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Kinship, law and the unexpected - Marilyn Strathern

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Kinship, law and the unexpected - relatives are always a surprise
Marilyn Strathern
Cambridge University Press
UK Publication Date

How can we hold in the same view both cultural or historical constructs and generalities about social existence? Kinship, Law and the Unexpected takes up an issue at the heart of studies of society - the way we use relationships to uncover relationships. Relationality is a phenomenon at once contingent (on certain ways of knowing) and ubiquitous (to social life). The role of relations in western (Euro-American) knowledge practices, from the scientific revolution onwards, raises a question about the extent to which Euro-American kinship is the kinship of a knowledge-based society. The argument takes the reader through current issues in biotechnology, new family formations and legal interventions, and intellectual property debates, to matters of personhood and ownership afforded by material from Melanesia and elsewhere. If we are often surprised by what our relatives do, we may also be surprised by what relations tells us about the world we live in.

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Marilyn Strathern is William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge. She has carried out fieldwork over several years in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea (Melanesia). She is the author of several works including Kinship at the Core, After Nature and Property, Substance and Effect.

'The book is to be recommended to anyone with an interest in kinship, law, biotechnology and general anthropological theory. At the heart of Kinship, law and the unexpected is the enduring anthropological topic of the relation. Indeed the second half of the book frequently implies the importance of relationality in by now well-established anthropological fashion. Only the first half suggests that emphasis on relations may be a consequence of certain knowledge practices. There is perhaps a certain contradiction here, tension at least. But then that is an extremely fruitful tension as Strathern demonstrates with wonderful effect.' 2008 European Association of Social Anthropologists

'Strathern's work has been devoted to the creative redeployment of the discipline's 'conventions' and aesthetic 'constraints', including such contrasts as nature and culture, gifts and commodities, and 'Melanesian' and 'Euro-American' forms of knowledge. At a time when it is fashionable to collapse these dichotomies, the exercise has demanded a considerable degree of analytical care and control on her part. It is Strathern's extraordinary capacity to control these contrasts that has enabled her to show how an anthropological analysis could flow radically differently within its own aesthetic constraints.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Keyword Index
Kinship.|Kinship (Law)|Domestic relations.
Country of Publication
New York (State)
Number of Pages

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