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and kinship are the subject of the ¬rst part of this book. To make the concerns
concrete, I introduce a (seriously) playful vignette, although the precise cause
for parental anxiety depicted here may be a little behind the times.

the child™s two bodies
To be self-conscious about knowledge is in Britain a largely middle class
predilection. Miller (1997) describes how, in bringing up their children, middle
class mothers in 1990s North London used their knowledge of the world to
shape the way they would like their children to grow. They cannot do anything
about the genes; they can do everything about health, hygiene and many
common af¬‚ictions; they chat about what food children should eat and what
toys they want to play with. The outcome is that mothers come to regard
the child™s growing up as a series of defeats. The ¬rst enemy was sugar, then
sweets and biscuits, then brands such as Coca Cola, and bigger temptations
such as Barbie dolls and the ubiquitous gun: ˜an unceasing struggle between
what is regarded as the world of nature and the arti¬cial world of commodity
materialism™ (1997: 75). The battles over diet and gender are regarded as efforts
to resist commercialism and consumerism, efforts that invariably end ¬rst in
capitulation and then in the withdrawal that characterises the grandparental
generation, who ¬nd it easier to allow the child freedom to choose its own
Why struggle in the ¬rst place? As I see it, the young mother is placed in a
position of responsibility by her knowledge of the effects of these substances
and toys on the growing body, and on the growing mind and sets of behaviours.
In other words, the child™s condition depends on how the mother acts on her
knowledge of the world. If the child is fed on sugar-free food he or she will
be more healthy; love the child now and he or she will be able to love in the
future, and so forth. At the same time, what the mother sees in the way the
child grows up is her own half-hearted capacity to hold (say) the world of
commerce at bay “ or embrace it for that matter.

Parents do not give up without a struggle, within which their concept of biology
plays a major role. It is very common for such parents to insist that their infants
have an allergy to anything arti¬cial. It is as though the infants™ bodies have
antennae attuned to the mothers™ ideology of nature. Infants are said to come out
in spots as soon as they ingest any kind of additive or the wrong E-number. If
the children do not oblige (with spots) then the parents may claim these additives
cause behavioural problems, which is a harder claim to contest.
Miller 1997: 76

Although Miller does not put it in these words, the child seems to embody
the conscientiousness with which the mother has acted on her knowledge
and stuck to her principles. She must carry on until the child itself is properly
informed about things. In the interim, its development re¬‚ects the application
of her own knowledge.
Such a parent, in this view, shares body with the child twice over. First is the
body of genetic inheritance, a given, a matter regarded colloquially as being
of common blood or common substance. Second is the body that is a sign of
the parent™s devotion “ or neglect “ and in this middle class milieu it is above
all through the application of knowledge that the parent™s efforts make this
body. Miller reports that in the neighbourhood circles he observed what the
child ate or played with re¬‚ected back on to the mother™s local reputation. He
jokes that the child grows the mother.2
These mothers have to go through the same process with the next infant too;
their socialisation is not in that sense ever complete. However, there is a gradual
attrition of the effect that parents feel they have on the child. Whereas they can
mould the ¬rst child, the second already grows up under the shadow of the
¬rst child™s victories. The parent learns how to take defeat. In accepting defeat
the parent is of course acknowledging the growing autonomy of the child.
And what will cap it will be the fact that for all the struggle to impart a world
view, to teach the child to know the world that the parent knows, knowledge
will in the end divide them. In many senses, they may come to share similar
suppositions about the fundamental nature of the universe, about biology for
instance, but ultimately it will be the child™s knowledge that separates him or
her from the parent. This will be partly because information is changing all
the time and people keep up to different degrees, partly because the child must
come to be keeper of knowledge about him or herself. Here is the signi¬cance
of con¬dentiality and the age of consent. But until there is understanding, the
parent must take on the monitoring task on the child™s behalf. Parents are a
special case because of all a child™s caretakers and teachers only parents share
both bodies with the child.
The two bodies are regarded as belonging to the same world (after Viveiros
de Castro 1998a; 1998b), traditionally rendered as at once given and con-
structed. The simultaneity is captured by Latour™s (1993: 6) famous aphorism
that one will never ¬nd any network of events that is not at once ˜real, like na-
ture, narrated, like discourse, and collective, like society™. Whether in af¬rma-
tion or denial of its importance, people thus imagine themselves confronting
reality; nature (as in Miller™s account) might be the epitome, but that order
of reality can be extended to any givens of existence. Yet this really-existing
universe is inextricably bound with ways of knowing it; the world is also the

