EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution

(P054)

Kinning the state - state kinning: reconnecting the anthropology of kinship and political anthropology

Location S-116
Date and Start Time 01 August, 2014 at 09:00

Convenors

Tatjana Thelen (University of Vienna) email
Erdmute Alber (University of Bayreuth) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Assuming that it is high time to reconnect the anthropology of kinship and political anthropology, this panel explores collaboration and intimacy in state-citizen relations. The papers analyse the intersection between kinship and state through their co-production in representations and practices.

Long Abstract

Starting from the assumption that it is high time to reconnect the anthropology of kinship and political anthropology, this panel explores collaboration and intimacy in state-citizen relations. The social construction of political collaboration and intimate kinship as distinct or even opposed realms has flawed the analysis of their co-production. Taking up the notion of kinning as developed by Signe Howell, we expand it to conceptualize the intersection between kinship and state.

Political anthropologists have long drawn attention to the modeling of patron-client relations on kinship (Wolf 1966). Later studies focused on the parallel imaginations of kin-based belonging and the community of the state or nation (Anderson 1981, Borneman 1992, Herzfeld 1992). This emphasis on images was added to by studies on the strategic employment of kinship idioms by marginalized actors to better their position in relation to state authorities (Yang 2005). Apart from the focus on representation and utility, kinship as practice or the intimacy of political relations were largely ignored. On the other hand, new kinship studies have confined their purview to considering the state insofar as it enables or limits familial processes of kinning. In this panel we aim at overcoming these limitations by re-thinking the intertwining of kinship and the state on a theoretical as well as on an empirical basis. We especially encourage papers that track how representations of kinship and state function as mirror images of one another, and how kinning practices of and with the state contribute to their reproduction and transformation.

Discussant: Frances Pine (Goldsmiths College, University of London), Julia Eckert (University of Bern)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Kinning the state - state kinning: an introduction

Authors: Tatjana Thelen (University of Vienna)  email
Erdmute Alber (University of Bayreuth)  email

Short Abstract

This introduction explores the bifurcation of political anthropology and the study of kinship suggesting that it is high time to reconnect the two distinct fields of inquiry. As a first step we expand the notion of kinning to conceptualize the intersection between kinship and state.

Long Abstract

In this introduction to the panel we start with a short overview on the historical bifurcation of political anthropology and the study of kinship in order to suggest that it is high time to reconnect the two distinct fields of inquiry. Political anthropologists have long drawn attention to the modeling of patron-client relations on kinship (Wolf 1966). Later studies focused on the parallel imaginations of kin-based belonging and the community of the state or nation (Anderson 1981, Borneman 1992, Herzfeld 1992). This emphasis on images was added to by studies on the strategic employment of kinship idioms by marginalized actors to better their position in relation to state authorities (Yang 2005). Apart from the focus on representation and utility, kinship as practice or the intimacy of political relations were largely ignored. On the other hand, new kinship studies have confined their purview to considering the state insofar as it enables or limits familial processes of kinning.

We follow the ways in which the social construction of political collaboration and intimate kinship as distinct or even opposed realms has flawed the analysis of their co-production. Taking up the notion of kinning as developed by Signe Howell, we expand it to conceptualize the intersections between kinship and state as a first step in overcoming these limitations.

Missing persons in Bosnia-Herzegovina: absent citizens and broken family lines

Author: Laura Huttunen (University of Tampere)  email

Short Abstract

Based on ethnographic research on missing persons in Bosnia, this paper explores the missing as simultaneously absent citizens and absent family members; practices of identification and commemoration are explored as translating knowledge from kinship idiom to bureaucratic and political domains.

