Accepted paper:

Kinning and dekinning the national past: moral dimensions of aging and memory in Poland


Jessica Robbins-Ruszkowski (Wayne State University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes contemporary and remembered kinship among older adults in Poland in order to show how intimate everyday practices of relatedness are inextricable from broader political formations. Kinning and dekinning thus emerge as moral practices, traversing temporal and geographic scales.

Paper long abstract:

During the last decade in Poland, two moments have highlighted connections between older people and the nation. In 2007, get-out-the-vote ads used threatening images of older women to motivate youth to vote against the far-right party. After the 2010 plane crash that killed the president and key politicians, a controversy over a large cross's placement took on generational contours. Indeed, discussions about aging often become evaluative conversations about the Polish nation in which older people are negatively associated with the socialist past. This moral, political connection between the life course of persons and nation occurs not only in large-scale public events, but also in daily life. In this context, where personhood and nationhood are so deeply intertwined, how do transformations in nation and state mirror experiences and representations of kinship? What happens to kinship during transformations in the life course and political formations? Drawing on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork with older adults in medical and educational institutions in Wrocław and Poznań, Poland, this paper explores everyday practices of care, memory, and relatedness, thereby elucidating moral, political-economic connections between persons and nation. Building on recent scholarship (Carsten 2000, 2007; Howell 2006; McKinnon and Cannell 2013), this paper shows that everyday, intimate, and remembered practices of relatedness are not isolated from political spheres, but are rather inseparable from broader state formations. Kinning and dekinning thus emerge as moral practices that traverse temporal and geographic scales—and it is in these moments of scale-jumping that moral delineations of inclusion and exclusion occur.

panel P054
Kinning the state - state kinning: reconnecting the anthropology of kinship and political anthropology