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writing for scienti¬c journals have to be. What I do not know is how we might
or might not, historically speaking, align creating knowledge with creating
Let me conclude with a situation in which anthropologists do know some-
thing about kinship practices. It returns us to present-day arguments, to
practices stimulated by the so-called new reproductive technologies and to
the arena of litigation. We might read the situation either as a move toward
greater abstraction “ a new form of relatedeness without relatives “ or as a
move toward greater concreteness, where value is recovered for kinship sub-
stance, indeed where one might say that kinship is being turned back from
knowledge into information. In this context, there are moments when the
domains of kinship practice and knowledge practice cannot be kept separate,
and analogy again becomes impossible.

The Informational Family
It is generally assumed that parents have an interest in their children™s health
and that doctors will inform parents about it. In 1992, an American, Donna
Safer sued (against the estate of) her father™s physician for not having informed
her of her parent™s condition. She had been diagnosed with the same cancer
that her father had died from, twenty-eight years earlier, when she was ten.
Her complaint was that had she known she might have been able to take
precautionary measures. The New Jersey trial court concluded that a doctor
had no legal duty to warn the child of a patient of a genetic risk. It was said
that the harm was already within the non-patient child (Dolgin 2000: 556).
The appeals court disagreed and said that there was an obligation to inform
in instances of genetic disorders ˜where [given the nature of the technology]
the individual or group at risk is easily identi¬ed.™ It went on:
[T]he duty [is appropriately] seen as owed not only to the patient himself . . . [but]
extends beyond the interests of a patient to members of the immediate family of
the patient who may be adversely affected by a breach of that duty.
quoted by Dolgin 2000: 557.

Of the diverse cases considered by Dolgin, this she takes as the most radical.
It compels her to identify an emergent phenomenon, the ˜genetic family™.
Warning parents about a child™s genetic condition is one thing. That sim-
ply re¬‚ects social and legal understandings of the parent“child relationship,

granting parents the right to know and decide what their child should know.
Otherwise, family members have as much right to con¬dentiality as anyone.
The reverse case67 not only removes the doctrine of patient con¬dentiality
among adults but also imposes an obligation on third parties to warn family
members about the medical condition of other family members. Dolgin sees
this both as undermining individual privacy and as treating family members as
an undifferentiated group.68 In my view, it could also be doing something else.
When knowledge is knowledge of genetic makeup, there is no option as
to the ensuing facts of relationship. But although information about origins
automatically becomes knowledge for the person, under other circumstances,
as here concerning the health of individual family members, it can revert to
information again. This is true insofar as it becomes similar to other kinds of
information about the world acquired from outside sources. Indeed, and this
is what Dolgin stresses, nothing else need be known about the relationship
between parent and child than the fact that the body of one held or holds
information that could be useful to the other.
A kinship system that has a propensity to base relatedness on what can be
known about people™s connections to one another was bound to be intensely
interested in the new certainties afforded by genetic testing. What could be
more concrete than heredity evident in every body cell? The genetic family,
that is, the family whose members are proved or presumed to be genetically
related, is at once held together by the substance people ascribe to genes and
by the information these genes supposedly contain. What is newly important
about the genetic tie is that it gives family members information about one
The concreteness of the gene has the potential to displace other concretiv-
ities. Like ¬nding direct evidence of inspiration from within a literary work,
genes offer direct knowledge of heredity unmediated by parentage, a possi-
bility that has been appreciated for some time (Wexler 1992). Yet, in practice,
personal knowledge of a family™s genetic history is the route by which people
may start enquiring into their own susceptibilities or ¬nd out more about
af¬‚ictions already on them, and on the basis of personal knowledge persuade
doctors to give them ˜genetic tests™ (Finkler 2000). So why is Dolgin so struck
by the novel properties of what she calls the genetic family, at least as it is legally
constructed through cases such as Donna Safer™s? Relatives have become like
their genes; value lies in the information they carry, and what strikes her in
this regard is the substitutability of persons for one another. What is lost is
the concretivity of speci¬c relationships.
˜Genes suggest nothing about social relationships. They are simply data.
As such they neither represent nor demand particular moral links among the

