Cultural systems and social systems Schneider analyses American kinship as a cultural system Approach shared by Clifford Geertz Geertzs definition of culture: "an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life."
Models of and models for Models of - Theory of aerodynamics is a model of how birds and airplanes fly. This course provides models of rituals, social systems, languages Relatives (Kinship systems) Model for - Blueprints for a Boeing 747 How is act like a good person How to find a spouse (Kinship systems)
Cultural systems organize chaos 1. analysis of the system of meanings embodied in the symbols which make up the kinship system 2. relating of the system to social-structural and psychological processes
Two views of Yapese society 1. Follows the assumptions that it is a kin-based society, operating in an idiom of kinship 2. Does not make any of those assumptions, looks for symbols of sociality and the meaning of those symbols from the natives point of view.
Blood is thicker than water Fundamental, implicit assumption in kinship studies. Because blood is thicker than water kinship consists in bonds on which kinsmen can depend, are unquestionable, more compelling than other kinds of relationships. States of being, not doing Even Lévi-Strauss writes of …the natural links of kinship…
Kinship as an idiom Depends on the idea, our assumptions of kinship 1. Simple societies can be distinguished from complex societies 2. Kinship, economics, politics, religion - all universal 3. Reproduction of human beings. - biology (blood ties)
Doctrine of the Genealogical Unity of Humanity Biological kinship is usually distinguished sharply from social kinship Social kinship was about social facts (following Durkheim), but biology was relegated to the background, an assumption. Durkheim, Rivers, Radcliffe-Brown, Malinowski made biological kinship either an implicit or explicitly assumption.
So what? Kinship is about human reproduction, previous generations are replaced by new ones. A European preoccupation - blood is thicker than water This is not necessarily true for all people.
Kinship does not really exist A Critique of the Study of Kinship, 1984 Schneiders critique: it is an artifact of the anthropologists and their culture more than it is of the subject cultures they study By 1980 interest had already fallen off. In 1990s most anthropologists agree that Schneider had a point, he went over the top.
Now what? Anthropology is the study of particular cultures. The first task of anthropology is to understand and formulate the symbols and meanings and their configuration that a particular culture consists of.
The problem First we assume that kinship, economics, politics, and religion are distinct things. Then we describe a culture in terms of one these categories, then in terms of another. All of these institutions are inextricably interrelated so that in any particular case they cannot be clearly distinguished. Society cannot be decomposed into constituent parts.
The solution Take kinship as an empirical question. Value and meaning in the total cultural configuration must be added to the investigation and analysis.
Kinship is again a key problem Not the reigning concept anymore (identity, power, body, gender, colonialism) Returned as the debate about the character of social structure and central to understanding embodied persons. Schneider remains key: symbols, natives point of view, belonging
Society no longer partible Kinship, economy, religion, political organization, etc. are not constituent parts of a society or a culture Kinship is a system not readily demarcated from economic, religious, and governmental domains. Kinship is certainly not something relegated to Others. Kinship of Europe, North America, China, etc.
New Kinship Abandon biological thinking (descent) and examine RELATEDNESS & DIFFERENTIATION How do a given bunch of people connect and differentiate themselves to and from one another This attention to differentiation foregrounds the analytical category of GENDER.