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31 août 2013, Berlin : Doing Politics - Making Kinship. Back Towards a Future Anthropology of Social Organisation and Belonging (appel à communication)

Organisers : Erdmute Alber (University of Bayreuth) and Tatjana Thelen
(University of Vienna)
Venue : Humboldt University Berlin, IGK Work and Human Life Cycle in
Global History (re:work), Georgenstr. 23, 10117 Berlin

Outline
Politics and kinship were at one point dealt with together in anthropology.
A hundred years ago social anthropology saw as one of its main tasks the conceptualisation of kinship as the
basis for social organisation and belonging in small so-called traditional societies. In the absence
of broader state organisation, kinship was thought to cover political organisation and
therefore understood as being at the heart of the social processes that interested
anthropologists.

Around the mid-20th century, with the publishing of African political systems by Meyer
Fortes and Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard and their famous division between states and state-less
societies (1940), politics started to become a field of discussion in its own right. This development
resulted in the emergence of the then new sub-discipline of political anthropology,
which distanced itself more and more from the anthropology of kinship. In combination with
ever more specialised terminology debates, this process of bifurcation contributed to the loss
of centrality of kinship within social anthropology. However, for some time to come both
anthropologies remained similar in their emphasis on supposedly non-state, kin-based
societies as opposed to state societies, which were seen as being politics based.
It was only after sharp criticism of the Eurocentrist hegemonism in anthropology, that
both sub-disciplines once again became more obviously closer. To some extent both overcame
the dichotomy between the state-driven “west” and the stateless societies in the “rest”
of the world. At the end of the 20th century political anthropology as well as the anthropology
of kinship re-defined their topics in a somewhat parallel way. Both approached their topics in a more actor-centred, processual and situative way and (re-)discovered old
themes : political
anthropology became again interested in the state as an empirical phenomenon to be researched
and kinship studies looked again empirically at the establishment of parenthood
(i.e. descent). And, last but not least, in this process belonging emerged as a key term producing
rich theoretical discussions in political anthropology as well as in the new kinship
studies.

This parallel development and its significance for social anthropology as a whole, however,
went largely unnoticed. One tentative explanation could be that despite the new ideas
both remained in their traditional fields : the “new” anthropology of the state defines its subject
in typical anthropological settings on the margins and outside of Europe with an eye on
the repressive modes of state rule. Similarly, the bulk of “new” kinship studies focuses on the
making of kin through practices of feeding, naming and commensality in the realm of relations
that have always made up the realm of kinship and family. In short, with some noteworthy
exceptions both fields of inquiry remained surprisingly separate despite substantial
theoretical intersections.

Our workshop aims at bringing the two sub disciplines into closer communication, thus enabling a new holism in the anthropology of social organisation and belonging. We anticipate that this approach will produce synergies that lead to new insights in both kinship and politics as well as their interrelatedness. We welcome empirically-inspired case studies that offer new ethnographic viewpoints and methodological approaches as well as theoretical contributions that address the following fields :

- Making and breaking kin by politics : citizenship, new modes of reproduction, global
negotiations of belonging
- Making and breaking politics by kin : kinsmen, friends and patrons
- Modes of belonging as bridging kinship and politics
- Caring as a practice of making political and kin relations
- Boundary work : mutual delineation of state and kinship

Key Note Speakers : Janet Carsten (Edinburgh), Michael Herzfeld (Harvard)
Discussant : Shalini Randeria (Geneva)

Modalités
Please send an abstract (200-300 words) of your proposed paper by the latest 31. August 2013 to :
Erdmute Alber (erdmute.alber chez uni-bayreuth.de) or :
Tatjana Thelen (tatjana.thelen chez univie.ac.at)

The selection of speakers for the conference will be made by the end of September.
Travel expenses will be refunded to invited speakers, who are expected to submit a draft paper by 15th of December in order to allow the commentators time to prepare their response and to facilitate lively discussion. We expect finalised papers for publication within three months of the conference.