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Open Access Publications from the University of California

From Consanguinity to Consubstantiality: Julian Pitt-Rivers’ ‘The Kith and the Kin’

  • Author(s): Dousset, Laurent
  • et al.

In 1973, Julian Pitt-Rivers published a chapter in Goody’s The Character of Kinship that, although rather infrequently used and quoted, suggested a work-around to the major criticisms that were expressed towards kinship studies in the 1970s.  Reintroducing the notion of “consubstantiality”, Pitt-Rivers suggested a bringing together of emic and etic approaches to kinship classification and ontology.  As straightforward as it may appear, the concept, when combined with Burke’s use of the notion in relation to that of “context”, crystallizes a methodology for embedding structural and formal approaches of kinship within the social domains of relatedness and action.  While discussing Pitt-Rivers’ proposition, this paper illustrates the application of consubstantiality as an explanatory model of the extension of self in the Australian Western Desert through two examples: the diversity of marriage scenarios and their consequences and the “unusual” usage of some terminological classes in relation to close kin.

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