EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

Kinning from the edges: LGBTQ doing and undoing families
Location U6-8
Date and Start Time 22 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Rosa Parisi (University of Foggia) email
  • J. Ignacio Pichardo (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) email
  • Simonetta Grilli (University of Siena) email

Mail All Convenors

Discussant Jérôme Courduriès (Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès)

Short Abstract

The panel gathers scholars working on contemporary forms of LGBTQ familyhood and parenthood to present field research on this topic in order to rethink and reconsider classic theories, unsolved questions, and key issues within the contemporary perspective of anthropology of kinship.

Long Abstract

New trends of research on “new forms” of families, specially on LGBTQ families, have definitely problematised the traditional way of thinking kinship as a “natural” fact. Heterosexual and non-heterosexual families share aspects of change that has recently affected family in its various configurations (such as the non-coincidence between sexuality and procreation, or the non-coincidence between biological and social parents). However, the so-called rainbow families are at the cutting edge of change, highlighting and visibilizing all disjunctions brought by this transformation process. They are contributing to question the genealogical dimension of filiation, symbolically centered on the heterosexuality-procreation continuum (Strathern 1992; Carsten 2000, 2004; Franklin and Mckinnon 2001; Edwards and Salazar 2009). LGBT families are, at the same time, bringing a more flexible idea of “chosen/elective kinship” (Weston, 1991).

This panel aims to bring together scholars working on LGBTQ kinship and families in different fields (reproductive strategies, strategies of doin/un-doing families, process of kinning that breaks the border between kin and kith), in different national contexts, with different kinship and reproductive cultures, different family law, and different heterosexist and homophobic regimes, and finnaly with different political and everyday life strategies from more and more visible and integrated LGBTQ behaviors. Starting from the ethnographic work or theoretical issues, we intend to explore the way in which same-sex families and LGBTQ parents are currently creating new textures of social cohesion and relatedness, many times unexpected, new process of kinning through which a newborn child is trasformed into kin and he/she is brought into a significant and permanent relationship within a wider group of people. Finally, we want to discuss and provide a significant contribution to the way general concepts within kinship and family studies are always negotiated and resignified.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Cuban family law and new family configurations: kinship dynamics in Havana lesbian and heterosexual families

Author: Dachely Valdes Moreno (University of Havana)  email

Short Abstract

In Cuba, a country where family law does not yet recognize same-sex families, the study explores how two groups (lesbian and heterosexual families) define the concept of kin and explores the impact of family dynamics on children’s well-being.

Long Abstract

For more than 10 years LBGT people in Cuba have been waiting for the National Assembly to bring to debate a new version of the country's Family Law that could provide equal rights to same-sex families. The version of the law proposed to the National Assembly in 2004 was rumored to include the recognition of same-sex marriage and adoption but has not been addressed publically. Recently Cuban LGBT activists sent a letter to the National Assembly demanding that the proposal be brought to public debate. In response they have heard that "Cuban society is not ready for such changes." Who is not ready? And who must be?

Contemporary forms of familyhood and parenthood in Cuba are much more diverse than those recognized by the country's outdated Family Code. This study looks at the internal dynamics of family life, the social and legal support (or lack thereof) they experience, the distribution of roles between parental figures, patterns of affection and communication between members of the families, and the relationship between the family and the school to determine how these aspects influence the well-being of children in heterosexual and lesbian families in Havana. Further ethnographic studies are needed to inform Cuban social and judicial sciences about these new family configurations to make policies that are inclusive of new forms of exercising maternity and paternity.

Division of housework and baby care in Spanish same-sex families

Authors: Gloria Álvarez (Universidad de Granada)  email
Nuria Romo (University of Granada)  email

Short Abstract

This ethnographic research analyse the criteria of division of housework and childcare in twenty-one Spanish same-sex families. Results show that the idea of equity prevail in their discourses. However, some respondents talk about an unfair distribution that they try to justify it.

