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The Ways of Friendship

The Ways of Friendship: Anthropological Perspectives

Amit Desai
Evan Killick
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    The Ways of Friendship
    Book Description:

    Friendship is an essential part of human experience, involving ideas of love and morality as well as material and pragmatic concerns. Making and having friends is a central aspect of everyday life in all human societies. Yet friendship is often considered of secondary significance in comparison to domains such as kinship, economics and politics. How important are friends in different cultural contexts? What would a study of society viewed through the lens of friendship look like? Does friendship affect the shape of society as much as society moulds friendship? Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Europe, this volume offers answers to these questions and examines the ideology and practice of friendship as it is embedded in wider social contexts and transformations.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-850-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Amit Desai and Evan Killick
  4. Introduction: Valuing Friendship
    (pp. 1-19)
    Evan Killick and Amit Desai

    The study of friendship is haunted by the problem of definition. ‘Who (or what) are friends?’ is a common refrain in much of the sociological and anthropological discussion of the subject. This problem has led naturally to attempts to stabilize the category, and has resulted in typologies enumerating different kinds of friendship, organized by privileging some criteria over others (for example Paine 1969: 518; Adams and Allan 1998: 9–10). Is friendship a relationship characterized by autonomy, sentiment, individualism, lack of ritual and lack of instrumentality? Or are these requirements peculiarly Western expressions of friendship imposed on other places and...

  5. Chapter 1 On ‘Same-Year Siblings’ in Rural South China
    (pp. 20-45)
    Gonçalo D. Santos

    This chapter draws attention to the little-known Southern Chinese idiom and institution of fictive/ritual kinship which I shall render in English as ‘same-year siblingship’. ‘Same-year siblings’ are non-kin men or women born in the same year who found it necessary or desirable to formally reconfigure their relationship by means of a kinship metaphor of agnatic siblingship. This public idiom and institution of ‘relatedness’, to use a concept recently celebrated in the field of kinship studies (Carsten 2000b), is analogous to other well-known Chinese phenomena of fictive/ritual kinship, such as ‘sworn siblinghood’, but it has never been the object of systematic...

  6. Chapter 2 Ayompari, Compadre, Amigo: Forms of Fellowship in Peruvian Amazonia
    (pp. 46-68)

    This chapter examines indigenous–mestizo¹ social relations in Peruvian Amazonia, considering the different ways in which individuals from the two groups conceptualize their relationships with each other. While individuals from the Ashéninka indigenous group characterize their relationships withmestizosin terms ofayompariformal friendships, theirmestizocompanions use the idiom ofcompadrazgo(co-parenthood). The chapter considers various features of these relationships, including their economic, religious and political aspects, and looks at the ways in which they have been dealt with in previous literature. It suggests that, in contrast to previous approaches which have characterized these relationships in terms of...

  7. Chapter 3 Friendship, Distance and Kinship-Talk Amongst Mozambican Refugees in South Africa
    (pp. 69-92)
    Graeme Rodgers

    Between the mid-1980s and the early 1990s an estimated 250,000 Mozambicans crossed the border into South Africa in search of refuge from civil war. The majority were Tsonga speakers from remote rural villages in the southern provinces of Gaza, Inhambane and Maputo and took refuge from the RENAMO rebel movement’s campaign of destruction in the rural southern hinterland (Roesch 1992; Vines 1991). Throughout the war, which ended in 1992, the South African government refused to consider granting international refugee status to Mozambicans, insisting that such large-scale undocumented migration was economically motivated and therefore illegal. When arrested, Mozambican refugees were deported...

  8. Chapter 4 Friendship, Kinship and Sociality in a Lebanese Town
    (pp. 93-113)
    Michelle Obeid

    A few weeks into my fieldwork year in the Lebanese town of Arsal, I was invited by one of the local NGOs to a ceremony for handing out certificates after the completion of a computer course. One young woman, whom I had not met before, curious to find out what an outsider was doing at the NGO, sat next to me and started a conversation. Intrigued by the fact that I was living in the town, she asked if I had any kin (qaraybīn). For her, as well as for the majority of people in Arsal, it was inconceivable to...

  9. Chapter 5 A Matter of Affection: Ritual Friendship in Central India
    (pp. 114-132)
    Amit Desai

    Despite the general paucity of writing on the anthropology of friendship, one area in which the latter has received significant attention has been in the discussion of what are variously called fictive kinship, ritual kinship, ceremonial friendship or ritual friendship relations. That anthropologists have examined these kinds of relationships at the expense of less formal modes of association is entirely understandable: they have a ritual form that can be studied, and their sociology can be precisely plotted and compared in a way that may be more difficult with the nebulous and diffuse networks of ‘ordinary’ friendships. Alternatively, the focus on...

  10. Chapter 6 Close Friends: The Importance of Proximity in Children’s Peer Relations in Chhattisgarh, Central India
    (pp. 133-153)
    Peggy Froerer

    It is widely taken for granted by laypersons and scholars alike that friendship is one of the fundamental ways in which people form connections and ties with each other. However, friendship as a specific subject of study has generally remained peripheral to the broader anthropological project, due largely to anthropology’s traditional preoccupation with kinship. As noted in the introduction to this volume, this preoccupation, which can be traced back to the inception of the discipline, relates to the attempts of early ethnographers to ‘establish ethnology as a science as exact as physics or chemistry’ (Bouquet 1993: 114). As an institutionalized...

  11. Chapter 7 Making Friends, Making Oneself: Friendship and the Mapuche Person
    (pp. 154-173)
    Magnus Course

    In this chapter I seek to describe how the Mapuche concept of friendship, which in many ways resembles the stereotypical Western model of friendship, emerges from a definitively non-Western conceptualization of the person. I hope to show that Mapuche friendship can accurately be described as being based upon individual autonomy, voluntarism, affection, and a rejection of the constraining aspects of kinship. In other words, it can be described by the same terms which writers such as Allan (1996), Carrier (1999) and Paine (1969) have used to characterize Western middle-class friendships (see also Killick and Desai, this volume). Like these writers,...

  12. Chapter 8 The Value of Friendship: Subject/Object Transformations in the Economy of Becoming a Person (Bermondsey, Southeast London)
    (pp. 174-196)
    Gillian Evans

    In this chapter I consider some key questions in the study of friendship, including what it means to make friends, how similar different forms of friendship are, and what the study of friendship can teach us about human relations more generally. The friendships I focus on here are those between groups of boys aged ten and eleven in a primary school classroom at Tenter Ground, a school in Bermondsey, a predominantly working-class area of central southeast London. I also draw on my own experiences, as an ethnographer making friends in the context of fieldwork, to examine what defines friendship as...

  13. Afterword: Making Friendship Impure: Some Reflections on a (Still) Neglected Topic
    (pp. 197-206)
    Simon Coleman

    When Sandra Bell and I decided to put together an edited volume on friendship (Bell and Coleman 1999), we realized early on that the subject had a long but curiously patchy academic past. Writers in history, philosophy and the social sciences had a habit of making the obligatory reference to Aristotle’sNicomachean Ethicsbefore trying to explain why the subject had not attracted sustained attention in their own discipline. In anthropology as well, the landmarks were few and far between, including perhaps Raymond Firth’s 1936 tribute to Marett, ‘Bond-Friendship in Tikopia’, Eric Wolf’s paper in an early Association of Social...

  14. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 207-208)
  15. Index
    (pp. 209-214)