people they describe™ (Dolgin 2000: 544, her emphasis). In fact, Dolgin has
also argued (personal communication) that the genetic family challenges the
presumption that the law can safeguard modern families “ so-called families of
choice “ as units of love, solidarity and lasting commitment. The construct of
the genetic family precludes choice and is indifferent to the character of family
life. Thus the genetic family is neither America™s ˜traditional™ family with its
hierarchy or community in which members ¬nd their place by reference to one
another (privacy belonged to the familial whole represented by its patriarchal
head [her term]) nor its ˜modern™ family consciously held together through
autonomous choice, where the unit of value was the unique individual (and
privacy accorded individual members within it). ˜Within the genetic family,
any unit (any person) or combination of units can exist without reference to
any others . . . [and] the unit of value . . . is the whole (itself variously de¬ned)
as well as the parts (insofar as they mirror the whole and each other)™ (Dolgin
2000: 558). As to privacy: information about any one member of the family is
merged with information about them all.69 In short:

The links connecting Donna to her father “ or any member of a genetic family to
any other “ are a-moral links that neither de¬ne nor depend upon the scope and
meaning of social relationships among the parties.
Dolgin 2000: 561.

This fractal vision assumes a family within which, as repositories of informa-
tion, persons are replicas of one another.70 Relatedness without relatives one
might say.71
You might think this is rather much to derive from a court case. However,
we do know something about contemporary kinship practices. And, among
many other possibilities, the genetic family is also being lived outside the
American courtroom. Indeed it may be re-lived as an extended family. The
positive aspect of having breast cancer was for one woman in Finkler™s (2000:
98) study her ˜relationship with the extended family. I™m stuck with this. It™s
nice to know that I™m back in the family.™ Genetic information that appears to
extract relatedness from relationships can equally encourage people to seek
out far ¬‚ung connections that may or may not be turned back into active
relationships. The point is that they do not have to be.
˜In contemporary society people have tended to become separated from
kin, if not from their immediate family, and family and kinship have taken on
an amorphous cast, for multiple reasons, the most obvious being geographic
dispersal™. Finkler™s (2000: 206) general observations on the American family
follow with the speci¬c comment that notions of genetic inheritance may move
it together again. She was reporting on a study of women either diagnosed as

having a hereditary disease or with a (family) history of one and their search
for information from relatives with whom they might have long been out of
close contact.72 But the re-corporealization of the family, if I may call it that,73
comes with this astringent proviso:

interaction with family and kin may no longer be required in order for people
to recognize relatedness and connection. . . . To the sense that one forms part of a
family chie¬‚y because one shares the same genes, requiring no social participation
nor sense of responsibility to those who are related except to provide blood samples
for testing purposes, removes the moral context of family relations.
Finkler 2000: 206

More than this, Finkler™s expectation that people would blame their ances-
tors for passing on ˜faulty™ genes was upturned; the women she interviewed
said their families were not accountable for their af¬‚iction. Genes are amoral
entities.74 For there is a sense in which they are equally a-relational: ˜they
are another kind of thing, a thing-in-itself where no trope can be admitted™
(Haraway 1997: 134). The genes™ location in kinship becomes all the more
The routines of family life have usually meant that relationships without
responsibilities tend to fade away. A truism about knowledge can keep them in
view: the genes that carry the data informing you what you are at the very same
time comprise the mechanisms that have the potential to bring about what
you are. This looks like a reworking of an old theme, the constitutive nature of
kinship knowledge. But to ¬nd kinship knowledge in the gene is, so to speak,
to ¬nd it in itself. Knowledge and kinship become momentarily inseparable.
They are not analogues of one another; even more so than Herschel™s planets,
resemblance dissolves into an identity. Only an ˜extraneous™ factor could prise
them apart again. And Justice Kennard™s winkling out of the analogy between
conceivers of ideas and conceivers of children introduces just such a factor.
It was property ownership that showed them to be different: in this context,
property opens up new comparisons. Thus one can say, as a point of deliberate
comparison, that knowledge may be regarded as belonging to persons in the
same way as they might imagine their genes belonging to them.
Indeed, in the background to Donna Safer™s suit for the wrong done to
her by the withholding of genetic information lies increasing nervousness
about setting precedents for ownership, as Dolgin (2000: 550“1) describes.
Two issues, among many others, concern commentators in the United States.
On the one hand, legal instruments (such as statutes) that de¬ne genetic
information as the property of those to whom it pertains do so with concerns
about individual privacy in mind. On the other hand, the very idea that

