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understood as an epistemological matter for the observer (how one organises
information), a cognitive matter for the informant (how one understands).
From either view, knowledge is both ends and means.
If one asks what fuels epistemological fervour, then one answer could lie
in that perpetual motion machine, the tool science has made of the duplex
˜relation™.18 Its two kinds of relations are simultaneously about creating con-
nections (between things) and about the prior co-implication of everything
in everything else (things already connected). These two divergent, if related,
views of the relation, and thus of modes of relating, capable of summoning
whole theoretical positions, are each a potential source of criticism for the
other. Positivism and its critiques develop together.19 They are both “ overtly
or not “ an outcome of scienti¬c thinking insofar as they put ˜knowledge™ at
the forefront of relational endeavour and can imagine different approaches
to it.
But what is partly explicit, partly implicit, as far as the discipline of social
anthropology is concerned, is wholly implicit when it comes to the second
arena, a segment of ˜ordinary life™, I turn to consider. I have wanted to suggest
ways in which scienti¬c thinking is embedded in Euro-American thought
without necessarily being recognised as scienti¬c. If it (scienti¬c thinking) is
indeed carried by the divergent notion of relation outlined here, where else
may we ¬nd it?

kinship uncovered
Let me remind you of the question: Why on earth a relational view? I have very
sketchily said something about the provocative nature of the question for the
way social anthropologists prosecute their discipline. The discipline is not the
kind of representative (Callon 1986) of ˜society™ most people would ¬rst think
of, and I promised another arena where we might ¬nd science already ˜in™
society. Nonetheless, it has been helpful to begin with academic knowledge
because of not dissimilar preoccupations that dominate the second arena as
well. I refer to what the HGC in the United Kingdom concretised as a micro-
community, though to dwell less on the family than on kinship. I refer to how
people think about and interact with their relatives.
As a corner of the ordinary everyday world in which Euro-Americans live,
kinship is an unexpected candidate only in the way that Gell™s art objects
are; if art objects are not where you expect to ¬nd social relations, kinship
is not where you would expect to ¬nd science. What we would be looking
for is a particular, divergent, notion of relation. I draw here on an earlier
exercise, and must be forgiven for refracting Euro-American through English
On the one hand, the individuality of persons is the ¬rst fact of English
kinship, that is, out of a relationship (between procreative partners) comes a
unique entity of a different order altogether, in whose identity kin relations
play only a partial role. Kinship (among other sets of social relations) is thus
thought of as something over and above the individual. Kin roles evoke the
individual™s relational part (Strathern 1992a: 14, 78). English language usage
co-opts the term ˜connecting™ for such relations. The connotations of the
term give English kinship its sentimental cast “ relatedness predicated on
the absorption of difference by commonality and togetherness (Viveiros de
Castro 1999: S80) “ and posit the connections as linking discrete individuals.
But where, on the other hand, would one ¬nd the analogue to relations already
co-implicated in one another?
We have seen that kinship terms afforded British social anthropology a
model of mutually co-de¬ning, co-implicated, elements. Such kinship sys-
tems were being examined from all parts of the world, in the majority of cases
from well outside the orbit of the scienti¬c revolution. Science hardly invented
mutually de¬ning kin reciprocals! Perhaps, though, its habits of thought, its
ways of knowing, helped fuel the divergent thinking that allowed anthropol-
ogists to uncover the phenomenon elsewhere. For, perversely, it is the one
characteristic of non“Euro-American kin systems that is often far more de-
veloped terminologically than it is in, say, English. English has conceptual

