Accepted Papers:

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


Marit Melhuus (University of Oslo)

Paper 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.

Paper 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.

Panel Plenary A
Contemporary articulations of kinship and gender