Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Biological-centeredness of the study of kinship in Anthropology and elsewhere

Dr. Sinthome, would you then say that from D&G’s criticism of the family as Ur-narrative, that the ethnographic diversity of kinship relations* should compell us to consider NOT that there must be multiple ways of treating pathology, but that there are multiple ways (perhaps even contradictory) of thinking pathologically? I mean that the typical recourse to this sort of diversity, in a more general sense, would be that we must adopt different approaches to what is essentially the same problem, rather than step back from and critiquing our very interest in maintaining a universal concept of pathology.
*The most interesting book I’ve come across in this field is David Schneider’s “Critique of the Study of Kinship.” It’s from the ’80s, and simply put undermines the biological-centeredness of the study of kinship in Anthropology and elsewhere. What’s interesting about it is that it illuminates how our very concept of kinship in the West, as an intellectual category for study as well as casual-personal, arises from our own, as he puts it, ethno-epistemology. In our case, biology and quasi-biology are the determinants in how we determine and maintain kinship relations. He also rails against the notion of fictive kin as practically contradictory; fictive kin ARE real kin, because we treat them as such. All that said, he brings attention to differing ways that strong kinship-ties are maintained, though traditional kinship categories confuse or obsfucate. Ultimately he challenges the anthropological world to either do away with the notion of kinship, or figure out a way to assess it that does not privilege, much less assume, biological relatedness as a factor. A professor who used to teach at my school would eventually make a gesture towards such a system.

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