reciprocals such as parent“child but, apart from same-sex ˜brother™ and
˜sister™, and ˜cousin™, few terminological ones. On the contrary, something
else happens. I suggest that an analogue to the co-implications found in kin
classi¬cations elsewhere emerges in a ¬eld that, on the face of it, does not
appear to be about kinship at all, what the indigenes call class.20
Nothing is straightforward, of course, and social class (in the indigenous
sense) exists not only as an adjunct to kinship but also as a divergent if re-
lated domain of action and thought in itself. How class is treated or regarded
replicates the same contrast between two types of relations that fuel the ac-
quisition and validation of knowledge. We have seen this at work in systems
of classi¬cation.21 So although kinship classi¬cation (in the anthropological
elucidation of indigenous models) seems to be the place where traditional
anthropologists discerned relationality as a matter of co-implication, classi-
¬cation in other spheres, such as where anthropologists compare ˜societies™,
could take on the character of connections between discrete, individual entities,
exemplifying the author™s creativity in analysis.22 This is also my hypothesis
about class. I wonder if it might be possible to perceive early modern an-
tecedents in the way class combined with kinship.
First, connections: class reinforced the positivist view of kinship as a network
of relations. The metaphors here are those of association, of webs of connection
through which individuals moved. I do not know what was going on in the
seventeenth century in terms of kinship formation. But in parallel to what
we learn about seventeenth century societies for the validation of knowledge
(Shapin 1996: 133),23 the English eighteenth century is full of (kin) relatives
validating the status of their association with one another, literally, the ˜society™
they keep (Handler and Segal 1990). In fact, how one judged scienti¬c facts,
what was claimed and what carried authority, rested in part on the scientist™s
personal connections (Shapin 1994).24 There was no particular kinship cast to
the efforts to establish procedures for vetting scienti¬c information and thus
how one was to ˜know™ it, but there were suppositions about the quality of
scienti¬c gentlemen that had de¬nite class overtones: who was admissible as
a social acquaintance and whose work thus carried credibility.
For the eighteenth century was the time when, outside the sphere of the
court, the middle classes were developing their own rules of social admissibil-
ity. Who counted as ˜a connection™? What today the English would call relatives
were frequently referred to as connections. This was also the time when a cru-
cial distinction emerged between connections and family (Handler and Segal
1990: 32). Handler and Segal argue that the distinction captured that between
the man-made or constructed and the natural. Connections, on the one hand,
were mutable, created, invented in that sense, made socially knowable through

strategies of acknowledgement. The natural, on the other hand, was found in
the certainty of the blood tie, and was open to discovery, where much drama
might be made of welcome or unwelcome facts, it being close relations be-
tween people already linked who came to be known as ˜family™. Yet divergence
in the apprehension of relations reappears here too. For seen from the outside,
it was the concept of family, a term Johnson™s dictionary used for class, tribe or
species (Handler and Segal 1990: 32), that also gave evidence for the paradig-
matic distinction between naturally individuated units and the connections
that can be made between them.25 I return to some of these points in Chap-
ter Three.
The notion of family had itself been undergoing changes without which it
could not have been appropriated in these ways. Across Europe in the seven-
teenth and eighteenth centuries, families began acquiring an equivocal associ-
ation with the household, which formerly contained persons both related and
unrelated. The principal index had been the ˜house™ (the original meaning
of familia). But the urban middle classes had households, not (large) houses.
Once the idea of a household was separated from that of the house, it could
embrace smaller units of people already related to one another as kin, ˜blood
relations™ (Mitterauer and Sieder 1977: 7“10 passim).26 People were reclassi-
fying themselves both in respect of their given identities and in respect of the
relations they made.
Secondly, co-implications: I suggest that social class provided a second way
of thinking about relations. Class smacked of system; it was encompassing,
holistic. And it worked on a different meaning of family, principally as the
prime determinant of someone™s status. The family with this class in¬‚ection
was so to speak the holistic counterpart to a network of connections between
individuals. Class ¬xed people. Because classes were ¬xed, immobile (it was
individuals who moved), they were totalising; everything about someone™s
comportment, style, accent and upbringing uncovered his or her class before
it uncovered his or her family. Certainly within the middle class, how people
lived their lives as family members evinced and created their middle class
milieu. At the same time, one was naturally at home in one™s own class.
There was even for a while an ideology that drew parallels with the way that
populations divide naturally (classes perceived as natural systems).
This relational dimension was a phenomenon of which the actors were only
too aware, namely the relative position of classes and gradients within classes,
down to ¬ne details of discrimination. Ultimately, it was a question of one™s
standing in relation to one™s own and other classes that was totalising. Much
class activity required co-acknowledgement, that is, protocols delineating who
it was with whom one was prepared to be associated and, as idiom had it,

