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Polygamy, Cross-Culturally Considered

Polygamy refers to simultaneity of marital bonds with two or more partners and is thus (if only legally) distinguished from serial (sequential or successive) monogamy and nonmatrimonial, polyamorous relationships. Polygyny (a man marries two or more co-wives) is much more prevalent than polyandry or group marriage, and would be a preferential system in 75 percent of ethnographic communities drawn from the mid-20th-century World Ethnographic Sample. In the contemporary West, sensitivity over polygamy is politically oscillating with that over immigrant, denominational, and ethnic minority status of the polygamist (or bigamist, in legal terms focusing on the ceremonial act of marriage rather than the polygamous state it inaugurates), inviting confrontations between de facto practice, legal climate, and collateral political sensibilities, for instance, over same-sex marriage. It brings ...

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