Long Abstract

Gender and kinship studies have questioned the hegemonic family model consisting of a reproductive heterosexual couple. One of these criticisms has been related to the dichotomous nature which emphasize differentiated gender roles in the productive and reproductive processes. In this sense, the organisation and the division of housework chores and childcare have been addressed in different investigations. Results show that in same-sex families there are a lower level of specialisation in comparison with heterosexual families because in the first case both partners tend to participate and balance their domestic responsibilities. The objective of this paper is: define the criteria by which families headed by same-sex couples organize and distribute domestic chores and childcare. Therefore, an ethnographic study with 21 Spanish families headed by same-sex couples was carried out. Results show that informers felt that there was a fair and equitable sharing in their homes. However, a minority recognized that the deal was unfair but it was justified. Those couples that talked about equity considered that their type of profession and workday favoured that the two parties worked equally. Nevertheless, couples with inequitable distribution argued that the flexible working hours, the need of maximizing the professional career of the partner, or the high degree of specialization were decisive factors in the distribution. According to the gender, some female couples with inequitable distribution felt badly for this circumstance. However, that feeling of discomfort was not observed in male couples. Finally, main conclusions are explained.

(Un-) intentional Pioneers - Same-sex parents oscillating between heteronormative family narratives and queering kinship

Author: Julia Teschlade  email

Short Abstract

The paper focuses on how gay couples from Germany, who found a family through surrogacy, engage with and overcome heteronormative kinship structures and thus construct new forms of kinship ties outside of the parental dyad by integrating the surrogate mother and the egg donor to their family narrative.

Long Abstract

In Germany, gay couples who want to fulfill their wish for a ('biological') child face political and legal restrictions: They are not allowed to adopt and surrogacy is illegal. Moreover, public debates about gay parenthood are controversial, arguing that a child needs a mother and a father.

Concentrating on gay couples from Germany, who founded a family through surrogacy, the paper shows how their kinning practices involve ambivalences. Since they are not accepted as 'normal' families and experience discrimination, research indicates that they engage in heteronormative kinship narratives, objecting the idea of 'queer kinship', while at the same time criticizing persisting inequalities. However, that is only one side. In contrast to heterosexual couples, they circumvent such narratives by integrating at least two further parties to their family: the surrogate mother and the egg donor. My interviews showed that biological ties are an important factor for their construction of kinship. They keep in contact with the women involved in the family founding process to allow their children to get to know them. From a kinning perspective it is interesting how especially the surrogate mother becomes part of the family narrative, while at the same time de-kinning practices disengage her from being a family member. I intend to show how parents and surrogate mothers construct a field of intimacy and social bonds that exceeds heteronormative assumptions about kinship patterns, mutual responsibility and care. These new perspectives on kinning practices reveal valuable insights for public policies as well as jurisdiction.

"Love has won (?)": an anthropological approach in gay fatherhood through the public discussion on the extension of the co-habitation agreement among homosexuals in Greece

Author: Savvas Triantafyllidis (Panteion University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will deal with the ascending demand posed by gay men in Greece for the right to have children and its cultural annotations about what kinship tends to mean, based on the recent public discussion about the expansion of the co-habitation agreement among homosexual citizens in Greece.

Long Abstract

Greece, a country whose traditional values seem to be strong, recently faced the challenge of the expansion of the co-habitation agreement among homosexual citizens. Right-wing political parties, conservative citizens and the Church soon were opposed to those who were for the voting of such a bill. At the same time, the legislation of the co-habitation agreement had been a demand heavily expressed by the Greek LGBTQI community through years, one that was finally achieved during December 2015, but still did not totally satisfy its members because of the exclusion of parental rights. It is of great interest though, that besides the fact that parental rights were not included in the bill, the public discussion that took part at a state website before the voting of the bill in the Greek Parliament was centered on the notions of motherhood and fatherhood, based on the terms of "nature" and "choice". Based on those facts, in this paper there will be an anthropological approach in gay fatherhood based on the discourse expressed during the public discussion and on an on-going ethnography among gay men who are or wish to become fathers in Greece. How are gay men perceived when it comes to kinship, how ARTs and the entrance of gay men in kinship change what we consider a family, and, finally, how can we define terms of kinship in an era when bonds tend to be fluid?

Addressing multi-parenthood in legal kinship terminology: a matter of finding the right words?

Author: Nola Cammu (University of Antwerp)  email

Short Abstract

The law is not (yet) able to accommodate a legal framework for the increasing visibility of alternative family structures of multi-parenthood. One of the problems here is the absence of legal kinship vocabulary. In this paper, I will aim to map out possible legal strategies for future direction.

