EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(Plenary A)
Contemporary articulations of kinship and gender
Location Aula Magna
Date and Start Time 21 July, 2016 at 14:30
Sessions 0

Convenor

  • Thomas Hylland Eriksen (University of Oslo) email

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Discussant Elisabeth Kirtsoglou (Durham University)

Short Abstract

While kinship and gender have been central to anthropological research, seen both separately and together, this plenary session takes stock and looks ahead, exploring ways in which contemporary research on kinship and gender relates to earlier perspectives.

Long Abstract

Kinship has been a central preoccupation for anthropologists since Morgan, while gender has been a key concept since the 1970s. This plenary session takes into account the anthropological legacies of studying kinship and gender, whether separately or together, and looks ahead. While the plenary explores ways in which contemporary research on kinship and gender relates to earlier perspectives, the main emphasis is on current concerns. The very categories of kinship and gender as comparative concepts have repeatedly been questioned, and the empirical importance of these criteria of social differentiation is often challenged, yet the concepts are still in the backbone of anthropological analysis. How, we ask, can the human condition today be read through these concepts (and empirical realities)? What are the questions that need to be asked now? And do the shifts in anthropological theorising of kinship and gender reflect historical changes, and if so, how?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Kinship and gender as legacy and future

Author: Janet Carsten (University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

Kinship and gender are inevitably entangled with history and temporality – with legacies and futures. Rather than focusing on the inclusionary work of kinship over time, at this contemporary moment it seems appropriate to examine the work of exclusion that both kinship and gender enable.

Long Abstract

Legacies and futures are a particularly apt frame for considering contemporary articulations of kinship and gender. In this presentation, I argue that while the anthropological study of both kinship and gender obviously come with a considerable historical baggage, everyday practices and understandings necessarily also encompass visions of the past and future. The temporality of kinship, which may be grounded in material artefacts and substances (for example, houses, genealogies, photographs, food, bodily substances) provides pathways for its inclusionary and exclusionary work. With a few notable exceptions, the anthropological antecedents have concentrated more on the inclusionary processes of kinship and the exclusions of gender – together with those of race and nationality. At this contemporary juncture in Europe it seems appropriate to consider the entanglements of kinship and gender with history, and to focus on the work of exclusion that both kinship and gender enable.

The current backlash against new forms of kinship, gender and sexuality: it’s time to listen to anthropologists

Author: Miguel Vale de Almeida (ISCTE, Lisbon)  email

Short Abstract

So-called ‘gender theory’ is under attack, as well as LGBT rights, branded in some contexts as ‘colonial’ or ‘Western’. Simultaneously, critical theories call for ‘queering’ and ‘decolonization’. What can and should anthropologists say about these developments that seem to challenge a certain liberal consensus, considering the discipline’s focus on kinship, gender and sexual politics?

Long Abstract

We have been witnessing, in the 21st century, new political rhetorics, discourses, and actions regarding kinship, gender and sexuality. They are closely tied to the definition of national collectivities, to international relations, and they reflect global ideological coalitions. The Catholic Church declared war on what it branded as “gender theory”, evangelical movements resort to homophobic discourse, some African nations categorize gender and sexual rights as ‘colonial”, Russia categorizes them as ‘Western’, to name only a few examples. Their target is the reconfiguration, in Western liberal democracies, of the notions of family, kinship, and filiation, increasingly based on notions of relatedness, content, and choice, rather than on biology or structure. On the other hand, LGBT rights have increasingly become the standard measure for human right’s assessment by US EU diplomacies, while at the same time some trends in activism accuse certain Western countries of practising ‘pinkwashing’ or of downplaying women’s rights. What can and should anthropologists say, considering our legacy of kinship studies, the ‘gender turn’ and, subsequently, their attention to the sexual politics of societies?

State practices and legal fictions: the changing ”nature” of kinship and gender

Author: Marit Melhuus (University of Oslo)  email

Short Abstract

As procreative practices are changing, so also are understandings of kinship and gender. This is amply demonstrated in the debates surrounding the legal incorporation of reproductive technologies in Norway. Politics of gender challenge the ”nature” of kinship, inviting critical reflection not only on the transformative capacities of kinship and gender, but also on the ways that these are inflected by state policies.

Long Abstract

Within contemporary anthropology, kinship and gender are viewed as mutually constitutive; one cannot be properly grasped without paying attention to the other. Whereas the study of gender has increased its significance within complex, modern societies, there has been a tendency to assume that with modernity, kinship loses its explanatory force. This assumption, however, is not borne out empirically. Ideas and practices of kinship and gender cut across the domains of politics, religion, and economy. One significant area where gender and kinship converge is reproduction. This is amply demonstrated in the various legal attempts to regulate assisted conception. In the case of Norway, the legal regulation can be seen as an effort to stabilise kinship, to pin kinship down as it were. Yet, this effort to fix particular relations (of paternity, maternity, filiation) is subverted not only by practices which circumvent the law, but also by counter-posing an egalitarian principle of gender equality. In this process, both the nature of kinship and of gender are transformed.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.