possibilities for individuals to rise and fall. However, the relations between
classes themselves were a given.
There are points here of interest to contemporary kinship thinking, such as
the longstanding impasse between individualism and its critics. The questions,
predictably, diverge. Why is relationality so clumsily an object of exhortation (a
constant subject for [re]invention)? Why is it not presupposed (only waiting to
be discovered)? Why do Euro-Americans have to tell themselves “ and we saw
the Human Genetics Commission doing just this “ that they should recognise
the extent to which they are related? And why, then, are they surprised when
they discover that they are already related? Finally, despite the commonalities
across Eurasian kinship systems and indeed across Europe, correlated with
all kinds of values to do with property, agriculture and so forth, there is a
strong feeling that northern European and North American societies and
their offshoots have further commonalities. Perhaps we can build up kinship
as a case where long ago science became embedded in society, and society in
Science did not rise from the sea as an island. Ways to conceptualise its
descriptions and claims emerged through borrowings from other domains of
life (Ziman 2000). Certainly, we know that nineteenth century evolutionists
looked to the connection between individuals (genealogies) to talk about
connections (classi¬cations) between non-human creatures and things (Beer
1983). Was there a sense in which kinship fuelled earlier conditions for certain
kinds of scienti¬c thinking? May we hazard, in turn, that if science drew on
kinship it also changed it?
When Viveiros de Castro speaks of the displacement of ontology by epis-
temology, he is making a comparative, rather than a historical, statement. I
want to add that whatever epistemological foundations lay in Europe™s history,
today we live out an epistemology of a special kind. We can dub it scienti¬c
if we like. It turns kinship into an artefact of knowledge, and at its core is
the possibility of knowledges “ antithetical, in parallel or in combination “
coming from more than one source. And with that comes different ways of ver-
ifying connections between persons. In the organisation of such knowledge,
Euro-Americans have, we might say, a scienti¬c kinship system.

˜There was no such thing as the Scienti¬c Revolution™. Shapin has no sooner
uttered this phrase than, referring to his work by this title, he adds, ˜and this
is a book about it™ (1996). There was no event in the seventeenth century that
went under this name (the phrase was apparently coined in the 1930s),27 no

integrated body of knowledge that could be lumped together as ˜science™; and,
even more crucially, if one starts looking at what people actually did or said,
science was nothing but a whole range of thoughts and practices that had
their own local trajectories in the context of a general public that by and large
was ignorant, indifferent or sceptical. At the same time, it is clear that the
precursors of scientists were working in ways that had effects that have been
out of proportion with what was happening then, have gathered momentum
ever since and are of intense interest to the present. An anthropologist might
put it differently: being unable to see close to what appears very visible from
afar is a matter of incommensurate scale.
For there is a question about how to validate my argument. I have been
speculating about phenomena for which I can produce almost no evidence
of the kind with which social anthropologists commonly deal: facts on the
ground, the sustained ethnographic case. It is not the simpli¬cations in this
account that are at issue, it is knowing what kind of material would qualify
as verifying. Here it may prove impossible to ¬nd suf¬cient historical detail
of the appropriate order to substantiate what I am suggesting about the char-
acteristics of Euro-American kin reckoning and the scienti¬c imagination,
or indeed about the validity of Euro-American as a cultural con¬guration in
such terms. Insofar as individual and person are phenomena that belong to
different orders of description, we could also say that in summoning different
ideas about relations they exist at different scales. Concomitantly, data are of
a different scale from the models I have been describing.
This is the chaotic puzzle: feet appear to touch the ground, but magnify
them to many orders and you will ¬nd convolutions and indentations in the
surface that repeat themselves at ever greater orders, until it seems that nothing
is touching anything. A description of an organism is lost in attention to the
molecular characteristics of its genome. What characterises a population will
not necessarily characterise an individual component of it, and so forth. These
are old maxims, and they are in anthropology too. Neither Durkheim™s society
nor L´ vi-Strauss™s structure could be seen in the particulars. The whole point
of Suicide, as Durkheim expounded his discovery, was that individual reasons
did not detract from collective ones; the point of the distinction between
statistical and mechanical models, which L´ vi-Strauss invented, was that one
model could not be refuted by material generated from the other.
There is a further way the anthropologist might put it differently, and
the comment comes from Hirsch (personal communication, 2003). People
can only act in the world they inhabit, but the impetus to action includes
imagined dimensions of it, situations within their apparent grasp and thus
culturally feasible. Foucault™s (1972: 191 “2) discursive formation (˜the total

