Politics and Kinship : A Reader book cover
1st Edition

Politics and Kinship
A Reader

ISBN 9780367408718
Published December 16, 2021 by Routledge
306 Pages

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Book Description

Politics and Kinship: A Reader offers a unique overview of the entanglement of these two categories in both theoretical debates and everyday practices. The two, despite many challenges, are often thought to have become separated during the process of modernisation. Tracing how this notion of separation becomes idealised and translated into various contexts, this book sheds light on its epistemological limitations. Combining otherwise-distinct lines of discussion within political anthropology and kinship studies, the selection of texts covers a broad range of intersecting topics that range from military strategy, DNA testing, and child fostering, to practices of kinning the state.

Beginning with the study of politics, the first part of this volume looks at how its separation from kinship came to be considered a ‘modern’ phenomenon, with significant consequences. The second part starts from kinship, showing how it was made into a separate and apolitical field – an idea that would soon travel and be translated globally into policies. The third part turns to reproductions through various transmissions and future-making projects. Overall, the volume offers a fundamental critique of the epistemological separation of politics and kinship, and its shortcomings for teaching and research. Featuring contributions from a broad range of regional, temporal and theoretical backgrounds, it allows for critical engagement with knowledge production about the entanglement of politics and kinship.

The different traditions and contemporary approaches represented make this book an essential resource for researchers, instructors and students of anthropology.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Politics and Kinship 

Tatjana Thelen and Erdmute Alber

Part I. Starting from Politics: Partitions and boundaries

1. Introduction to African Political Systems

Meyer Fortes and Edward E. Evans-Pritchard

2. Kinship within and beyond the ‘Movement of Progressive Societies’

Susan McKinnon

3. Kinship Weaponized: Representations of Kinship and Binary Othering in U.S. Military Anthropology

Thomas Zitelmann

4. Father State, Motherland, and the Birth of Modern Turkey

Carol Delaney

5. The Village Headman in British Central Africa: Introduction

Max Gluckman

6. State Kinning and Kinning the State in Serbian Elder Care Programs

Tatjana Thelen, André Thiemann and Duška Roth

Part II. Starting from Kinship: Technologies and travels

7. General Results

Lewis Henry Morgan

8. Doubt is the Mother of All Inventions: DNA and Paternity in a Brazilian Setting

Claudia Fonseca

9. The Algebra of Genocide

Diane Nelson

10. Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power. Gender and Morality in the Making of Race

Ann Laura Stoler

11. Genomics en Route: Ancestry, Heritage and the Politics of Identity across the Black Atlantic

Katharina Schramm

12. Making Merit: The Indian Institutes of Technology and the Social Life of Caste

Ajantha Subramanian

Part III. Reproductions: Transmissions and future making

13. The Origins of the Family, Property, and the State

Friedrich Engels

14. Including Our Own

Jeanette Edwards and Marilyn Strathern

15. Parenthood and Social Reproduction

Esther Goody

16. No School without Foster Families in Northern Benin: A Social Historical Approach

Erdmute Alber

17. Defining Parents, Making Citizens: Nationality and Citizenship in Transnational Surrogacy

Daisy Deomampo

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Erdmute Alber is Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Bayreuth, Germany.

Tatjana Thelen is Full Professor in the Department for Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna, Austria.


"Politics and Kinship, with a superb introduction by Thelen and Alber, enables us to understand contemporary societies through the entanglement of politics and kinship. The editors are to be lauded for providing the conceptual tools with which we can overcome the theoretical loss much social theory has suffered by leaving unquestioned the specific modernist differentiation of politics and kinship that travelled the world in the service of specific governmental projects. The encompassing perspective presented in this collection ought to enrich many fields of research."

Julia Eckert, University of Bern

"Kinship and politics are incommensurable concepts, yet equally salient for anthropology. The chapters in this lively and wide-ranging collection show the enduring interest in thinking through – and with – the shifting conceptual, empirical, and ideal relations between them."

Michael Lambek, University of Toronto

"Volume editors Thelen and Alber have imaginatively assembled a series of texts to document anthropology’s enduring fascination with the mutual entanglement of kinship and politics. Their daring mix of respected classics with exciting new scholarship should prompt new, valuable, and perhaps disconcerting reflections on the historical genealogy and future trajectory of the political in the discipline."

Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University

"Politics and Kinship displays the impact of a core disciplinary boundary beyond the academy. With a collection that ranges from classic anthropological works to recent writings, from marriage to schooling, and from western nations to non-western groups., Politics and Kinship takes the subject beyond debates over definitions, pointing a way to "future-making" in research and in social action."

Judith Schachter, Carnegie Mellon University