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European Kinship in the Age of Biotechnology

European Kinship in the Age of Biotechnology

Jeanette Edwards
Carles Salazar
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    European Kinship in the Age of Biotechnology
    Book Description:

    Interest in the study of kinship, a key area of anthropological enquiry, has recently reemerged. Dubbed 'the new kinship', this interest was stimulated by the 'new genetics' and revived interest in kinship and family patterns. This volume investigates the impact of biotechnology on contemporary understandings of kinship, of family and 'belonging' in a variety of European settings and reveals similarities and differences in how kinship is conceived. What constitutes kinship for different publics? How significant are biogenetic links? What does family resemblance tell us? Why is genetically modified food an issue? Are 'genes' and 'blood' interchangeable? It has been argued that the recent prominence of genetic science and genetic technologies has resulted in a 'geneticization' of social life; the ethnographic examples presented here do show shifts occurring in notions of 'nature' and of what is 'natural'. But, they also illustrate the complexity of contemporary kinship thinking in Europe and the continued interconnectedness of biological and sociological understandings of relatedness and the relationship between nature and nurture.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-892-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Matter in Kinship
    (pp. 1-18)
    Jeanette Edwards

    The chapters in this volume report on research carried out under the rubric of a project funded by the European Commission between 2002 and 2005. The project entailed a collaboration between scholars in France, Hungary, Lithuania, Italy, Norway, Spain and Britain and was conceived partly through a desire to investigate kinship, anthropologically, across Europe. It was clear from the ethnographic record that, while forms and practices of kinship differed markedly in different European contexts (see, for example, Strathern 1981; Gullestad 1984; Cohen 1987; Bestard 1991), there were interesting and unexplored resonances in how kin relatedness was conceptualised and in how...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Knowing and Relating: Kinship, Assisted Reproductive Technologies and the New Genetics
    (pp. 19-28)
    Joan Bestard

    Before beginning my ethnographic discussion, I would like to define what I understand by kinship and how we can relate it to the public understanding of new genetics from an analytical point of view. I consider kinship as a tool that enables the anthropologist to analyse the capacity of certain ideas about human nature and the transmission of its substances to build social relations. The advantage of this type of analytical tool is that it is neither in the domain of nature nor in the domain of culture, but rather between the two and making the intermediation a domain that...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Imagining Assisted Reproductive Technologies: Family, Kinship and ‘Local Thinking’ in Lithuania
    (pp. 29-44)
    Auksuolė Čepaitienė

    Concerns with biogenetic technologies have recently become a topic of public interest in Lithuania. New efforts to create a legal context for biomedical research and assisted reproduction in Lithuania in the late 1990s stimulated an openness in dealing with themes which were previously under the shadow of a respect for science during the Soviet era. It turned out that looking at assisted reproductive technologies (ART) as social and cultural facts was a new experience for many Lithuanians. This chapter examines the way in which Lithuanians construct and contextualise their ideas about ART. It points to the questions of how people...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Eating Genes and Raising People: Kinship Thinking and Genetically Modified Food in the North of England
    (pp. 45-63)
    Cathrine Degnen

    With the advent of biotechnology in application to foodstuffs the implications of genetic technologies apply no longer just to human or animal bodies, but also to the food people eat. Likewise, the realm of biotechnology and new genetics with which social scientists have to date been concerned (largelyreproductivegenetic technologies) must now accommodate a new level of intersection: that of genes, body and food. Food is embedded in a complex constellation of social meaning. It has bodily connotations for health and nutrition; it plays a prominent role in identity and belonging; and it has a significant place within macro-level...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Family Body: Persons, Bodies and Resemblance
    (pp. 64-78)
    Diana Marre and Joan Bestard

    The aim of this chapter is to analyse the meanings of resemblance within the context of the Catalan family. Resemblance expresses continuity between individuals and is a good starting point for reflecting on how the constitution of a person through kinship is not limited to isolated individuals, but refers to people that relate to one another. It is our hypothesis that family resemblances are not a true confirmation of the biological truths of kinship but rather are linked to the relational aspect of kinship and to a way of constructing bonds between people. We analyse resemblance as a way of...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Contribution of Homoparental Families to the Current Debate on Kinship
    (pp. 79-96)
    Anne Cadoret