set of relations™, ˜an inde¬nite ¬eld of relations™) is about everything that
creates the conditions of feasibility. Chapter Three enlarges on the point. In the
meanwhile, even supposing that nothing of my speculation remains or that the
imagined worlds are not plausible enough, the questions about anthropology™s
commitment to relations and the different ways in which relatives sort out
their connections will not be disappeared so easily. They too are raised again in
Chapter Three. A small comment on the role of knowledge in a contemporary
facet of kin reckoning provides a conclusion of sorts for this one.
Going back to the genetic information case with which I began is to ap-
preciate that there could be a no more knowledge-intensive technology than
testing for genetic connections. Franklin observes:

what is ˜conceivable™ about amniocentesis testing, or genetic screening for breast
cancer,28 or paternity testing, is already built into the conception of kinship as a
hybrid of individual and society, of natural and cultural facts. The dilemma of
˜what to make of our genes™ derives from the assumption that they make us who
we are to begin with.
2003: 74, original emphasis; footnote added

What is also built into the conception of kinship, I have argued, is the double
legacy of scienti¬c knowledge. We can now give a certain precision to this
connection. It is already implicated in what I have said about the dependency
of scienti¬c knowledge on two ways of conceiving relations (the made and the
given, connections and co-implications) and, following from this, two ways
of validating knowledge (as invention, discovery).
Perhaps indeed it is not surprising that Euro-Americans see kinship as the
site par excellence of relationality, and among anthropologists get suitably in-
trigued about other people™s kinship systems. At least as far as English kinship
is concerned, relations inhere in the web of connections people make, their
individual networks, for in this they see much that is open to invention, to
recognition in the sense of active acknowledgement.29 The recombined fam-
ilies of Chapter One deliberately foster relations between elements that were
once other families. At the same time, relations also inhere in the recognition
of (in the sense of uncovering) given capacities, ties and characteristics that
already connect persons to others; these relations, open only to discovery, are
premised on the demonstration of existing relationship.30 A clinic could not
call on friends and kin to help with gamete donations if the pre-existing tie
did not hint at pre-existing obligations, even though in the case of relatives
old kin are turned into new kin. Both these modes take knowledge, if I can
put it like that, as informative of kinship.

There is much more one could say about the role of knowledge in Euro-
American kinship formation. Highly relevant to the present is how notions
about biology and genetics, a kind of secondary, explicit absorption of science
˜into™ society, probably overlays much older absorptions of various kinds,
recoverable only as implicit or tacit dimensions of knowledge practices. The
genome is available for discovery, but personal information derived from it
sends people scurrying to their relatives and connections, as well as to the
law in the hopes that regulation can settle all the old questions of who should
be in the know. If not, new regulations must be invented. They do so with
the in¬‚ection we have already noticed; whom one allows into one™s circle of
acquaintances slides into whom one allows to become acquainted with genetic
information about oneself.

My thanks to James Weiner and Andrew Moutu for making me see the question
that needs asking. Alan Strathern will know why he too is to be thanked. With
the title ˜Living science™, an earlier version was presented at the 2003 ASA
Decennial meetings in Manchester, convened under the rubric Anthropology
and Science. I am grateful to Jeanette Edwards, Penny Harvey and Peter Wade
for their generous invitation.

