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Accepted Paper:

The house and the other house: kinship and kin-work in publishing  
Soheila Shourbaji (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

Family sets the publishing scene in Lebanon and the Arab World. Publishing functions to organize kinship such that crisis and resolve interplay along axes of kin relations. Family work sits within and against familism discourse, but how do we advance a critical political economy of kinship?

Paper long abstract:

The paper describes the socio-economic conditions of the family-based publishing industry in Lebanon. I start with the workings of one publishing house and then delineate the kin stakes of the publishing craft and the ways that different publishers claim a place in the publishing scene. I argue that family is formative to the conditions of the publishing industry so much that publishing functions as a pursuit of kinship making family a quintessentially economic pursuit and principle of social organization.

Publishing and the publishing family encompass a series of crises: boundaries around work, monetary compensation, succession, currency devaluation, printing costs, storage, and distribution. The ethnographic vignettes focus on the dialectical dynamics of obligation and desire and tension and convention. However, kin-work at the publishing house requires the transformation of kinship based in birth (Qaraba) into kinship based in proximity (Qurba) which serves to resolve the ‘kinship crisis’ at work. I begin to develop the concept of kin-work as a specific production format that mutates from the domestic economy into market settings.

This type of family work happens within a politically charged frustration and romanticization of ‘familism’ in Lebanese society. Public discourse has dominantly used familism to explain away the economic vitality of kinship or surmise it as a ‘last refuge’ and a form of political stagnation. This logic figures in anthropological literature as well. My ethnographic material and the refocus of analysis onto kin and economic strategies aims to challenge this oversight and re-politicize the economy of kinship.

Panel Narr01
Family as a safe haven? Families in social practice and narratives in times of crises
  Session 2 Saturday 10 June, 2023, -