world they know that they create by their knowledge. It is the same world
in which children are explicitly tutored (tautologously, acquire knowledge
about). Kinship gives an added twist: even when people know that the routes
to knowledge are divergent, the knowledge itself imposes an obligation on the
knower in relation to those around him or her. It is a cause of moral action and
creates a compulsion to act. Such at least would appear to be the implication
of this mode of thinking. This doubled world is of course inhabited not only
by these English-speakers but also by Euro-Americans at large.
In this vignette lies just the kind of material that would fuel continuing
debate, within anthropology and beyond it, over the respective roles of the
social and the biological in kin relations. However, I wish to locate its message
rather differently “ in what it tells us about knowledge practices “ and in doing
so to introduce a difference between two modes of relating. For the mother
has to see the child as not only an extension of herself but also an extension
of the world, and that she visualises through speci¬c concepts that link the
child to this world. In other words, the child, or aspects of his or her condition
or behaviour, becomes a category, an exemplar of a type, as when it is con-
ceptualised as prone to this or that. An example of such categorisation would
be seeing one™s offspring as a typical urban child, prone to allergies linked
to eating habits, supermarket advertising, peer pressure from the playgroup,
and such like. These all need to be brought in relation to one another, and
the mother is the one to do it. In this (Euro-American) world view, persons
can thus act on other persons in the same way as they act on the world, a
folk model of the way in which ˜we engage others in the processes of our own
becoming™ (Toren 2002: 189).

a tool
So there is indeed a footnote to be written to kinship studies. It has little to
do with the substance of kinship thinking or its relevance to contemporary
concerns; it does not enlarge our sensibilities about diversity or the ingenuity
with which people work things out for themselves. It points to what people
have in common rather than what makes them distinctive. Moreover it is not
on the face of it very interesting: more a truism than a re¬‚ection, more surface
observation than deep analysis, and of little theoretical (model-building) pur-
chase. It has all the triviality of a universalism. Nonetheless, it gives present
concerns another dimension. By way of shorthand, I shall refer to it as a tool.
It works by virtue of its duplex character.
The idea of the tool3 I have in mind is not unlike the enzymes that tailor
and splice genes, the central tools of recombinant DNA in the words Pottage

(2004: 272) takes from Rheinberger. He adds: ˜biotechnological inventiveness
splices life into life™, thereby ˜dividing life into the two asymmetric regions of
technique and object™. Life is put to work on life, much as anthropology uses
relations to explore relations. The anthropologist™s tool is a duplex that divides
as it combines.
One of those present concerns we regard as contemporary comes from
scholarly practice. Although anthropologists want to go on deploying the
notion of kinship and although common sense tells them that they must
¬nd it everywhere, their analytical constructs keep pushing kinship back into
the contingencies of the constructs themselves. In particular they (the con-
structs) regularly founder on the ubiquity or otherwise of ˜biology™, ˜substance™,
˜conception™, and so forth, notions evidently part of cultural thinking. For
without that substratum, what then distinguishes kinship from any other
phenomenon? This was the old question. Yet anthropologists are not easily
going to say that there are peoples without kinship. So what is it that they go
on ¬nding everywhere? It cannot be these locally laden notions, obviously, but
must be something else. It is not necessarily going to be useful to call it kinship
either. However, and arguably, such being the compulsion of anthropology™s
own kind of relational knowledge, the search for kinship invariably throws
certain forms of sociality into relief.
Perhaps what anthropologists ¬nd everywhere are two kinds of relations.
Or rather, the realisation that relationality summons divergent thinking. A
homely example in Chapter One is phrased in terms of connections and dis-
connections between persons who may or may not be counted as relatives;
the one process implies the other. Now the relation is divided (into two kinds)
in a particularly powerful way that I want to call ˜anthropology™s relation™.
The two kinds that principally interest me here comprise the conceptual (or
categorical) and the interpersonal. On the one hand are those relations seen
to make connections through a logic or power of articulation that acquires
its own conceptual momentum; on the other hand are those relations that
are conducted in interpersonal terms, connections between persons in¬‚ected
with a precise and particular history. We may focus on the division that is
presupposed in the two kinds or on the routine social fact that they are man-
aged in tandem. Either way, it is the facility to deal with both together, to
operate two kinds of relations at the same time, that is the tool. This in-
volves more than the cognitive ability to combine and discriminate, more
than the content or ontological ¬eld (relations/relationships) being sum-
moned, and more than the particular outcomes in terms of conceptual and
interpersonal orientations. Rather, all these together de¬ne the implement
by its usefulness. It is a tool, tout court, for social living. It simultaneously

