anthropological research, resources and documentation on the Aborigines of Australia

Kinship: an introduction (by Laurent Dousset)

Table of Contents | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Part 1: What is kinship? A collection of quotes

Instead of providing a definition of kinship that would, I am afraid, be partial, biased, motivated (or unmotivated) etc., I thought I might instead list on this page definitions and remarks on kinship and kinship studies I found, find and will find in the literature.
Be aware that the definitions are usually taken out of a context, and that they therefore loose their full value. In case of doubt, check back at the original source given below each quote. Copyright of these quotes, obviously, remains with the original author/publisher.

The definitions are added as they come, so check back for new ones. - I you know of one, thanks for sending it to me, including the reference, so I can include it.

Fox, Robin 1996. Kinship and Marriage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [Penguin Books Ltd], [1967], page 27: "Kinship and marriage are about the basic facts of life. They are about 'birth, and conception, and death', the eternal round that seemed to depress the poet but which excites, among others, the anthropologist. [...] Man is an animal, but he puts the basic facts of life to work for himself in ways that no other animal does or can".
Godelier, Maurice 1998. "Afterword: Transformation and Lines of Evolution". In M. Godelier, T.R. Trautmann & F.E. Tjon Sie Fat (eds), Transformations of kinship. Washington & London: Smithsonian Institution, p. 386-413, page 387: Kinship appears as a huge field of social and mental realities stretching between two poles. One is highly abstract: it concerns kinship terminologies and the marriage principles or rules they implicitly contain or that are associated with them. The other is highly concrete: it concerns individuals and their bodies, bodies marked by the position of the individual in kinship relations. Deeply embedded in them are the representations that legitimize these relations through an intimacy of blood, bone, flesh, and soul. Between these two poles lie all the economic, political, and symbolic stakes involved from the outset in the interplay of kinship relations or, conversely, that make use of them
Stone, Linda 1997. Kinship and gender: an introduction. Boulder: Westview Press, page 5.: Kinship is the recognition of a relationship between persons based on descent or marriage. If the relationship between one person and another is considered by them to involve descent, the two are consanguines ("blood") relatives. If the relationship has been established through marriage, it is affinal.
Tonkinson, Robert 1991. The Mardu Aborigines : Living the Dream in Australiaƌs Desert (2e.). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Case Studies in cultural Anthropology, [1978], page 57: Kinship is a system of social relationships that are expressed in a biological idiom, using terms like "mother", "son," and so on. It is best visualized as a mass of networks of relatedness, not two of which are identical, that radiate from each individual. Kinship is the basic organizing principle in small-scale societies like those of the Aborigines and provides a model for interpersonal behavior.
Laurent Dousset; my own little working definition: Kinship encompasses the norms, roles, institutions and cognitive processes referring to all the social relationships that people are born into or create later in life, and that are expressed through, but not limited to, a biological idiom.

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