Introduction Carsten

Introduction Carsten - Introduction: Cultures of...

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Introduction: Cultures of relatedness Janet Carsten The anthropological study of kinship has moved from the classical form to include new local cultures of relatedness in comparative context. Kinship needs to be understood as a category cutting across local and social contexts. The author describes “being related” as part of the lived experience of relatedness in local contexts – people are always conscious of connections to other people. These connections carry particular weight – socially, materially, affectively. Hutchinson describes how under new conditions of profound social and political upheaval experienced in Southern Sudan, the connections and disconnections of Nuer relatedness have come to be understood not only in terms of blood and cattle but also through the media of money, paper and guns. These media are convertible into each other and that food is convertible into blood, and blood into milk and semen, lends an extraordinary degree of transformability to Nuer idioms of relatedness (this contrasts with the classical EP’s kinship system). Carsten et al interrogate the role of biology in local statements and practices of relatedness. The study of kinship was at the very heart of anthropology for nearly a century. In 1970’s the position of kinship as a field of study has been under question since as Schneider said “kinds of problems changed”. In his view, the shift was part of a general shift in anthropological understanding from structure to practice, and from practice to discourse. In the 1990’s kinship came to life again due to feminist work, to studies of gay and lesbian kinship and to Strathern’s “After Nature” (1992). New work on kinship featured mainly gender, the body and personhood while relationship terminologies were scarcely mentioned. Recent work begins to explore how issues on kinship in Euro- American culture, on new reproductive technologies, on gender, and on the social construction of science impinge on the study of relatedness crossculturally. Instead of looking at biological and social grounds, the authors describe relatedness in terms of indigenous statements and practices. A note on relatedness Relatedness follows two trends: one of nature and wider knowledge practices in the West the other, takes a broad and imaginative view of what might be included under the rubric kinship Carsten et al gives centrality to kinship by connecting it to gender and the body Whatever happened to kinship? 1
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Schneider argued that sexual reproduction was a core symbol of kinship in a system which was defined by 2 dominant orders, that of nature or substance and that of law or code. The secular union of 2 unrelated partners in marriage provided the symbolic link between these 2 orders. Schneider’s stronger position, which focused on the ‘meanings’ of kinship rather than on
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Introduction Carsten - Introduction: Cultures of...

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