compels social imagination and social action, theoretically trivial, immensely
Both the mutual formula of connection/disconnection and the conceptual/
interpersonal tandem may be exempli¬ed in kinship systems. As far as Euro-
American kinship is concerned they are joined by a third duplex, to which
I return, namely a highly developed contrast between relations already in
existence and those that must be deliberately created. Now the particular tool
I am calling anthropology™s relation, the divergence between the conceptual
and the interpersonal, is composed neither of mutually referential opposites
(as in connection/disconnection) nor of explicit features of any one cultural
repertoire (as in the third case, which yields a contrast between the given and
the constructed). Rather, only the work of anthropological exegesis will show
how the one relation is folded into the other. We come to see that it is through
interacting with persons that diverse interactions and further connections
become intellectually conceivable, while it is through creating concepts and
categories that connections come to have a social life of their own. The latter
observation was presaged by Godelier (1986) in his search for the origins of
kinship. Kinship appears where one can imagine “ make an abstract image of “
the relative of a relative, relationships between relationships. Kinship appears
again where people make an imperative out of so doing. The imperative is
logical and moral at the same time.
In sum, as anthropologists use it, their sort of relation is a tool for investi-
gation that the discipline has borrowed from widely shared features of social
life. What gives it purchase is the facility it offers for switching, as the North
London mothers did, between relations of two kinds. The child who is the
extension of the mother is also an extension of the world she inhabits. These
mothers were involved in other switching too, as I comment in a moment.
For myself, there is a further source of interest in this duplex. It comes
from submitting to the temptation to explore the (cultural) contingency of
the very notion of relation. After what I have just said, it would be patently
absurd to see the duplex as the creation of any one locale, let alone a creation
of the scienti¬c revolution (as Chapter Two might imply); however, it seems
to have been pressed then into service in new ways, and speci¬cally in the
pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. This kind of knowledge I take as infor-
mation attached to its source in some demonstrable manner. The point is, its
formulation, use and circulation in speci¬c knowledge practices is de¬nitively
contingent. Contingency does not make it un-useful; rather, it gives the duplex
a speci¬cation of its usefulness. Thus a focus on the relational remains one of
social anthropology™s key strengths, and it does so among other things because
of anthropology™s willingness to move between conceptual and interpersonal

relations in its descriptions of social life. I believe anthropology thus arrives
at a certain truth about sociality that could not be captured in any other way.
There is clearly an account to be written about all of this, and the present
one is not quite it. (The artefactualisation of ˜the relation™ is particularly
clumsy, but it perhaps has some use as shorthand.)4 At the same time some
of the account might already have been written, which is what this collection,
drawing on the works of many others, is meant to indicate.

divided origins
Because they were formulated at different times, it may be helpful to be explicit
about the connections between the chapters.
Anthropologists are of course latter day users of the relation (anthropology™s
relation) as a tool. Others have seized on it before them, and Part I hazards
giving a special place to its development in the scienti¬c revolution and its
facilitation of that revolution. It helped produce among other things what
I venture to generalise as ˜science™s relation™, the third duplex. In fact, the
duplex that I call anthropology™s relation is not the only source of divergent
ways of relating in anthropology itself. The discipline has drawn substantially
on science™s relation as it developed in tandem with new knowledge practices
that came to describe the world in divergent ways, echoed in the North London
mothers™ anxieties over the effort to make the child as natural as possible.
The ¬rst three chapters contain a footnote within a footnote, namely a
comment on what Carsten (2004: 165) calls Schneider™s ˜key perception about
the relation between scienti¬c knowledge and kinship™. This was that the more
(Euro-)Americans learn about the biological facts of procreation, the more
they feel informed about the facts of kinship.5 Chapter One starts with a
discussion that could have been composed of many elements, drawn from
anywhere in the Euro-American world. The combination put together here
is intended to illustrate ways in which people see science as affecting their
lives, and speci¬cally biotechnology. It thus moves over terrain familiar to a
Euro-American readership and familiarly opens with an assumption about
who we and us are. If it speaks with a Euro-American voice, Euro-American
is spoken in many places and the action in this chapter takes place largely in
Australia, from early days a country at the forefront of developments in assisted
conception techniques. This aspect of biotechnology is prime material for
prevalent and media-fanned assumptions about the increase of individualism
that biotechnology supposedly brings in its wake.
In taking off from people™s preoccupations, as reported in the press and else-
where, Chapter One shows something of the value given to people™s choices