Emergent Properties

Geneaology or issue which they had, Artes which they studied, Actes
which they did. This part of History is named Anthropology.
Richard Harvey 1593, Philadelphus. Oxford English Dictionary™s
¬rst entry for ˜anthropology™

Indeed it would be lost labour to seek for the parentage of all words,
when many probably had none. But there is no such thing;
there is no word which is not . . . [the] son of something . . .
Richard Trench 1882, On the study of words

A nthropologists often ¬nd themselves gravitating toward
debate, public dispute, litigation even, as telling moments in cultural
life. For what may be as interesting as the positions being defended are the
cultural resources people bring to their aid, the narratives, tropes and images
enlisted in the service of the persuasive point. An unusual state of affairs is
rendered familiar or one situation is made vivid through analogy with another;
conviction might lie in appeal to the old, or quite new combinations of ideas
may be conjured up. Of course, what is said in the heat of argument is likely
to be a poor index to what people contemplate in less freighted moments. Yet
an unreliable guide in this regard can turn out to be a fascinating guide in
another respect. If only in order to persuade, the narratives, images, tropes and
analogies must at the least communicate what is possible, and anthropological
interest in such resources is an interest in the possibilities entailed by what
is said or done for what others say or do. It is that possible and potentially
realisable world that anthropologists abstract as culture. This is not an idealist
view, rather, it opens up empirical study to the potentials people make all


the time for themselves (and for others), and thus to the possible worlds that
inform their actions in the present one.
In pulling and pushing language for the sake of argument, people may
force new properties onto old concepts. Although the arenas in which new
properties emerge are not only legion but also often inaccessible to scrutiny,
debate and litigation have at least the virtue of being accessible. These two
arenas offer some present-day materials for my own exposition, although I
present them somewhat warily.1 However, if I have a question it is about
emergent properties and new claims that came from the early modern English-
speaking world. This means I also touch on historical materials, although
with no pretence of handling them as an historian would. The question is
what made the English at this time endow the words ˜relation™ and ˜relative™
with the property of kinship, kinship by blood and marriage, that is. I do not
answer it, but I do hope to show why it might be interesting to ask.
The reasons begin, and end, in the present. I sandwich the historical issue
between recent ones. This tracking back and forth to some extent mimics the
way in which kinship in its various guises appears and disappears as a cultural
resource for thinking about other things.


Multiple Origins
I take inspiration from an anthropologist and lawyer who is an observer of
the family as it has been faring in U.S. litigation over the last quarter century.
American lawmakers concern themselves simultaneously with traditional val-
ues and with new rules re¬‚ecting changing conventions. The families being
constructed by the law may either be ˜holistic, solidary communities™ or be
understood as ˜collections of autonomous individuals making their own se-
lections, free to choose relationships through bargained negotiation™ (Dolgin
2000: 543). Dolgin™s argument opens with the opinion of a lawyer who, on
behalf of his clients, made it clear that they would always love any child born
to them, evoking a traditional moral frame.2 At the same time, the intending
parents were advertising an offer of $50 000 for female gametes (ova) chosen
for (anticipated) characteristics speci¬ed in some detail. The ingredients for
creating a child may be obtained in the marketplace, then, although once a
baby is part of the family market values should no longer intrude and relation-
ships should take their expected course. Perhaps we must simply see these as
dimensions being held in tandem: a new location for individual choice is also

a location for expressing enduring values of family solidarity. Incidentally, the
advertisement attracted a big response.
Dolgin writes about determinations of parenthood where relationships
complicated through gamete donation and surrogacy lead to dispute. Al-
though it is possible to track a path through lawsuits that shows the value
Americans put on genetic ties (Dolgin 1990), it is equally possible to show the
extent to which the fact and quality of relationship is taken as paramount.
Courts have been known to refuse evidence about ˜biological™ paternity and
attend only to familial relationships. One man who discovered that he was not
the biological father and tried to sever ties with his son was brought back to
the relationship he had already established: if ˜a parent“child bond™ had been
formed then ˜a relationship still exists at law™ (2000: 531).3
So what creates a relation? Although the fact of relationship may be deduced
from behaviour between parents and children after birth, legal decisions have

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