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Accepted Paper:

Fueling new debates with old concepts  

Author:

Tatjana Thelen (University of Vienna IAS Paris)

Paper short abstract:

The productivity of the cooperation between STS and anthropology recently seems to slow down. In my comment to the roundtable I suggest, that new combinations of "old" anthropological themes can contribute a new momentum into debates about power, inequality and marginalisation.

Paper long abstract:

The cooperation between STS and anthropology has been very productive during the last decades. Anthropology as a discipline has gained a lot by reflecting its in-build assumptions in many of its disciplinary fields of interest through insights into the construction of scientific facts. However, it seems that the pace of this productivity has recently slowed down. In my comment to the roundtable I will suggest, that new combinations of "old" anthropological themes with STS can contribute a new momentum into debates about power, inequality and marginalisation. The foundational issue of kinship, where reproductive technologies have called into questions western assumption about reproduction and personhood, shows this dynamic. STS helped overthrowing "old kinship", yet the shift in focus has also contributed to a loss of insights. For example, the relation between property and kinship receded, so that it needed someone like Piketty to remind us of inheritance as major source of inequality. Thus, in order to stir the conversation again, a turn to seemingly old-fashioned insights in the reproduction of structures of inequality can be fruitful. New technologies of measuring "proper" kinship as descent (like paternity and genomic testing) become structurally important if translated into laws of inheritance or exclusionary if connected to bans of specific forms of marriage (like for example cousin marriage).

Panel R011
Shifting Horizons: Anthropology and STS in the 21st Century