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Kinship and Beyond

Kinship and Beyond: The Genealogical Model Reconsidered

Sandra Bamford
James Leach
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 300
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  • Book Info
    Kinship and Beyond
    Book Description:

    The genealogical model has a long-standing history in Western thought. The contributors to this volume consider the ways in which assumptions about the genealogical model-in particular, ideas concerning sequence, essence, and transmission-structure other modes of practice and knowledge-making in domains well beyond what is normally labeled "kinship." The detailed ethnographic work and analysis included in this text explores how these assumptions have been built into our understandings of race, personhood, ethnicity, property relations, and the relationship between human beings and non-human species. The authors explore the influences of the genealogical model of kinship in wider social theory and examine anthropology's ability to provide a unique framework capable of bridging the "social" and "natural" sciences. In doing so, this volume brings fresh new perspectives to bear on contemporary theories concerning biotechnology and its effect upon social life.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-896-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Pedigrees of Knowledge: Anthropology and the Genealogical Method
    (pp. 1-23)
    Sandra Bamford and James Leach

    ‘It will lead to an understanding of who we are as a species and how we came to be.’ These bold words were uttered by Dr. Marie-Claire King, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, to refer to the plan to create a global map of human genetic diversity (quoted in Lewin 1993: 25). Known as the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP), the aim of this venture has been to ‘create a data base of human genetic variation’ (Hayden 1998: 174) before this diversity disappears from the planet. The plan entails collecting blood and tissue samples from literally hundreds...

  5. Chapter 1 Arborescent Culture: Writing and Not Writing Racehorse Pedigrees
    (pp. 24-49)
    Rebecca Cassidy

    When Rivers popularized the genealogical model in the early days of the twentieth century, he created the possibility of comprehensive knowledge of society, and of each particular society. The model is apparently exhaustive (everyone has a mother and a father) and value neutral (the placement of men to the left of women and of the younger generations beneath the elder is merely conventional (Rivers 1900: plates II and III). As such, it is potentially liberating, universal, and in the context of the development of a structural-functionalist anthropology in opposition to the iniquity of social evolutionism, no doubt a ‘good thing’....

  6. Chapter 2 When Blood Matters: Making Kinship in Colonial Kenya
    (pp. 50-83)
    J. Teresa Holmes

    In the last decade we have seen a revival of interest in the study of kinship that has been fuelled, in large part, by a critical reassessment of many of our most cherished anthropological notions of the nature of kinship. Many of those works that have reflected on, and sought to transform, the anthropological perspective on kinship were informed by David Schneider’s (1968, 1972, 1984) influential argument that, with respect to the study of kinship, we must first determine the conceptual scheme, or the meanings and their configurations, that inform a cultural understanding of kinship, both at home and in...

  7. Chapter 3 The Web of Kin: An Online Genealogical Machine
    (pp. 84-110)
    Gísli Pálsson

    Drawing upon recent writings by historians of science, I argue in this chapter that digital genealogies, a by-product of experimental biomedical projects, can be usefully regarded as machines, as vehicles for generating connections and histories and for changing existing notions of kinship and belonging. I shall focus on the so-calledBook of Icelanders, an extensive computerized database on Icelandic family histories that was made available on the Web in January 2003. Earlier, the database was made accessible in an encrypted form to the biomedical researchers of the company deCODE genetics. The genealogical database, then, has a dual role as both...

  8. Chapter 4 Genes, Mobilities and the Enclosures of Capital: Contesting Ancestry and Its Aplications in Iceland
    (pp. 111-137)
    Hilary Cunningham

    Technological advances and new discoveries in the field of molecular biology are perhaps among the most significant historical and cultural developments to emerge in the last two decades. They have already radically altered, for example, the ways in which humans can produce food, identify genetically linked diseases, and potentially prevent and cure these diseases. In addition to advances in agriculture, pharmaceuticals and medicine, however, biotechnology has also generated a powerful cultural imagery. As the authors Dorothy Nelkin and Susan Lindee observed in their bookThe DNA Mystique(1995), ‘the gene’ plays an increasingly important role in popular culture, in understandings...

