Culture, Creation, and Procreation: Concepts of Kinship in South Asian Practice

Culture, Creation, and Procreation: Concepts of Kinship in South Asian Practice

Culture, Creation, and Procreation: Concepts of Kinship in South Asian Practice

Culture, Creation, and Procreation: Concepts of Kinship in South Asian Practice

Synopsis

As reproduction is seen as central to kinship and the biological link as the primary bond between parents and their offspring, Western perceptions of kin relations are primarily determined by ideas about "consanguinity," "genealogical relations," and "genetic connections." Advocates of cultural constructivism have taken issue with a concept that puts so much stress on heredity as being severely biased by western ideas of kinship. Ethnosociologists in particular developed alternative systems using indigenous categories. This symbolic approach has, however, been rejected by some scholars as plagued by the problems of the analytical separation of ideology from practice, of largely overlooking relations of domination, and of ignoring the questions of shared knowledge and choice. This volume offers a corrective by discussing the constitution of kinship among different communities in South Asia and addressing the relationship between ideology and practice, cultural models, and individiual strategies.

Excerpt

This book has grown out of the ongoing debate in the social sciences on notions of well-being and the person, and the more general discussion on structure and agency. Conversations with various colleagues encouraged us to place the discussion of native models of well-being within a broader framework of kinship studies, in which renewed interest is now evident.

Ideas about ‘consanguinity’, ‘genealogical relations’, and ‘genetic connections’ appear primordial in the perception and structuring of kin relations in Western societies. a Western native may argue that ‘blood is thicker than water’, and from this point of view human reproduction is central to kinship. in Western models of kinship an ethnoscientific version of procreation plays a major role: the story of coming into human being is regarded as a biological process entailing heterosexual intercourse (or fertilisation in a test tube); persons come into existence at conception, and this biological phenomenon is taken as the primary fact that causes them to be. Hence in Western societies biological facts seem to constitute the primary bonds between parents and their offspring, and the concept of heredity is stressed by Western natives when children resemble their parents or when siblings resemble each other in looks, habits or character. It has been pointed out that these facts of nature develop their ideological power in Western discourses about gender relations, concepts of the body, reproduction, and the construction of personhood.

Advocates of cultural constructivism have objected to the anthropological concept of kinship being severely biased by these Western ideas. David Schneider’s approach to kinship in particular gave an impetus to ethnosociological studies of South Asia, and stimulated the construction of an alternative system of social science using indigenous categories. This symbolic approach has, however, been rejected by some scholars as being plagued by the . . .

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