos.
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