After citizenship: the process of kinship in a setting of civic inequality
(University of Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines how legally unauthorised African migrants mobilise and produce kinship to access scarce civic resources and argues that features of modernity like state borders, market regulation and the welfare state do not vanish or diminish kinship but reconfigure and sometimes strengthen it.
Paper long abstract:
In anthropological theory and political philosophy, kinship and citizenship have been theorised as the main institutions of traditional and modern societies respectively and thus as mutually exclusive. This paper examines kinship and citizenship in interrelation and argues that features of modernity like state borders, market regulation and the welfare state do not vanish or diminish kinship but reconfigure and sometimes strengthen it. This paper analyses how legally unauthorised African migrants in the Netherlands mobilise and produce kinship (especially brotherhood/sisterhood) to access scarce civic resources. Although both kinship and citizenship are often associated with egalitarianism, mutuality and closeness, this paper points out the decisive role of inequality in the constitution of both. Citizenship is internally inclusive but externally exclusive because it is granted to a limited number of people according to a series of criteria that exclude others. Those who are excluded from civic membership cannot enjoy a number of benefits which are available to citizens. In this paper, I show that legally precarious West African migrants can partially enjoy these benefits by exchanging resources with citizens who become kinsmen. Exchange relations form an infrastructure for kinship because they create mutuality, even in unequal terms, and interdependency. Considering exchange as an infrastructure for kinship can be analytically useful to explain how mutuality and dependency are produced while at the same time inequality among kinsmen is reinforced and formalised, especially when the forms of exchange are asymmetrical and the gifts transacted inalienable.
Kinning the state - state kinning: reconnecting the anthropology of kinship and political anthropology