Kinship Study Group 2010

  • In what sense does kinship continue to be central to anthropology?

traditional anth view – Using Kinship as central organising system because no political/economic system perceived? Easier to use a model that you already understand, if you are not getting it

  • Why should a degree in anthropology include training in kinship?

Enables you to study the work of many previous anthropologists, whether or not it is as central as they claim

  • What might such a training contribute to our understanding of cultural practice and human sociality?

Because it is involved in so many issues: e.g. death, parenthood, identity, reproduction, property etc…

It allows us to look more objectively at our own way of doing/thinking and so perhaps in seeing ourselves in a clearer light, also see others in a clearer light also. (an aspiration – not necessarily really achievable)

e.g. as number of grandparents doubles each generation back but they are all ranked under same kin relationship, it becomes hard for us to relate to each of the separate grandparents and effects how we perceive ourselves in time and history, so our historical perception and understanding is highly confined by our view of lineages before us and our relationship to the past and so our understanding of history places you in society. Society socially contructs your identity but then you have the autonomy to go out and mold it yourself, gives meaning to individuals

Looked at What is Kinship, week ones Lecture slides:
Helpful links: – a very good glossary of kinship terminology – a useful catalogue of Anth knowledge (like a google of Anthropology) – a good answer to the difference between Structuralism & Functionalism

Axiomatic: self-evident

Polythetic: having many, but not all properties in common

Amorphous:lacking a definite form or clear shape

  1. Broad, general introduction to anthropological ideas about kinship
  2. Why has kinship been central to social anthropology?

Compared to role of logic in philosophy e.g. Kula-ring, Mangu – where did the universe come from

Spirit-child is more logical than biological model

  1. A basic introduction to the ‘tools of the trade’
  2. Technical terms used by anthropologists in studying kinship

Polythetic amorphous concept (kinship) – around the world it has many things in common, but never a single or static structure.

Extra points:

Crucial that kinship relationships are distinct from biological relationships, even though physiological processes are the same everywhere (are they really?) so “biological relationships” are in themselves a socio-cultural concept. e.g. although we are equally related to mum and dad, usually follow patrilineal-igey naming. E.g. so to understand the why of the above we create models to incorporate all of it

? but is the model (e.g. tripartite) simply constructing the way we think about kinship rather help us investigate e.g. it allows us to explain biological kinship and so gives it a big weighting

Kinship as… transmission of culture and basis for further reaching social structures

Kinship as… a grid for organising social relations in time-space

Kinship as… creating social formation

Be careful not to project your own kinship when something seems similar.

NOTE : once an idea takes hold about how things work, then we adapt things to be that and so re-inforce our belief in it and make that idea “the reality” when is it really?