and rights in how they manage their lives and how this chimes with knowl-
edge about the given nature and obligations of heredity and family. Knowledge
brings responsibilities. However, the anthropologist is as interested in what
is not said as in what is said. The bulk of the account is taken up with a
(positivist) understanding of individuals as entities prior to relationships, so
to an age that thinks of itself as individualistic, the revelation of relationship
can come as something of a surprise. The person as an individual turns out
to be the person as a relative. This occurs in two distinct locations: one in
the turbulence of family arrangements and one in the procreative obliga-
tions kin are (newly) imagined owing one another. And right at the end I
present academic arguments that presuppose relational thinking. These last
are interestingly complicated by the substance of the debate they address, the
separateness or otherwise of pregnant mother and fetus. The example presses
home the point that the concept of relationship asks us to think about connec-
tions and disconnections together. The duplex is left at that and not further
Chapter One thus documents an arena that has brought families and
their relatives into the spotlight in the way ethicists and medical adminis-
trators approach guidelines for the deployment of new technologies. Along-
side Australian reports and reportage, U.S. and British materials point to how
law and biotechnology work together (a parallelism in their effects and fab-
rications), and how law and kinship often do not (notions of the embodied
and distributed person sit uncomfortably with the legal subject). At the same
time, Chapter One introduces science (biotechnology) largely where folk par-
lance would conventionally locate it, something to be drawn ˜into™ society.
Chapter Two opens up current discussions (among scientists, policymakers
and others) about science and society that challenges this location. However,
Chapter Two takes the challenge in an unexpected direction, asking us to
imagine science as already embedded in society. But there is also a second
challenge here. It was the anthropologist™s pre-existing interest in relation-
ships and indeed in a relational account that led me to spring two ˜surprises™
in Chapter One. We might ask how relationism comes to be embedded in
anthropological analysis in the ¬rst place.
Social anthropology is an Enlightenment-inspired, information-gathering
discipline; the ¬rst task is to grasp the role of relations in (Euro-American)
knowledge-making. Chapter Two embarks on a case for the special status
of relations in scienti¬c epistemology. To repeat the point, it is obviously
absurd to claim that what the scienti¬c revolution created was a relational
view of the world, which is the condition of social being in the ¬rst place.
So, what was being created? Perhaps one could say that ˜the relation™ (and

I am talking of anthropology™s relation) was being appropriated for particu-
lar, in this case epistemological, ends. Of course this points to little more than
tautology “ new practices of knowledge whose suppositions about relation-
ships evidently developed in new ways. But if one can talk in these terms at
all, then just such an appropriation, leading to a particular kind of (scienti¬c)
knowledge-making, would be the kind of cultural contingency for which I was
At any rate, what emerged was knowledge with divided or divergent origins,
that is, knowledge capable of looking to more than one source.6 Truth might
rest in the persuasiveness of concepts, as logically connected to other concepts,
or truth might rest in the persuasiveness of persons, bringing with them the
guarantee of professional expertise, and in either case relations had to hold.
We shall come on to that in Chapter Three. In the meantime, Chapter Two
explores the speci¬c duplex I call science™s relation.
Science™s relation is exempli¬ed in a trope that Schneider also used, though
I deploy it for different ends. I refer to the distinction between discovery and
invention, between unfolding relations already there (co-implications) and
making new relations (meaningful connections).
The distinction allows Euro-Americans two ways of getting at relational
knowledge: uncovering what is in nature and making new knowledge through
culture. A couple of contexts render this divergence apparent. (There is no
signi¬cance in there being a couple.) Thus Chapter Two considers the way
science™s relation informed a relational view within the discipline of social
anthropology itself. It also considers the echoes of scienti¬c relationism in
indigenous, here English, kinship relationships. In both cases, what is of in-
terest is a division between modes of knowledge about the world (or about
oneself as part or not part of that world). In both cases, scienti¬c knowledge
practices appear an explicit model for the interpretation of certain elements.
On much less certain ground, the argument about an implicit or embed-
ded science is made in a thoroughly speculative manner. However, if I am
driven to take the risk (of error, logical and otherwise), an indigenous ethic
in modern epistemology is at my heels. Uncovering connections and making
connections can both have the force of a moral imperative, in the ¬rst case to
exploit or conserve but otherwise acknowledge the world as it is and, in the
second, as Wagner (1975) pointed out long ago, to make human life work as
social life, the grand project of creating society. Nature and culture! The con-
trast appears at once foundational and as requiring attention. And whether
in terms of the veri¬cation of abstract knowledge or for the personal respon-
sibilities that knowledge brings, the theme of accountability runs through
Part I.

