Cutting the crust off the sanguine sandwich: beyond the biological approach to kinship

Relations of genealogical connection “are” kinship proper. Moreover, they are “fundamentally different from and are logically and temporally prior to any social relations of kinship” — which would apparently rule out any performative constitution of kinship a priori. (In any case, this can’t possibly be so, for sexual intercourse is not prior to the social relations between persons, rules of marriage, etc.) — Not so, in the many cases of rape reported around the world, which statistically speaking is grossly under reported-[my assumption]

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are strong, rich and diverse. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Identity is central to this priority and is intrinsically linked to living, learning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, deep knowledge traditions and holistic world view. A conceptual framework based on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ unique sense of Identity has been developed as a structural tool for the embedding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures within the Australian curriculum. This sense of Identity is approached through the interconnected aspects of Country/Place, People and Culture. Embracing these elements enhances all areas of the curriculum. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander priority provides opportunities for all learners to deepen their knowledge of Australia by engaging with the world’s oldest continuous living cultures. This knowledge and understanding will enrich their ability to participate positively in the ongoing development of Australia.

Essentially what we are dealing with is a semantic issue. The biological definition of kin is explicitly genetic relatedness. For socio-cultural anthropologists it is the mutuality of being. When in a small nomadic band such as the !Kung-San, everyone in your group can be kin. Maybe better understood as “joking” kin. The !Kung know they are not related by blood but since they are codependent, they fit into this description.

Some definitions of kin explicitly state a blood relation or by marriage. Others (such as Merriam-Webster) a group of persons of common ancestry: clan, etc. These definitions in and of themselves are Eurocentric definitions. Ethnographers generally would tease out how the people they are studying would define it. If they don’t (which is for us to scrutinize on a case by case basis) then I see an easy way to improve our research methods.

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Originally published at on October 17, 2015.