Long Abstract

This paper addresses the interconnectedness of state citizenship and kinship through an ethnographic study of the question of missing persons in Bosnia-Herzegovina. People who go missing for extended periods of time in armed conflicts or as victims of genocidal political projects are absent simultaneously from their families and from the state structure as bureaucratically recognized citizens. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, there were some 30 000 people missing in 1995 when the armed conflict ended. If ethnicity is understood as kinship writ large, the genocidal violence that targeted people based on their ethno-national belonging violated family ties and citizenship rights simultaneously. At the same time, the violence was a horrifying act of trying to define the legitimate citizenship in the emerging new state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. While searching for the missing has been a harrowing experience for the families who have been forced to find ways to live with the painful absence, the unwillingness of local authorities to initiate and carry out searching for and identification of the missing reflects the deep connection between the creation of the Bosnian state and the violence targeting families. In the painful processes of searching for and identifying the missing, knowledge needs to be translated from one domain to another, from kinship idiom to bureaucratically recognized missing persons status and from kinship idiom to DNA-codification that translates kinship into DNA-charts. Finally, practices of commemorating the identified missing in present day Bosnia seek to return the missing as rightful citizens back to the body politic.

Restitution or revolution? Kinship and the state in the politics of human rights in Argentina

Author: Victoria Goddard (Goldsmiths College, University of London)  email

Short Abstract

Focusing on the disappeared of Argentina’s dirty war this paper explores contrasting claims made to the state that simultaneously reproduce and contest hegemonic notions of the family, responsibility and value. Different notions of kinship inform contrasting visions of politics, revolution and the state.

Long Abstract

Focusing on the case of the disappeared during Argentina's dirty war, rendered visible through the actions of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo over a period of thirty years, this paper explores claims made vis-a-vis the state that simultaneously draw on and contest hegemonic notions of the family, responsibility and value. While the implementation of new technologies for the isolation, storage and identification of DNA have enabled human rights groups and relatives of the disappeared to reconstitute family ties and articulate claims against the state in terms of loss and compensation, other sections of the human rights movement aim to dissolve claims based on individual connection in favour of collective solutions. The subsumption of individual ties by claims that emphasize the 'socialization of motherhood' and kinship, is deemed to provide a basis for an open-ended political discourse of collective claims about the past and the future that recasts the vision of a revolutionary alternative to contemporary society. The paper argues that these different strategies, which reconstitute, reflect or redefine the realm of kinship also redefine the contours of the political and propose different relationships with the state.

Spy versus spy: observation, kinship, and the state in pre-war Syria

Author: Kathleen Reedy  email

Short Abstract

Based on fieldwork in Syria, this paper will examine how the processes of doing kinship via spying and conspiracy theorizing mirrored everyday engagements with and understandings of the state intelligence apparatus. Rather than dividing people and state, these forms of interaction were kinning them.

Long Abstract

One of the hallmarks of the Syrian state under Hafez al-Asad was its pervasive intelligence service. Syrians claimed that 19% of the population were government informers and assumed that every action was observed and reported. Even after Bashar reduced this capacity, Syrians looked both ways before "talking politics." However, such observation was a two-way street, as people continuously monitored and analyzed the regime, watching for signs of conspiracy.

On a seemingly unrelated note, while living there, the more I integrated into local social networks, the more I came under intense observation—not by secret police, but by my adopted family. Syrians kept a close eye on their kin. Brothers watched sisters, fathers set one son to spy on another, and husbands and wives constantly tested for adultery.

Spying, then, is not the sole purview of the government. When collective honor is at stake, it is everyone's responsibility to watch each other. Observing and being observed are a core part of kinship—the act of monitoring is not a divisive, but an inclusive one. That the regime was involved in similar patterns of observation suggests that the "state" in Syria was not an impersonal leviathan, but a part of the family.

Based on ethnographic fieldwork from 2004-2005, this paper will examine how the processes of doing kinship via spying and conspiracy theorizing were mirrored by everyday engagements with and understandings of the state intelligence apparatus. Rather than dividing people and state, these forms of interaction were, in fact, kinning them.

Precarious kinship and the stability of dependency: welfare beneficiaries in rural Nicaragua

Author: David Cooper (UCL)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will explore Nicaraguan efforts to become beneficiaries of state welfare programs. Challenging the premise that kinship is a paradigmatic realm of solidarity, the ways in which ‘handouts’ serve to negotiate a precariousness emergent from the dependencies of domesticity will be stressed.

