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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/cgkg-c074

technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Kinship Obligations in Reverse I: Relationship Dramas



immigration and diasporas

kinship and families

Is kinship moving in reverse? Are material and emotional expectations increasing beyond possible fulfillment, and then boomerang back like a snapped rubberband, leaving kinship obligations diminished or unfulfilled? Frustrations and not giving the expected are a central part of kinship. Many “classic” studies address kinship and conflict, including succession disputes and witchcraft as key expressions of the so-called dark sides of kinship (Geschiere). Examples abound regarding secrets and challenges to kinship as an unambiguously positive “mutuality of being” (Sahlins). What do these kinship troubles look like today? Current social contexts may be turning disappointed expectations into new patterns and norms. This double session examines cases in which highly valued kinship obligations get “rolled back,” and explores the varied contexts in which these transformations occur. We consider how models from classic ethnographies of kinship conflict can be applied, adapted, or challenged vis-à-vis current situations. We highlight migration, class differentiation, and the impossibilities engendered by both economic challenges and climate change. The panelists in our paired session address a set of guiding questions: What are the circumstances in which people retreat from normative kinship obligations? From which obligations do they retreat? What reasoning do they give (if at all) for their retreats? What are the consequences for changing notions or organization of kinship and social life? Are conditions changing such that we see something new regarding “kinship in reverse?” Do actors classify contemporary diversions from traditional norms as “bad” kinship, or are they changing the norms themselves? Do the challenges of transnational lives reverberate to transform kinship in multiple locales? Through these guiding questions, the panelists address broad questions as well as deeply contextualized ethnographic particulars. For example, papers investigate how various institutional contexts•including hospitals, courts, welfare offices, and immigration regimes•affect the types of responsibility kin feel for one another. We explore the unintended consequences of kinship actions, such as when efforts to evade one type of kinship betrayal produce another. Panelists uncover tension between kinship affect in the private sphere and its expression in public arenas. Our papers map onto axes of social differentiation such as gender, class, and urban vs. rural settings. Our contributions explore conflicts regarding kinship obligations among a range of actors, including children, parents, siblings, and spouses. In this first of two paired sessions, these conflicts involve sex, love, and marriage; violence and courts; hospitals and healers. They revolve around care of spouses, children and the sick. They address responsibility, affect, and the quality of care. They ask ethnographic questions about who counts as kin, and who retreats from kinship relationships. In this session, our cases address a variety of sub-Saharan African countries (Cameroon, Cape Verde, Madagascar, Mali, Namibia, and Senegal) and their diasporic destinations (France, and the United States).


Transcript English (automatic)

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