Long Abstract

The modalities of parenthood, and more specifically, the definition of "the parental figure(s)" forms a pertinent question for the future of family law. Multi-parenthood, e.g. joint parental projects of gay and lesbian families, surrogacy, (three-person) IVF or de facto multi-parenting in re-constituted families, all transcend hegemonic constructions of the nuclear family. The law, however, is not (yet) able to accommodate a legal framework for the increasing visibility of alternative family structures. One of the problems here is the absence of legal kinship vocabulary. Existing new vocabulary, such as the Belgian 'co-mother' and the Dutch 'duo-mother' does not necessarily align with social practice. Crucial here is the three-way interplay of public perception (how is multi-parenthood perceived), social practice (how is it shaped) and the law (how is it legally accommodated). In this paper, I will aim to explore the discrepancies between the existing gaps in the above mentioned triangular interaction, in order to map out possible legal strategies for future direction. Employing a law-in-context approach, I will draw on the concept of performativity to explore how multi-parenthood is socially constructed through day-to-day social practice and alternative language use. My methodology will encompass both a literature review of regulatory theory and existing kinship vocabulary, as well as semi-structured interviews with parents. This will be integrated in a comparative law analysis of the legal strategies for legal recognition of multi-parenting constructions; which I believe will contribute to the development of 'new kinship' studies in general.

between friends and webprofiles: sperm donors and imagined degrees of kinship

Author: Laura Fantone (University of California Berkeley)  email

Short Abstract

This essay examine the choice of sperm donors in California from the perspective of Queer women, choosing between friends and criobanks, therecent changes in the legal framing, and the increased de-kinning or separation between the donor and the social parents.

Long Abstract

In California, one of the states with high concentration of same sex couples in the United States,

there has been recent shifts in the Law, allowing for three parents or more to appear on a child' s birth certificate. Furthermore, after t the 2015 supreme court ruling that recognizes same sex families as entitled tequal rights as heterosexual families, many legal restrictions about sperm donors and legal obligations are slowly being reduced.

On one level, this important shift leads to an active recognition of non-heteronormative families.

My research explores how queer females navigate the offer of sperm donors via criobanks, vs. the more murky terrain of queer and fictive kinship building by using know donors, and multiple bio- mothers.

In my autoethnographic account, it appears that questions of parenting and kinship are not easily translatable in legal terms. Noticing the shift from exchanges of reproductive materials started in the realm of gay activism in the 1990s to a market-driven, on-line catalogue model today, the figure of the sperm donor becomes interestingly caught in a dichotomy: on one level clearly separated from any parenting role by laws and by the techno-mediation of the sperm bank; on another, expressing a desire to be connected through bio-exchanges and friendships in way that exceed the current legal vocabulary, which is developing by increasingly protecting the same-sex couple as a unit. I conclude with a critique of the binary form in family formation and its reiteration in same sex families in contemporary California

LGBTQ kinship practices: reproductive loss, apparent failures, and memorialization

Author: Christa Craven (College of Wooster)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyzes LGBTQ reproductive loss (miscarriage and failed adoptions) as sites of potential “de-kinning” through the apparent failure to achieve successful family formation, yet also a space of imagining new kinships and relationships through personal and communal memorialization.

Long Abstract

LGBTQ communities have a long history of memorializing community losses—the AIDS memorial quilt, Transgender Day of Remembrance. Yet the kinships created (and lost) through experiences of miscarriage, infant death, and failed adoptions often remain a silent burden for LGBTQ families, frequently intensified by fears of homophobia and heterosexism. Further, the recent public preoccupation with "progressive" gay family formation—through utopian narratives of steady progress (achieving financial stability, marrying legally, becoming parents, et cetera)—eclipses the challenges LGBTQ parents face in establishing and gaining recognition as families. Thus, when they face reproductive loss, an apparent failure to achieve this goal, their experiences of defeat are frequently amplified. Are they de-kinned in this moment of loss, as Fonesca (2011) argues that birthmothers are de-kinned through the process of adoption? Or does the history of alternative family-making in LGBTQ communities encourage new kinds of "kinning" and incorporation of these experiences? Based on interviews with 50 LGBTQ parents, from the United States, Canada, Belgium, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, New Zealand and Scotland, this paper analyzes queer reproductive loss as a site of potential "de-kinning" through the apparent failure to achieve successful family formation, yet also a space of imagining new kinships and relationships through personal and communal memorialization. Through an examination of personal stories and photographs shared by participants, this paper demonstrates how grieving LGBTQ parents use physical memorials, religious/spiritual services, and the increasingly popular use of commemorative tattoos and art as strategies to "mark" their experiences of kinship and community.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.