Long Abstract

Kinship as a paradigmatic realm of solidarity has frequently informed those anthropological analyses which span kinship and the political. To model political relations on those of the family is assumed to be an effort to recreate the familiar unity of the family in the more impersonal realm of politics. But what about ethnographic contexts in which intimate relations with kin are as much about the management of precariousness and volatility as an already-achieved cohesion?

This paper will explore such issues in relation to the case of rural Nicaraguan involvements with recent state programs of assistance and welfare, social projects that form part of the current leftist trend in governance across Latin America. Such programs are often critically understood in reference to notions of clientelism; a political form long viewed as founded on the kin model of paternalistic protection and solidarity. But for rural Nicaraguans seeking to establish themselves as beneficiaries of state distributions, efforts to become dependents have as much to do with the negotiation of insecurities integral to the intimate realm of domesticity, as they do with putatively external or impersonal threats.

Appreciating this importance of becoming a recipient of state assistance among a community of loyal Sandinistas — beyond assumptions of sheer response to the economic incentive of 'hand-outs' — demands attending to local understandings of productivity, power and agency. Such understandings are inseparable from the ways everyday labours and material exchanges mediate quotidian efforts to secure the domestic dependencies of kinship.

Notions of relatedness and processes of kinning in Danish childcare institutions: exploring the interface between the state and the family

Authors: Karen Fog Olwig (University of Copenhagen)  email
Helle Bundgaard (University of Copenhagen)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores children's varying experiences of kinning in the intersection between parents' and public childcare institutions' notions and practices of childcare and the implications of the children's experiences for their development of a place of belonging in society.

Long Abstract

Since the last decades of the 20th century the care of young children in Scandinavia, formerly the primary responsibility of the family, has become the joint task of public day care institutions and parents. Inspired by anthropological theory emphasizing the significance of care relations for the development of notions of relatedness and belonging, this paper explores the kinning processes that take place in the intersection between, on the one hand, public institutions providing childcare according to Danish state regulations and pedagogical principles and, on the other hand, the parents who are responsible for rearing the children. On the basis of ethnographic research on Danish childcare institutions, the paper shows that, concerning notions and practices of childcare and parent involvement in the institutional care of their children, there is generally close agreement between the mutual expectations held by pedagogues in the childcare institutions and ethnically Danish middle class parents. By contrast, a number of differences and uncertainties may obtain between the pedagogues and parents of lower class or ethnic minority background. As a result, kinning processes among the children of the first group are generally supported by the day care experience, whereas the kinning processes that take place among the children of the latter group are often drawn into question. These varying experiences of kinning in relation to day care, we suggest, have important implications for the children's development of a place of belonging in society.

Teachers as kin? State formation, kinship ties and the role of deception in Uganda

Author: Claire Elisabeth Dungey (Aarhus University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper is concerned with the relationship between kinship and state formation in Uganda. I focus on how children are taken away from their parents to go to school and the role of secrecy and deception. In particular, the paper analyses the transformation of kin-relations in relation to this.

Long Abstract

In Uganda relations are historically linked with ethnicity and clan membership. These relations are deeply embedded in hierarchical understanding of 'purity' and 'impurity'. In schools, often sponsored by the state, these relations are attempted 'cancelled' where children are discouraged from speaking about ethnicity and discriminating against so-called 'inferiors'. Teachers aim to transform students into citizens of the state who should love their country and civilize their own parents.

In Kisoro, teachers speak about themselves as 'parents'. Moreover, they claim to possess 'better morals' than some homes and encourage some of the children to break with their kinship ties. Further, non-governmental organisations sponsor some of the children and also take on the role of 'parents'. They pay children pocket money, bring them to the hospital, organize transport and pay the 'real parents' money in compensation for taking the children away.

