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assignment - How is the new focus on relatedness of...

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How is the new focus on ‘relatedness’ of Carsten (et al.) change the classic understanding of the analytical terms ‘kinship’ and ‘descent’ developed by Radcliffe-Brown and Fortes? Discuss. Introduction: In real life, both Radcliffe-Brown and Fortes acknowledge the fact that kinship and descent overlap, but the classic distinction is done deliberately for the purpose of analysis. Thus both categories become analytical tools. The classic analytical concept of kinship aims to separate the politico-jural domain from the domestic domain within the total society (Harris 1990: 21). Kinship refers to bilateral or cognatic systems which stem out of the domestic and reproductive domain. On the other hand, descent relationships are based on kinship, where descent categories are also corporate groups which become the “vehicles of interests and requirements that flow from the overall constitution of society” 1 . Descent groups are better understood on a vertical level where individuals of the same group occupy the same position in the social structure where they share common interests and whose ultimate significance is jural and political. Harris (1990) argues that this distinction between kinship and descent is not between two separate domains but between aspects of a relationship, where kinship has one foot in the domestic domain and the other in the public domain. It cannot be opposed to the economical and political domain of society since Fortes (Goody 1958) highlights that social reproduction (horizontal level) is borne out of the domestic group. Fortes maintains that the domestic group is intertwined into the total social structure, where marriage, 1 Harris, C. (1990). “Kinship in Structural Anthropology”, in Kinship : Concepts in Social Thought . University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis. Ch 1, pg. 21. 1
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inheritance, ritual aspects and so forth dwell in the internal system but are simultaneously part of the external domain. On the other hand, cultures of ‘relatedness’ explore what ‘being related’ 2 means for particular people in particular cultures such as in the case of the residents of Alltown as described by Edwards and Strathern (Carsten 2000). In this context, Carsten and her contributors use the classic meaning of kinship and descent as a building block and extend and stretch its meaning by putting it on a continuum. This continuum explores the weight of connection that people feel towards each other, whether related by blood or not. The study of relatedness seems to look at the “modernity” of kinship by the influx of new reproductive technologies impinged by biology and modern technology. Thus, it explores the relationship between the social and the biological domains in relation to the classic understanding of kinship. Relatedness is not restricted to biological connection which seem to narrow the horizon of links and ties, such as the case of step-siblings which in strict biological terms share half the chromosomes from their parents. In contrast, the
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