what kinship is
WHAT KINSHIP IS’, BY MARSHALL SAHLINS [https://museum.care/events/what-kinship-is-by-marshall-sahlins/]
hosted by ellen judd: In response to the interest in our group of exploring Marshall Sahlins’ work further, I am suggesting that we look at some of his later work—on the mutuality of being. This shows a deep connection with David Graeber’s work and with long lines of thought on mutuality in the anarchist tradition. It is presented as a refiguring of the study of kinship, a central field in anthropology, and I am confident that all in this group will recognize the connections and points at which this resonates with David Graeber’s work. I am hopeful that this will give us an opportunity to explore how related threads appear in the earlier work of both David Graeber and Marshall Sahlins. The attention of these articles to preceding thought in anthropology may resonate with the interest and expertise in philosophy of members of our group. ‘This, then, is what I take a ‘kinship system’ to be: a manifold of intersubjective participations, founded on mutualities of being.’
What kinship is (part one):
A modest proposal for solving the 150-year-old problem of what kinship is, its specific quality, viz.
mutuality of being: persons who are members of one another, who participate intrinsically in each
intrinsic ness .. huge to the dance.. means we need to trust us.. sans any form of m\a\p
science had not merely become a means for describing society but had become its fate.. t
domination literally ‘orders’ the project and gives it intelligibility.. far more important than marx’s concept of social development as ‘the history of class struggle’ is his drama of the extrication of humanity form animality into society, the ‘disembeddedness’ of humanity form the cyclic ‘eternality’ of nature into the linear temporality of history
when marx declares that /men may be distinguished form animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like (but they) begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence.. he essentially deals w humanity as a ‘force’ in the productive process that differs from other material ‘forces’ only to the degree that ‘man’ can conceptualize productive operations that animals perform instinctively..
back to what kinship is:
still p 1
In brief, the idea of kinship in question is ‘mutuality of being’: people who are *intrinsic to one another’s existence – thus ‘mutual person(s)’,‘life itself’,‘ intersubjective **belonging’.
According to Schneider (1984: 101), Durkheim does not tell us ‘what kinship is all about’, since the claim that it consists of moral and juridical relations will not distin-
guish it from other social relations. This is certainly true in the sense that Durkheim offered no explicit intensional definition of kinship. Yet in regard to certain aspects of its social nature, he did make a point of its distinctive quality, ‘some hidden motor behind kinship to make it work’.
In the course of arguing for the independence of
kinship from genealogy, he offered a determinate sense of what kinship is: mutual relations of being, participation in one another’s existence.
This, then, is what I take a ‘kinship system’ to be: a manifold of intersubjective participations, founded on mutualities of being. The present discussion thus joins a tradition that stretches back from Strathern, Marriott, and Bastide; through Leenhardt, Lévy-Bruhl, and Durkheim; to certain passages of Aristotle on the distinctive friendship of kinship. The classical text is the Nicomachean ethics. Anchored as it may be in concepts of birth and descent, Aristotle’s discussion of kinship at once goes beyond and encompasses relations of procreation in larger meanings of mutual belonging that could just as well accommodate the various performative modes of relatedness. Or so
I read the possibilities of his sense of ‘the same entity in discrete subjects’.
Parents love children as being themselves (for those sprung from them are as it were other selves of
theirs, resulting from the separation), children [love] parents as being what they have grown from, and
brothers [love] each other by virtue of their having grown from the same sources: for the self-
sameness of their relation to those produces the same with each other (hence the way people say ‘same
blood,’ ‘same root,’ and things like that). They are, then, the same entity in a way, even though in
discrete subjects … The belonging to each other of cousins and other relatives derives from these, since
it exists by virtue of their being of the same origins, but some of these belong more closely while others
are more distant, depending on whether the ancestral common sources are near or further off
(Aristotle 2002: VIII.1161a
Of course, as the sage says, such mutuality of being comes in various forms and degrees. But generally considered, kinsmen are persons who belong to one another, who are members of one another, who are co-present in each other, whose lives are joined and
Just as well known are the reservations .. to the effect that in practice not all kin are lovable – and often the
closest relatives have the worst quarrels (see below). In Stasch’s own terms: ‘[K]inship belonging is an impossible standard: the ideal includes its own failures
intheoneperson,makingherorhimacompositebeinginaparticipatorysense.Partibility thus describes a larger class of persons than‘dividuality’,which is a differentiated subclass consisting of partibility plus co-presence. The two should not be confused, although as personhood and kinship they often are.
marsh label law et al
on shared existence and (marcel mauss) gift ing
What kinship is (part two):
I realize that in speaking of ‘being’, I risk dragging the discussion of kinship into dark philosophical waters, an epistemic murk made the more obscure by an outmoded anthropological concept of ‘participation’. Referring usually to independent entities,
philosophical notions of ‘being’ have a common tendency to devolve into notions of ‘substance’, even as ‘substance’ conjures a sense of materiality..To the contrary, the being-ness of humans is not con-
fined to singular persons.. The same symbolic capac-
ity is pregnant with the possibility of the mutuality of human being-ness: as, for instance, in the interchangeability of persons and standpoints in the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘you’ as well as other shifters (Benveniste 1971: chap. 20).
I do not mean, however, the constitution of identity as a dialectical or mirrored reflex of the self configured from the way others know one (as in line of Hegel, G.H. Mead, Lacan, et al.). This is too much like a commodity notion of exchange in which each party appropriates what the other puts on offer; and in any case, the transaction presumes and maintains the separation of the persons so related, the opposition of self and other.
Kinship entails an internalization of the difference even as it objectifies it: ‘an inner solidarity of souls’, as Johansen (1954) says of Maori; children as the ‘other selves’ of their parents, as Aristotle put it.1
Parenthesis on human nature
Parenthetically, there is an interesting fit between the intersubjectivity under discussion here and the ‘shared intentionality’ ..on the basis of numerous experiments with infants and non-human primates, have determined to be a unique human capacity of mutuality.
to me.. all data/research ness/history ness to date.. is non legit.. like it’s on/about whales in sea world.. so an irrelevant distraction.. we have no idea what legit free people are like.. so the idea of a legit dance.. keeps getting compromised/managed/ in our trying to understand/know it
Then again, failed exchange, insofar as it likewise negates kinship, can have the same deleterious effects on life as sorcery or witchcraft.
any exchange.. compromises/kills our interconnectedness
‘the very principle of exchange emerged largely as an effect of violence – –‘ david graeber