Global Kinship: Anthropology and the Politics of Knowing

By Herzfeld, Michael | Anthropological Quarterly, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Global Kinship: Anthropology and the Politics of Knowing


Herzfeld, Michael, Anthropological Quarterly


Kinship has cast such a long shadow over anthropological analysis that students who have never confronted its more technical aspects still profess boredom with the topic and relief that they do not have to deal with it. But deal with it, surprisingly, they do-in a technically less demanding guise, to be sure-through the more fashionable medium of other topics that have become considerably more central to the discipline: nationalism, gender, warfare, bio-ethics, the ethnography of science, transnational mobility, memory and the uses of history. The technical virtuosity of kinship analysis has largely passed from the scene; what remains is a cluster of basic principles-the importance of the nuclear family, the use of nuclear family terms in nationalistic rhetoric, correlations of inheritance rules with kinship structure, and the expectation that kinship should ideally be a major source of affect and cooperation-that barely seem to need analysis and that seem, to a very large extent, immediately comprehensible even to those who are only familiar with West European models of the relationships thus grouped together.

But are these principles really so transparent? Kinship-rather than kinship systems-has become a global phenomenon, in which surface homogeneity and an apparent reduction in complexity may nonetheless mask considerable differences in use and interpretation. We can see the implications of this expansion especially well in the subtly contrasted but mutually complementary models of world diplomacy that Eleana Kim and Monica Konrad offer here in their respective essays on international adoption and the negotiation of biomedical knowledge; Konrad offers an especially subtle linkage between ideologies of shared (and exclusive) substance that characterize local kin groups on the one hand and the ethical and "diplomatic" aspects of transporting biomedical knowledge across the borders of nation-states on the other.

The papers grouped together in this issue of Anthropological Quarterly indeed collectively illustrate both the persistence of kinship as a strong organizing principle of ramified relationships extending far beyond the face-to-face communities of anthropological yore and beyond the strongly Eurocentric bias, the latter being especially evident in the almost exclusive emphasis on the nuclear family and a rhetoric of parity between matrilateral and patrilateral kin that masks a continuing agnatic emphasis. This Eurocentrism now informs the extended (some would say metaphorical or at least metonymie) elaborations of local "moral communities" (Evans-Pritchard 1940; Campbell 1964) or, more conceptually, "moral worlds" (Kleinman 2006: 219) that we encounter in the rhetoric of most nation-states today. Imperceptibly, it seems, kinship, routed from the scenes of its computational glories, has insidiously slipped back everywhere, and its channels are numerous: from transnational migrations (Ho 2006; Watson 2005) to artificial insemination and the nationstate (Kahn 2000), kinship-in-general has clearly morphed into something still vital and important.

Truth to tell, the capacity for such metaphorization (or metonymie extension) was always present; its lack of visibility is a direct consequence of a very unfortunate loss of vision, in which the relevance of older ethnographies to current concerns appears to have largely vanished. Yet we do not have to look far in order to recuperate the loss. The patrilineal idiom of the Bosnian and Kosovo wars builds on earlier models of patrilineal clan identity (see Herzfeld 1997; cf. Hammel 1968), anthropologically foreshadowed in Evans-Pritchard's (1940: 237-238) insistence that patriliny among the Nuer was as much a political idiom as a literal statement of genealogy; he subsequently extended this insight directly to the historical emergence of statehood in Libya, showing how it shaped the response to external pressure and particularly the impact of colonialism (Evans-Pritchard 1949). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Global Kinship: Anthropology and the Politics of Knowing
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.