Chapter Two is broad brushed. It is science™s emphasis on particular modes
of knowing that suggests we might talk of a scienti¬c kinship system, of
Euro-American kinship as the kinship of a knowledge-based society. Chap-
ter Three attempts some detail (and becomes localised to the English-speaking
world). In particular, it attempts to justify the directionality I gave to scien-
ti¬c thinking as a possible model for aspects of kinship thinking. Although
the intention in Chapter Two had been somewhat mischievous, taking off
from contemporary yearnings to see science in society, this chapter is alto-
gether more sober. (The reader is asked to forgive the attempt at streamlining
the main argument that leads to an overburden of endnotes.) With natural
science as one source of divergent ways of conceptualising relations in the
background, it argues a general case for anthropology™s relation, a duplex that
does not rest on nature and culture. At the least it presents materials whose
questions will hopefully linger even if the effort at answering them proves
Its impetus goes back to a ˜discovery™: the verbal crossovers that the English
language allows between conceptual and interpersonal relations. It was the
inter-twining that started me off in the 1990s (Strathern 1995). Although I
was not aware at the time, Sahlins (1993: 24“5) had drawn attention to Locke™s
dictum that we necessarily know things ˜relationally™ by their dependence
on other things; a brief foray into how Locke made the concept concrete is
at the centre of this chapter. The divided modes of relationality that ¬gure
in Chapter Two make an appearance in Chapter Three in the discussion of
conceptual relations. Whether entities pre-exist relations or are brought into
existence by them is another way of referring to the contrast between applying
the creative work of the relation (invention) or uncovering its prior status
(discovery). But this does not exhaust the interest of conceptual relations;
above all they can be invested with creative or generative power.
If Locke is at the centre of Chapter Three, impetus also comes from the
sidelines: a dreadful pun heard not so many years ago in an American court that
referred to parents as the mental conceivers of a child. The part that knowledge
plays in the perception of contemporary kinship (again the directionality is
deliberate) is rendered dramatic by present-day discussions in the context of
new procreative technologies. Here it follows through issues introduced in
Chapter Two about the sensitivity of personal information, of great interest
to the law, and expands on the work of Dolgin and her formulation of the
genetic family mentioned in Chapter One. The creativity of lawyers and a
commentary on forms of reproduction “ both logical and procreative “ offers
some contrast with the end of that chapter, which had concluded with a lawyer
complaining of the law™s limitations.

The cultural contingency of interest here is anthropology™s ability to forge
a discipline out of relationality. It seems I have woven back and forth be-
tween conceptual clari¬cations and concrete instances, neither of which seems
quite up to the measure of the other. Yet that incommensurability has to be
right. All I stress in conclusion is that the duplexes mentioned here (connec-
tion/disconnection, categorical/interpersonal, given/constructed) that belong
to no single logical order, and appear to summon such diverse materials, are
all tools for grasping aspects of one world. That world is known not only from
different viewpoints but also from speci¬cally divergent, that is, related, ones.
Any of the divergences (and there will be others) produces ˜the relation™.
The contingency is the pivot or turning point that directs us to Part II.
The kinds of objects Euro-Americans make of relationality is there elucidated
with Melanesian materials in mind, where relationality is objecti¬ed, rei¬ed,
in other ways. For all the relational inventiveness that Euro-Americans pour
into their systems of knowledge, or the work that goes into making society, or
the passion of a judge™s plea that one-time parents give heed to their relation
with a child, the law does not recognise a relationship as a legal subject. Only
individuals (individual persons) can be legal subjects. It would not be too

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