I demonstrate how one can view this as an intersection between kinship and state but not as distinct opposed realms, as the 'real' parents often want their children in school and claim their benefits from schools and organisations. Some of them deceive the NGOs into believing that they like the idea of schooling in order to claim benefits. Relations are often characterized by the intimate sphere of secrecy and deception. By deceiving about behaviors that are perceived to be improper by some, school children appropriate the values taught by state-like institutions as well as homes. Relations are hence kin-like and non-kin like according to the circumstances.

"You become kin with these people": state kinning and kinning the state in Serbian elder care programs

Author: Tatjana Thelen (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

This paper places the boundary work within the evolving relations in two elder care projects in Serbia at the center of the analysis. State actors in these cases surpass expectations of citizens, but kinning allows reproducing dominant images of an absent state as well as a loving family.

Long Abstract

Based on fieldwork within the project: 'Local State and Social Security in Rural Hungary, Romania and Serbia', I explore processes of kinning within state initiated programs of elder care in Serbia in order to explore how images of state-as-entity are cast as distinct from the domain of the family. Data from two projects in northern and central Serbia, demonstrate how - contrary to the findings of many anthropological studies of the state - state actors in these cases surpass the expectations of citizens. The second fascinating point is the intimate, affective nature of relations between state-funded caregivers, or state carers, and their elderly clients. This stand in stark contrast to prevailing images of

an uncaring Serbian state. Nevertheless within complex processes of kinning between state-paid care workers and their clients, dominant images of an absent state as well as state-kinship boundaries are (re)produced. Placing this boundary work within the evolving relations at the center of the analysis highlights the benefits of rethinking the interconnections between kinship and the state.

Kinning and dekinning the national past: moral dimensions of aging and memory in Poland

Author: Jessica Robbins-Ruszkowski (Wayne State University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyzes contemporary and remembered kinship among older adults in Poland in order to show how intimate everyday practices of relatedness are inextricable from broader political formations. Kinning and dekinning thus emerge as moral practices, traversing temporal and geographic scales.

Long Abstract

During the last decade in Poland, two moments have highlighted connections between older people and the nation. In 2007, get-out-the-vote ads used threatening images of older women to motivate youth to vote against the far-right party. After the 2010 plane crash that killed the president and key politicians, a controversy over a large cross's placement took on generational contours. Indeed, discussions about aging often become evaluative conversations about the Polish nation in which older people are negatively associated with the socialist past. This moral, political connection between the life course of persons and nation occurs not only in large-scale public events, but also in daily life. In this context, where personhood and nationhood are so deeply intertwined, how do transformations in nation and state mirror experiences and representations of kinship? What happens to kinship during transformations in the life course and political formations?

Drawing on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork with older adults in medical and educational institutions in Wrocław and Poznań, Poland, this paper explores everyday practices of care, memory, and relatedness, thereby elucidating moral, political-economic connections between persons and nation. Building on recent scholarship (Carsten 2000, 2007; Howell 2006; McKinnon and Cannell 2013), this paper shows that everyday, intimate, and remembered practices of relatedness are not isolated from political spheres, but are rather inseparable from broader state formations. Kinning and dekinning thus emerge as moral practices that traverse temporal and geographic scales—and it is in these moments of scale-jumping that moral delineations of inclusion and exclusion occur.

Recursive corporality: the fractality of political bodies among Kenyan Luo

Author: Mario Schmidt  email

Short Abstract

Kinship and politics among Kenyan Luo are in a relation of identity. I will show that both are governed by processes of "feating", i.e. simultaneous eating and feeding inside gastro-moral bodies composed of what Western ontology would conceptualize as "individuals".

