Accepted Paper:

Servants or kin? The ambiguities of informal child fostering in coastal Ecuador  
Emily Walmsley (Keele University)

Paper short abstract:

Informal fostering is widely practised in Esmeraldas, Ecuador. This paper discusses how it occurs between both unrelated families and close kin. Fostered children receive very varied treatment: their experiences thus provide important insights into the wider meanings of kinship in local society.

Paper long abstract:

Recent attempts to broaden the concept of kinship in anthropology have focused attention onto a wide range of non-consanguineal ties of relatedness in diverse societies (eg Carsten 2000, Franklin and McKinnon 2001). Following this lead this paper analyses the significance of informal child fostering practices in the city of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. It considers not only the potential for building ties of fictive kinship in this context but also, importantly, its limitations. In Esmeraldas, a large proportion of households take in 'hijos criados' ('raised sons/daughters') and bring them up alongside the children born into those homes. In some cases the hijos criados come to embody the role of sons or daughters; in other cases they are treated as servants and denied the opportunities afforded their peers. What, then, are the factors determining the treatment of these children? Why are some incorporated into the kin network of the household and others not? Drawing on in-depth narratives of individuals raised in this way, and of those who raised them, the paper considers how relatedness between hijos criados and their families de crianza is created or resisted, and how this process is shaped by race, class and gender relations within the local society.

Panel W036
Rethinking ritual kinship