Relative Values

Reconfiguring Kinship Studies

Relative Values

Book Pages: 536 Illustrations: 11 b&w photos, 1 table, 6 maps, 15 figures Published: February 2002

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies, Sociology > Social Theory

The essays in Relative Values draw on new work in anthropology, science studies, gender theory, critical race studies, and postmodernism to offer a radical revisioning of kinship and kinship theory. Through a combination of vivid case studies and trenchant theoretical essays, the contributors—a group of internationally recognized scholars—examine both the history of kinship theory and its future, at once raising questions that have long occupied a central place within the discipline of anthropology and moving beyond them.
Ideas about kinship are vital not only to understanding but also to forming many of the practices and innovations of contemporary society. How do the cultural logics of contemporary biopolitics, commodification, and globalization intersect with kinship practices and theories? In what ways do kinship analogies inform scientific and clinical practices; and what happens to kinship when it is created in such unfamiliar sites as biogenetic labs, new reproductive technology clinics, and the computers of artificial life scientists? How does kinship constitute—and get constituted by—the relations of power that draw lines of hierarchy and equality, exclusion and inclusion, ambivalence and violence? The contributors assess the implications for kinship of such phenomena as blood transfusions, adoption across national borders, genetic support groups, photography, and the new reproductive technologies while ranging from rural China to mid-century Africa to contemporary Norway and the United States. Addressing these and other timely issues, Relative Values injects new life into one of anthropology's most important disciplinary traditions.
Posing these and other timely questions, Relative Values injects an important interdisciplinary curiosity into one of anthropology’s most important disciplinary traditions.

Contributors. Mary Bouquet, Janet Carsten, Charis Thompson Cussins, Carol Delaney, Gillian Feeley-Harnik, Sarah Franklin, Deborah Heath, Stefan Helmreich, Signe Howell, Jonathan Marks, Susan McKinnon, Michael G. Peletz, Rayna Rapp, Martine Segalen, Pauline Turner Strong, Melbourne Tapper, Karen-Sue Taussig, Kath Weston, Yunxiang Yan


"The challenge of recoding our kinship studies and our kinship behaviour remains, but the essays in Relative Values provide a broad template that makes meeting the challenge possible—and necessary. Scholars in a multitude of fields will be grateful for this finely executed collection." — Judith S. Modell,, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"This collection introduces the new program of kinship study in papers that are . . . clear and accessible. . . . This collection introduces the new program of kinship study in papers that are . . . clear and accessible. It belongs in every academic library." — R. Berleant-Schiller, Choice

“This important collection of inter-disciplinary essays on the new kinship shows diverse ways that relative values, shifting solidarities, and partial connections of truth and affect today create the ties that bind.” — Paul Rabinow, University of California, Berkeley

“This is one of the few books which crosses disciplinary terrains with clear and brilliant consequences. It not only brings anthropology into every sphere, but shows that fundamental thinking on life and kinship under conditions of globalization compel us to accept and work with a radical remapping of knowledge. This text considers these issues with prismatic illumination and is unprecedented in its success.” — Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sarah Franklin is Reader in Cultural Anthropology for the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University, England.

Susan McKinnon is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia.

Table of Contents Back to Top


Introduction: Relative Values: Reconfiguring Kinship Studies / Sarah Franklin and Susan McKinnon

Part I. Substantial-Codings: From Blood to Hypertext

1. Substantivism, Antisubstantivism, and Anti-antisubstantivism / Janet Carsten

2. The Ethnography of Creation: Lewis Henry Morgan and the American Beaver / Gillian Feeley-Harnik

3. Making Kinship, with an Old Reproductive Technology / Mary Bouquet

4. Kinship in Hypertext: Transubstantiating Fatherhood and Information Flow in Artificial Life / Stefan Helmreich

Part II. Kinship Negotiations: What’s Biology Not/Got to Do with It

5. Kinship, Controversy, and the Sharing of Substance: The Race/Class Politics of Blood Transfusion / Kath Weston

6. Strategic Naturalizing: Kinship in an Infertility Clinic / Charis Thompson

7. Self-Conscious Kinship: Some Contested Values in Norwegian Transnational Adoption / Signe Howell

8. Practicing Kinship in Rural North China / Yunxiang Yan

9. The Shift in Kinship Studies in France: The Case of Grandparenting / Martine Segalen

Part III. Nature, Culture, and the Properties of Kinship

10. The Economies in Kinship and the Paternity of Culture: Origin Stories in Kinship Theory / Susan McKinnon

11. Biologization Revisited: Kinship Theory in the Context of the New Biologies / Sarah Franklin

Part IV. ‘R’ Genes Us? The Uses of Gene/alogies

12. Blood/Kinship, Governmentality, and Cultures of Order in Colonial Africa / Melbourne Tapper

13. “We’re Going to Tell These People Who They Really Are”: Science and Relatedness / Jonathan Marks

14. Genealogical Dis-Ease: Where Heredity Abnormality, Biomedical Explanation, and Family Responsibility Meet / Rayna Rapp, Deborah Heath, and Karen-Sue Taussig

Part V. Ambivalence and Violence at the Heart of Kinship

15. Ambivalence in Kinship since the 1940s / Michael G. Peletz

16. Cutting the Ties that Bind: The Sacrifice of Abraham and Patriarchal Kinship / Carol Delaney

17. To Forget Their Tongue, Their Name, and Their Whole Relation: Captivity, Extra-Tribal Adoption, and the Indian Child Welfare Act / Pauline Turner Strong



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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2796-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2786-8
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