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Accepted Paper:

Family (law) assemblages: new modes of being (Legal)  
Mariano Croce (Sapienza - Università di Roma) Frederik Swennen (University of Antwerp)

Paper short abstract:

By exploring fragmenting motherhood, the paper contends that the current State approach to kinship should be reimagined as cont(r)actualisation, whereby the State accommodates kinship categories that the law-users themselves produce and that they actively revise when negotiating state recognition.

Paper long abstract:

Despite fundamental changes in the legal regulation of family formations, radical and queer critics still charge state policy frameworks with favouring legal constructs that are modelled on the traditional, archetypal family, based on integrated dyadic partnership and parenthood.

Consequently, the family law of most Western counties is beset by a widening gap between "kinship-in-the-books" (the nuclear family) and "kinship-in-action" (the unclear family).

By exploring the case of "fragmenting motherhood", we claim that this is a hurdle that cannot be overcome unless the state's approach to kinship phenomena is profoundly revised. We contend that the state should be reimagined as an anthropologist trying to bring to light the associations that are created by the law-users themselves, and that more flexible recognition schemes should serve as the anthropologist's notebook to record how law-users create law as they move through the interstices between recognition and unrecognition, how they provide new symbolic resources to confer speakability on what kinship-in-the-books has left unspeakable.

In this context, we advance the notion of cont(r)actualisation: the legal(-anthropological) activity of identifying points of contact where family formations are assembled, dis-assembled and re-assembled and then recognized via contractual forms that the state uses as an instrument to map a territory and to make people's lives liveable. We elaborate on a conception of state recognition as the capacity to trace connections and identify normative frameworks, which valorizes the self-organizing force of social practices but also holds onto the filtering role of the state.

Panel P036
Kinning and de-kinning: kinship practices between "parental figures", "reproductive collaborators" and children among new family configurations
  Session 1