people should claim property in genetic information is vigorously opposed by
sections of the biotechnology industry; they see the imposition of ownership
rules on genetic information as likely to require a record-keeping regime that
would inhibit research and provide a context for litigation, as well as interfere
with pro¬ts. Commentators have been as inventive as those concerned with
authorship.75 It has been proposed in the United States that ownership should
be replaced by the doctrine of informed consent. Informed consent rules grant
people the right to know about the uses to which others will put information
about their genes.
Another analogy follows. Like the division proposed in the United Kingdom
between license to publish and copyright, this could divide the owners of
rights to exploit the information (who would enjoy the economic bene¬t of,
say, developing technology) from the persons giving informed consent (who
would enjoy a kind of moral right, an identi¬cation with their genes and a
potential safeguard to their genetic privacy). For the latter, and it is a cultural
commonplace, what seems supremely at issue in gene information is that this
core bit of kinship should be accessed as knowledge for, belonging to and
about themselves.

i started with some observations about cultural resources.
Kinship practices and knowledge practices comprise ¬elds that have, since
early modern times, provided ¬gurative ammunition for each other. The com-
plex possibilities established by terms such as ˜conception™ had long been in
place, whereas others “ of which I have singled out ˜relation™ “ appear to have
been formed at this time. As far as the latter is concerned, and as far as the
evidence goes, one usage (in the context of knowledge, namely, conceptual re-
lations) had historical priority over the other (interpersonal relations). Recall,
again, that the term ˜relation™ already denoted intellectual practice “ narra-
tion, referring back to something, making a comparison “ before it became
applied to social ties and speci¬cally to ties of blood and marriage. This was
the period when the relation in its conceptual sense was to be given a long
chain of effects in new practices of knowledge-making.
Over time, analogies between domains may be submerged, revived and
submerged again. I ended by pointing to a recent social phenomenon, the
genetic family, which gives a new literalism to understandings about knowl-
edge, and where knowledge about persons also appears as knowledge about the
world. Kinship identity can be imagined as embodied in an informational code
and information can be imagined as a kinship substance. It is as though the
analogies between knowledge and kinship were compacted into one another.

But that elision is brought into being by a concatenation of circumstances
that certainly do not exhaust everything one might want to say about either
knowledge or kinship. I noted that property started up fresh analogies. Let me
brie¬‚y go back to the beginning, and to a different fate for ideas about genetic
The U.S. women who hoped, in response to the advertisement, to sell their
eggs for $50,000 were prepared to convert one kind of substance (genetic ma-
terial) into another (money), and were not looking for any enduring sense of
connection. In another part of the same world, the United Kingdom, where by
law that conversion is not possible, egg donors do different kinds of conver-
sions. One potential conversion is into connections but connections created
outside a premise of kinship. Here new separations emerge as well. If one starts
not with kin, people whom one knows, but with people whom one does not
know, fresh scope for relational reasoning also emerges.
In meeting various egg donors in Britain, Konrad was struck by the ex-
tremely vague and amorphous way in which they talked about the connection
between donors and recipients; she suggests that it is out of the very condition
of anonymous diffuseness that people conceive relations of a kind (Konrad
1998: 652). ˜As ova substance is disseminated in multiple directions to multiple
numbers of recipients . . . donors and recipients are partaking collectively in
an exchange order of non-genealogical relatedness™ (1998: 655). In this process,
substance may be leached of ˜biological™ signi¬cance (the eggs are ˜not like a
physical thing that have come from my body™, quoted at 1998: 651). What signi-
¬es is being the origin of a process that another carries forward. Here women™s
conservation of privacy is important;76 they aim to help others whom they
do not know and largely do not want to know. The wish to assist ˜a someone™
contains the essence of their own agency, an extension of themselves that takes
effect across a disperse universe of unidenti¬ed others.
Konrad thus describes persons forming themselves through an extensional
relatedness via multiple persons who are separated from them by being neither
locatable nor nameable.77 Ova donors need effect no speci¬c transaction in
order to value their action. ˜What appears as the agency of these donors does
so as the value of multiple and untraceable circulations of persons and body
parts anonymized as (an)other™s action, as a generalized, diffuse relatedness™
(1998: 661). This relatedness may not have relatives, but it does have signifying
others. Women as would-be mothers: the donors see their situations (the
situations of both donors and recipients) as parallel.
Reaching out to an audience of multiple recipients sounds not so far re-
moved from the aspirations of authors. But unlike authorial identity, at least
of the scienti¬c kind, the basis for these particular donors™ relations with the

