This panel explores changing meanings and practices of kinship in diverse contexts of ageing and longevity in order to reconsider the importance of kinship in anthropology. The future of kinship lies in the shifting realities, experiences and meanings of relatedness emerging in ageing societies.
Within the discipline, critical voices emerging from post-colonial, feminist, queer studies and post-humanism seem to have deconstructed the anthropological category of kinship so comprehensively that it can be difficult to tell where to pick up the pieces. Given the highly mutable bonds of relatedness that characterize anthropological depictions of family life today, the stable structures and patterns of classical kinship appear less compelling, yet empirically, it remains evident that kinship still plays a vital role in the shaping of narratives of the life course and the provision of care. In this panel we will reconsider kinship on the basis of insights from anthropological studies in societies experiencing rapid population ageing historically unprecedented longevity and declines in fertility. What happens to the conceptualization of kinship as populations become older, live longer, and as forms of their relatedness diversify? How does it give room for "constructed forms of kinship" and "logics of relatedness" (Sahlins 2011: 5)? What happens as we decenter the reproductive nuclear family and try to orient from the perspectives of older persons? Increasing numbers of people living longer also means increases in physical frailty and cognitive impairment, producing new potentials for indebtedness and intimacy, love and abandonment over the life course. Elsewhere, absence of kin due to smaller families, displacement or immigration, creates new spaces for political actors to occupy a more "family-like" role of care in the lives of older people. Our ageing world provokes us to imagine different forms and futures of relationality, affection and embodiment.
Caring Relatives: an ethnographic contribution to the role and meaning of kinship for older women in Slovakia