Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association for Feminist Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: The Political
Secondary Theme: Citizenship
Modernity has been central to the study of kinship in anthropology. Mid-twentieth-century anthropologists regarded genealogical-based kinship networks as pre-modern political orders; the alleged centrality of blood-based kinship in social organization and its relationship to a bureaucratized state was itself a litmus for what constituted modernity (Evans-Pritchard 1951; Norbeck and Befu 1957). Late twentieth-century anthropologists took up these narratives, identifying how the teleological undertones of this were grounded in European ethno-political self-representations (Kuper 1988; Franklin and McKinnon 2001; Carsten 2003) made to appear universal through the deployment of the category of the citizen as nonsubject (Balibar 1991, 2017) and through the travel of scientific knowledge as a source of kinship knowledge (Strathern 1995). These insights made it possible to analyze how family life was co-constitutive of gendered and racialized subjectivities (Strathern 1988; Weston 2001), or how kinship and the family form became a site of political formation and a target of modernization campaigns (Povinelli 2002; Heng and Devan 1997). The idiom of the ‘nuclear family’ became a nexus around which binaries like modernity and tradition (Cannell 1990; Strathern 2000; Franklin and Ragoné 1990) or the public (juridico-political) and the private (domestic) were formulated (Collier and Yanagisako 1987; Delaney and Yanagisako 1995; Hodgson 2016). These binaries underpinned both liberal understandings of political progress and neoliberal efforts toward economic empowerment (Ferguson 1999; Pateman 1988; Harvey 2005). Feminist anthropologists have taken up kinship as a social practice critical to the imagination of modernity and have recently theorized ‘gens’ -- as the root of gender, genus, genre, generations, and generate -- in order to challenge “the economic” as a bounded domain (Bear et al 2015).
This session features presentations that extend the critical generativity that characterizes all social power to challenge the boundedness of domains such “the political” and “the scientific” as well as “the economic”. These ethnographic accounts of trade and migration, gamete donation and genetic knowledge, intergenerational care and ethics, borders and gendered citizenship ground analyses of kinship with attention to gender, sexuality, and generation. The panel intervenes in anthropological theorizations of ethnicity and race, the state, the family, and commerce. Ultimately, we see the domaining and disembedding of kinship from all these various formations as processes that regenerate the persisting discourses of modernity as spatially and temporally totalizing.