In the introduction to a recent special issue of the journal of African History, the editors report their concern that the history of the family, which has become so lively and important an area of study in Europe and America since the 1960's, was being almost totally neglected in Africa (Marks and Rathbone 1983, p. 145). It is indeed surprising that contemporary Africanists scholars have paid so little attention to the transformation of the family over time. One reason may be precisely the rich tradition of anthropological kinship studies which has for so long directed our attention to the static classificatory aspects of kinship rather than to the politics of kinship or its processes of change. Now, however, a newer more promising approach sees kinship as cultural ideology conditioned by social structural factors such as the emotions and material interests of members of domestic units (Medick and Sabean, 1984; Poster, 1978).