    How do people become a family today? Who will be assigned the term ‘parent’ when we consider adoptive families, people who have recourse to medically assisted reproduction, reconstituted families or homoparental families?¹ In Western societies kinship has traditionally been based on the coincidence of social kinship and biological kinship. This led us to believe that knowledge of the biological would provide the ultimate explanation for kinship, since the parents were the genitors and there are only two parents: a father and a mother. The construction of kinship could be described but it could not be questioned. Subsequently, with advances in...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Corpo-real Identities: Perspectives from a Gypsy Community
    (pp. 97-111)
    Nathalie Manrique

    For a very long time, philosophers have been debating whether there is not one but two routes to reach truth: the empirical and the abstract. According to Bachelard (1993: 239 [1938]), ‘we have to accept a real break between sensible knowledge and scientific knowledge’ (my translation). For Bachelard, two categories of knowledge shape our understanding of the world. He called the first ‘empirical knowledge’ (connaissance empirique) and the second ‘scientific knowledge’ (connaissance scientifique). The understanding of truth, then, can take two different directions: on the one hand, ‘rational interpretation [which] comes from the immediate observation of raw facts’ (Héritier 1996:...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Incest, Embodiment, Genes and Kinship
    (pp. 112-127)
    Enric Porqueres i Gené and Jérôme Wilgaux

    The main aim of this chapter is to explore the heuristic implications of ideas about shared substances in an analysis of the ‘new genetics’. While looking at the continuities and discontinuities created by genetic, and particularly ‘new genetic’, paradigms, we examine some of the current thinking on the status of individuality and the person by analysing the prohibition of incest which has been central to various traditions in the anthropology of kinship. In so doing, this chapter addresses two interrelated criticisms of current anthropological kinship theory: first, that new forms ofrelatednessrepresent a radical break from ‘traditional kinship’ and,...

  12. CHAPTER 8 ‘Loving Mothers’ at Work: Raising Others’ Children and Building Families with the Intention to Love and Take Care
    (pp. 128-143)
    Enikὅ Demény

    There is a well-known saying in Hungary, ‘anya csak egy van’(‘there is only one mother’), which is meant to express the exceptional value given to mothers. However, there are life situations when this saying is not true. For example, for the four-year-old boy who lives in the SOS Children’s Village in Kecskemét, Hungary, it is the most ‘natural’ thing in the world that he has two mothers. As the little boy himself expressed it, he has one ‘birth mother’ (‘szülő anya’) and one ‘loving mother’ (‘szerető anya’). The ‘loving mother’ is an innovative term used to name his foster-mother...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Adoption and Assisted Conception: One Universe of Unnatural Procreation. An Examination of Norwegian Legislation
    (pp. 144-161)
    Marit Melhuus and Signe Howell

    On Thursday, 14 October 2004, one of Norway’s major tabloid newspapers ran the following headline: ‘King Haakon was not [King] Olav’s father?’ The subtext reads: ‘In his new book on the monarchy, biographer Tor Bomann-Larsen suggests that Sir Francis Laking, the king’s personal doctor, is King Olav’s biological father.’¹ The following day, several newspapers ran a follow-up and this news item even merited international attention. TheDaily Mirror(UK) had the following headline: ‘Was a King of Norway really made in England?’Timesonlineran an article titled ‘The “British” royals of Norway’.² The opening sentence reads: ‘A British baronet secretly...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Fields of Post-Human Kinship
    (pp. 162-178)
    Ben Campbell

    There is a strong current to the contributions in this volume, and much of the kinship and genetics literature, that the issue at hand is how contemporary families are being made and talked about in the light of DNA transmission, assisted reproductive technologies and their relationship to other ‘non-natural’ means of making family members, such as adoption. This chapter questions the assumptions that kinship broadly equates with the domain of human family connections, and that ‘kinship and genetics’ concern creative resolutions of genetic knowledge and familial contexts.

    There is a strong assumption here about what kinship consists of anthropologically, as...

  15. CHAPTER 11 Are Genes Good to Think With?
    (pp. 179-196)
    Carles Salazar

    One of the aims of the research that has led to the present book was to look at the ways in which genetic knowledge gears itself to different kinds of social experience and vice versa. In a way, our purpose could be defined as an attempt to provide an anthropological perspective upon the relationship between different forms of knowledge. No general conclusion can be drawn, or should be drawn, from the rich and heterogeneous diversity of perspectives that this research has given rise to. More appropriately, this concluding chapter should be considered as a theoretical epilogue of sorts. I wish...

  16. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 197-200)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-216)
  18. Author Index
    (pp. 217-220)
  19. Subject Index
    (pp. 221-224)