women they saw themselves as helping was that their accountability would
have no forward effect: their gesture contained its own de¬nition of respon-
sibility (to help a someone). The relations did not translate into interaction.
The eggs did not need a name.78 Hence it seemed possible to leave quite un-
de¬ned whether or not what they were giving away was something they felt
they owned. Konrad (1998: 651) quoted one among apparently several women
who said, ˜I don™t think the eggs are mine, they™re not something physical
that they™re my eggs. I don™t even think of them as eggs™. In other words, the
parallelism rests on what is also an unbridgeable gulf between them: in this
sense, donors and recipients are in a relation of analogy.
Many of the British women™s feelings have no doubt been echoed on the
American side (cf. Ragon´ 1994 on similar expressions in surrogacy arrange-
ments), and I am not labouring after a contrast. All I do is underline the
obvious, that there are always new domains with which to make connections
and thus new material for analogies.
In the prevailing (Euro-American) view, technology and its scienti¬c basis
has had a tremendously inventive impact in creating new material. It is in-
triguing, then, to realise the way in which some analogies have been locked
together for centuries. We cannot know out of the present ¬‚ux where kinship
and knowledge are going to end up; we can know something of past circum-
stances. The expansion of the term relation is a case in point. So I come back
to wanting to ask about kin connections between English-speakers in early
modern times. To what kinship practices did the new concept of relation
speak; what emergent problems or possibilities in social interaction might its
properties have addressed? From the perspective of kinship, anthropologically
speaking, the sciences of the time come to look rather interesting.

Initially presented as the 2000 Robert and Maurine Rothschild Lecture to
the Department of History of Science, Harvard University, as ˜Emergent
properties: new technologies, new persons, new claims™. My thanks to the
Chair and to the Department both for their invitation and for their many
comments, especially Mario Biagioli and Peter Galison. ˜Emergent proper-
ties™ continues an essay on ˜The Relation™ (1995); I thank Annelise Riles for
insisting on my not forgetting it. The project owes much to many colleagues,
notably Debbora Battaglia, Barbara Bodenhorn, Janet Carsten, Jeanette Ed-
wards, Sarah Franklin, Frances Price, Hel´ na Ragon´ . I also record here the
e e
lasting stimulus of a Wenner Gren conference organised by Sarah Franklin
and Susan McKinnon on New Directions in Kinship to which parts of this were

presented. Paul Connerton gave the earlier manuscript adroit scrutiny, as did
Susan Drucker-Brown, Joyce Evans and, on several points, Eric Hirsch and
Annelise Riles. My debts to Janet Dolgin and Mario Biagioli for papers not
published at the time should be evident. Finally Patricia Fara™s subsequent
comments have afforded a glimpse into discussions among historians that
could help locate some of the observations here.
part two