  9. Chapter 5 Skipping a Generation and Assisting Conception
    (pp. 138-158)
    Jeanette Edwards

    It was partly an assumption of the fixity of the genealogical grid that encouraged its use in comparative tool kits of early twentieth-century anthropology. David Schneider (1968, 1984) urged us to think of it in terms of a Euro-American folk model. Mary Bouquet (1993) suggested we needed to be more specific, positing a specifically English folk model. Yet if we look at ethnographic examples from England, it is not clear that English folk everywhere and always draw on genealogy to reckon kin, and when they do genealogical links are not necessarily as fixed and uncompromising as the model might suggest....

  10. Chapter 6 ‘Family Trees’ among the Kamea of Papua New Guinea: A Non-Genealogical Approach to Imagining Relatedness
    (pp. 159-174)
    Sandra Bamford

    In December of 2001, newspapers throughout Canada featured the story of Israel Mora, a Mexican performance artist. Mr Mora was one of forty artists selected by the internationally renowned Banff Cultural Centre to explore ‘the continuum of time’ during a seven-week residency. As part of his project, Mr Mora ejaculated once a day for seven days, filling seven glass vials with his semen. The vials were then placed in a refrigerated cooler that the artist wheeled through downtown Banff on a small pushcart (Williamson 2001).The cooler was then strung up between two trees at the centre where it remained on...

  11. Chapter 7 Knowledge as Kinship: Mutable Essence and the Significance of Transmission on the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea
    (pp. 175-192)
    James Leach

    In the logic of the genealogical model of kinship, biological relatedness, that is, portions of similar or identical biological material within separate bodies, is understood to be the basis of social relatedness. One recognition of similarity comes to explain or legitimate another kind of recognition of connection. Until recently, kinship reckoned on this basis was not perceived as subject to human intervention, other than in perpetuating certain essences through time by procreation. Interventions that now make substances mutable have emerged in biological sciences as a part of this logic, placing those interventions firmly in the realm of expert techno-science. Those...

  12. Chapter 8 Stories Against Classification: Transport, Wayfaring and the Integration of Knowledge
    (pp. 193-213)
    Tim Ingold

    Human beings are supremely knowledgeable creatures. That much is obvious. It is not so obvious, however, how they come to know what they do. By all accounts, without such knowledge they would be helpless. Nonhuman animals seem to know instinctively what to do in any circumstances they would normally encounter. But human beings are apparently born with a deficit, a gap – as Clifford Geertz once put it –‘between what our body tells us and what we have to know in order to function’ (1973: 50). This gap, Geertz goes on to tell us, is filled byculture, a corpus of...

  13. Chapter 9 Revealing and Obscuring Rivers’s Pedigrees: Biological Inheritance and Kinship in Madagascar
    (pp. 214-236)
    Rita Astuti

    One of the most serious charges that can be directed against fellow anthropologists is that their theoretical assumptions distort and impair their understanding of the people they study. The field of kinship studies is arguably where this charge has been made most frequently and harshly. For example, Edmund Leach judged some of the central distinctions used in the comparative study of kinship systems by his contemporaries to be a harmful ‘straitjacket of thought’ (Leach 1961: 4). In his view, apparently obvious and innocuous category oppositions such as patrilineal/matrilineal were in fact responsible for ethnocentric biases, tautology and circularity. In the...

  14. Chapter 10 The Gift and the Given: Three Nano-essays on Kinship and Magic
    (pp. 237-268)
    Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

    This chapter attempts to relate three anthropological arguments about kinship. Each concerns the thorny problem of how to bypass our all-enveloping cosmology of nature and culture when describing the very province of human experience on which this dualism is supposed to be ultimately grounded. In the modern Western tradition, as we know, kinship is the primal arena for the confrontation of biological nature and cultural nurture, animal instincts and human institutions, bodily substances and spiritual relations, real facts and legal fictions, and so on. Indeed, this has been so, supposedly, ever since humans became what they are, for this divisive...

  15. List of Contributors
    (pp. 269-271)
  16. Index
    (pp. 272-292)