Long Abstract

Among Kenyan Luo politics as well as kinship relations are constructed by committing oneself to what I call "fractal feating relations". I propose that processes of feeding (pidho) and eating (chamo) designate all those activities which stabilize or destabilize corporal entities in Luo socio-cultural order. A body, i.e. a morally responsible person is hence an entity with a feeding and an eating part, a "feater". Nevertheless this is not a rephrasing of the concept if reciprocity in culinary terms: One does not feed another person, but oneself, and one is not fed by another person, but by oneself. A body's feating relation, e.g. the relation between husband and wife can nevertheless be eclipsed on an encompassing level. The local politician e.g. eclipses the marital relation by becoming the feeder of the husband. Luo sociality is hence comparable to a multiplicity of feating-relationships which are folded against and with each other: Men feat their wives, wives their children, politician's families, Raila Odinga and other major political figures politically active Luo at the grassroots level. The hierarchical nature of this multiplicity is nevertheless only visible from a partial as well as etic perspective: The folding of other bodies into hierarchically higher ones at every stage secures that each individual person is, taking into account all relationships, always eating and feeding in a multiplicity of bodies which itself is a multiplicity. This "culinormativity" is both constitutive of kinship as well as political relations. My paper will use ethnographic data gathered during several trips to Western Kenya, last time during the General Election 2013.

Cunhas to make the system work: situative and imaginary kinship as vernacular critique of, and 'user manual' for, power relations in post-war Angola

Author: Jon Schubert (University of Geneva)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyses practices of 'situative kinship' and 'cunhas' (personalised connections) in everyday interactions in Luanda, Angola. Ideas of power and hierarchy expressed and acted out in these practices allow us to investigate the co-production of 'the political' in post-war Angola.

Long Abstract

Based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Angola's capital, Luanda, this paper looks at practices of 'situative kinship' in everyday interactions between citizens and 'agents of the state', and the ideas of power and hierarchy expressed in these practices. Because of Angolan social history, and the social roots of today's urban elites, the instrumentalisation of idioms of kinship for purposes of state power is less straightforward than in other African contexts we know from anthropological literature, and the idioms of kinship and the 'traditional' foundations of 'correct' social interactions take on a more subversive characteristic. These practices and discourses thus reveal the tensions between what people see as the real functioning of society, and their perspectives on how society should work.

However, the idea of kinship as oppositional discourse has to be complicated through the exploration of the everyday practice of mobilising cunhas (personal connections, lit. a 'wedge') for one's own purposes. Exploring these cunhas — based on intimate knowledge of Luandan 'family networks' — allows us to trace the multiple linkages between 'state' and 'society', combine in the analysis social strata commonly studied separately, and complicate facile notions of 'nepotism' and 'corruption'. This paper therefore suggests interpreting the personalisation of interactions in everyday practice as a much more fluid and reciprocal process of negotiations that reveals the complicity and co-production of 'the political' that sustain, subvert, and redefine political legitimacy in post-war Angola.

After citizenship: the process of kinship in a setting of civic inequality

Author: Apostolos Andrikopoulos (University of Amsterdam)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how legally unauthorised African migrants mobilise and produce kinship to access scarce civic resources and argues that features of modernity like state borders, market regulation and the welfare state do not vanish or diminish kinship but reconfigure and sometimes strengthen it.

Long Abstract

In anthropological theory and political philosophy, kinship and citizenship have been theorised as the main institutions of traditional and modern societies respectively and thus as mutually exclusive. This paper examines kinship and citizenship in interrelation and argues that features of modernity like state borders, market regulation and the welfare state do not vanish or diminish kinship but reconfigure and sometimes strengthen it. This paper analyses how legally unauthorised African migrants in the Netherlands mobilise and produce kinship (especially brotherhood/sisterhood) to access scarce civic resources. Although both kinship and citizenship are often associated with egalitarianism, mutuality and closeness, this paper points out the decisive role of inequality in the constitution of both. Citizenship is internally inclusive but externally exclusive because it is granted to a limited number of people according to a series of criteria that exclude others. Those who are excluded from civic membership cannot enjoy a number of benefits which are available to citizens. In this paper, I show that legally precarious West African migrants can partially enjoy these benefits by exchanging resources with citizens who become kinsmen. Exchange relations form an infrastructure for kinship because they create mutuality, even in unequal terms, and interdependency. Considering exchange as an infrastructure for kinship can be analytically useful to explain how mutuality and dependency are produced while at the same time inequality among kinsmen is reinforced and formalised, especially when the forms of exchange are asymmetrical and the gifts transacted inalienable.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.