Kinship and Gender: An Introduction

Kinship and Gender: An Introduction

Kinship and Gender: An Introduction

Kinship and Gender: An Introduction


Using anthropological kinship as a framework for the cross-cultural study of gender, this book focuses on human reproduction & the social & cultural implications of male & female reproductive roles. The book provides coverage of the field of kinship at the introductory level while exploring the major issues & debates in the study of the interrelation of gender & culture.


This book has come about through my teaching an undergraduate anthropology course, "Kinship and Gender," over a ten-year-period. I learned in this course that kinship, often a difficult topic to teach and painful to students, came alive for students in a new way when focused on issues of gender. I also found that students easily understood that a cross-cultural study of gender benefits from a knowledge of kinship.

The book is designed for undergraduate courses in kinship, gender, or, as with my course, the two combined. Except for the topic of kinship terminology, which is not treated here, it provides a basic introduction to anthropological kinship. It also includes nine in-depth ethnographic case studies to give students a better sense of the intricate interconnections between kinship and gender among a variety of cultural groups.

The book may be used as a supplementary text in courses that focus on gender cross-culturally but do not otherwise deal with kinship. However, in these courses, instructors might wish to skip over Chapter 5 ("Double and Cognatic Descent") since the material there on kinship is more technical and complex than that in other chapters.

In some respects I could not have chosen a more difficult time to write an introductory text on kinship and gender. Research and publication on gender are exploding, with new paths of study rapidly emerging and critiques of all previous concepts causing many to wonder where the field can find its bearings. Meanwhile, kinship, possibly the most tortured topic in anthropology, nearly slipped off the edge of professional interest. Yet, particularly when linked with gender, kinship is now seeing a revival; but if so, it will be a revival that reshapes kinship studies through new feminist and postmodernist challenges. In this introductory text I could not delve into current theoretical issues and debates of interest to professional readers. However, I have tried to give students a sense of the directions that contemporary investigations of kinship and gender are taking.

For their helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript I thank Lillian A. Ackerman, Barry S. Hewlett, Diane E. King, Jeannette Mageo, and Nancy P. McKee. A special thanks also goes to Karen Sinclair for her comments on the manuscript and for her inspiration and encouragement throughout this project. For their assistance with particular case studies, I

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