Ambiguous, ambivalent, and contingent kinship: the generative slipperiness of relations and 'being together'

Bethany Honeysett (University of Edinburgh)
Siobhan Magee (University of Edinburgh)
Room 4
Start time:
16 April, 2015 at 9:15
Session slots:

Short abstract:

We probe slippery kin relations as instances of co-existence with the potential for risk, commensality and mutuality within the contingent circumstances of social change. We ask what is generative about ambivalent, ambiguous, multigenerational and gendered ideas, practices and configurations of kin.

Long abstract:

The relentless contingency of relations both enlivens and threatens anthropological projects. Studying relations makes anthropologists sensitive to the 'relations between relations': those slippery ambiguities where the terms of newness-oldness and oneness-otherness are continuously renegotiated through processes of birth and death, growing-up and aging. Within families, households, kin-networks, and indeed, within and between academic disciplines, relations compete with and complement one another, at times placing each other 'at risk'. Yet risk and contingency are often the essence of lived kinship and engender new and emergent decisions, experimentations and solutions. This panel asks: what is generative about ambivalent and ambiguous ideas of kin? And what role do slippery multigenerational or gendered configurations play in the reproductive, productive, consumptive and radical intersections of kin? How, for example, might relations provide succour in times of precarity, shifting living arrangements, responsibilities, and lifecourse liminality, while becoming particularly tense as a result of these? We invoke ethnography on kin practices as an anthropological resource to help us understand symbiotic relations, extending methodologically from the commensality of the shared meal and the mutualisms of kinship negotiations. The generative terms of futurity are up for grabs within contingent relations such as these so how are decisions made in the presence of those who will bear their consequences? Moreover, how might ambivalent, ambiguous and slippery kinships produce togetherness and generative futures?