the arithmetic of ownership
Introduction: The Arithmetic of Ownership

I have been dealing with the impetus to kinship thinking
provided by technologies that have confronted people with unprece-
dented explictness about relations where knowledge holds a key role. The
people in question are heirs to the scienti¬c revolution. Habits of knowledge
already embedded (for Euro-Americans) in everyday practices are made visi-
ble, and then made visible again in regulation or legislation. That is what the
Human Genetics Commission (HGC) was so concerned about.
Now the HGC documents mentioned in Part I largely con¬ne children to
speci¬c chapters; children are treated ¬rst and foremost as minors, persons
too young to give independent consent to medical treatment. Yet in another
sense, the whole exercise is about children, that is, about offspring and what it
means to be heirs of another kind, to a genetic inheritance. There would much
less concern about human genetics if genetic information were not regarded
as revealing inherited characteristics. The HGC generalises this when it says
that one of the identifying features of genetic information is that it ˜is not
only information about the individual person, but about his or her biological
relations™ (HGC 2000: 7). However, although the text refers generally to issues
that arise for family members, it is only in the context of children as young
persons that it also deals explicitly with children as offspring.
Part II introduces materials from peoples who may be intensely interested
in their origins through their parents precisely because of the kind of offspring
that connection makes them into, a concern they carry all their life. In Euro-
American kinship thinking these days, the genetic source is a kind of tracer
that spells out “ counts out “ the respective contributions of different kinds
of parents and points to how many there are according to the nature of their
contributions (several generations may be involved). But once the parental
contributions have combined in the individual child, the child™s multiple
origins become a matter largely personal to it, largely private in the eyes of

third parties outside the family. However, there are places, and my examples
come from the Paci¬c, where the multiplication of distinct parental origins
forms a set of crucial and enduring social resources. It matters how people
count the number and kinds of parents they have and even “ as recounted in
the ¬nal chapter “ the number of offspring.
Arithmetic of this kind turns out to be germane to the sources of creativity
that people can claim and to the way they assert claims over their own and
other people™s offspring. When these positions are found in the doubling
and quadrupling of what an older anthropology would have called kinship
roles, we begin to see why kinship ˜systems™ are more than just complicated
to describe; they are also uncovered as complex phenomena in themselves
(Mosko and Damon in press). From one point of view, the chapters in this
second part of the book simply illustrate the point. From another, they invite
us to see how we might use the tool described in Part I, the ability to handle
two kinds of relations at once, the duplex relation.1
The duplex works in a (Euro-American) world simultaneously perceptible
from different viewpoints. Switching back and forth between what appears
given and what appears constructed, or between categories and individu-
als, offers positions that anticipate each other. These are understood to be
viewpoints on one world.2 To adopt Riles™ striking phrase for the way inter-
nationalist networks and personal relationships sit side by side, the duplex
produces ˜the same form seen twice™ (Riles 2000: 69; also 115“6). The form
is that of the relation. Yet suppose we encountered not a doubled world but
worlds that could be counted in different ways? What of our duplex then?

conception by intent
Hairsbreadths in vocabulary seem to separate what could so easily seem similar
propositions. This is what Bamford (2004) found when she thought she knew
what Kamea people in the Papua New Guinea Highlands meant in asserting
that brothers and sisters were ˜one blood™. The idiom of blood sounds familiar.
Yet in truth it is not the vocabulary that discriminates but what of the world
it refers to. They were not talking about descent or physiology; the familiar
phrase refers to a vision of connection quite foreign to English-speakers, and
quite narrow, namely the shared experience of having once been ˜contained™
in a single woman™s womb. Again, I introduce a vignette to set the scene.
One of the questions Kamea ask themselves is why girls grow faster than
boys. They have a ready answer: because of the thoughts in the girls™ heads!
It is nothing less than their intention to marry that makes them mature. In a
wonderful reprise of imagining we have heard it all being followed by surprise

that actually we have not, ˜Women think only of men and getting married™,
she quotes Kamea saying; ˜this is what makes them grow quickly™ (Bamford
2004: 296). Intent to marry accompanies intent to conceive, an echo of the
(Amazonian) Wari™ tenet that to become kin is to desire kin (Vilaca 2002: ¸
352“3). In this case, intent is fuelled by the food that a prospective groom™s
family gives the family of his betrothed as a prelude to bridewealth. These
people ˜constitute her capacity to act as a “container” [become pregnant]
and, in doing so, engender her identity as a reproductively mature female™
(Bamford 2004: 297). Where, that is, who food comes from is quite critical:
it is the groom™s kin who in this way create the mother. The groom in turn is
made into a father whose constitutive act is to continue the ¬‚ow of food and
other gifts to his wife™s kin. The child may not come up in spots if he fails in

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