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Reconnecting State and Kinship
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Reconnecting State and Kinship

Edited by Tatjana Thelen and Erdmute Alber

256 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth 2017 | ISBN 9780812249514 | $65.00s | Outside the Americas £52.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors

"Arguing that the anthropology of kinship and political anthropology have become two distinct sub-disciplines, mirroring the assumed dichotomy of traditional versus modern societies, this edited volume sets out to demonstrate the theoretical weakness that arises of such positions. Through excellent chapters by experienced anthropologists, we are shown the fallacy of the separation. Kinship and politics emerge as mutually constitutive enriching our understanding of both."—Signe Howell, University of Oslo

"An excellent collection that goes quite some way to suturing the divide between studies of kinship and family and ethnographies of the state. Editors Tatjana Thelen and Erdmute Alber have crafted a coherent volume that speaks to larger themes within contemporary political anthropology, assembling a uniformly strong set of contributions that pull together a number of key threads in ways that make this book very useful for scholars working in gender studies, kinship studies, and the anthropology of the state."—Rebecca Bryant, Utrecht University

"Reconnecting State and Kinship makes a valuable contribution by arguing for the mutual relevance of the fields of kinship and studies of the state. The book's editors and contributors demonstrate how concepts 'travel' between the realms of kinship and the amalgam of actors that animate the state, and in doing so acquire new meanings."—Alice Wilson, University of Sussex

Within the social sciences, kinship and statehood are often seen as two distinct modes of social organization, sometimes conceived of as following each other in a temporal line and sometimes as operating on different scales. Kinship is traditionally associated with small-scale communities in stateless societies. The state, meanwhile, is viewed as a development away from kinship as political order toward rational, impersonal, and functional forms of rule. In recent decades, theoretical and empirical scholarship has challenged these notions, but the underlying presumption of a deep-rooted opposition between kinship and the (modern) state has remained surprisingly stable.

That this binary is so deeply engrained in Western self-understanding and knowledge production poses a considerable challenge to decoding their coproduction. Reconnecting State and Kinship seeks to trace the historical shifts and boundary work implied in the ongoing reproduction of these supposedly discrete or even opposing units of analysis. Contributors ask whether concepts associated with one sphere —including corruption, patronage, lineage, and incest—surface in the other. Policies and interventions modeled upon the assumed polarity can have lasting consequences for mechanisms of marginalization and exclusion, including decisions about life and death.

Reconnecting State and Kinship not only explores the boundary-related and classificatory practices that reinforce the kinship/statehood binary but also tracks the traveling of these concepts and their underlying norms through time and space ultimately demonstrating the ways that kinship and "the state" are intertwined.

Contributors: Erdmute Alber, Apostolos Andrikopoulos, Helle Bundgaard, Jeanette Edwards, Karen Fog Olwig, Victoria Goddard, Michael Herzfeld, Eirini Papadaki, Frances Pine, Ivan Rajković, Tatjana Thelen, Thomas Zitelmann.

Tatjana Thelen is Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna.

Erdmute Alber is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Bayreuth.

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