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Open Access Publications from the University of California


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The journal Kinship offers a scholarly site for research publications dedicated to the ethnography and theory of kinship and covers current systematic efforts using new data or new ideas, including the use of these data and ideas to revisit and rework earlier assumptions in the field. It covers a wide range of kinship-based cross-cultural practices ranging from incest to marriage, to avoidances, to kin terms, to succession, to contemporary forms of motherhood, fatherhood, and family, and more. The journal Kinship, as the design of the front cover seeks to convey, is dedicated to the study of kinship in all of its facets, is international in scope, and will publish original work in English, though publications in other languages will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Issue cover


The Uses of Kinship for Political Ends by Local Descent Groups in Jordan

Kinship is an important dimension of politics throughout the Middle East and, specifically, in Jordan. At the level of face-to-face negotiations, three kinds of kinship (common descent, affinity, ritual kinship) are invoked in Jordan to garner support from an actor’s kin and create political ties. At the level of large-scale organizations – such as tribes – appeals are made to kinship norms to mobilize members of each organization and enhance group solidarity. At the macroscopic level of national politics, rhetoric about the “national family” is used to try to pacify groups who have lost political battles or who are politically marginal to the decision-making process. Analysis of politics at all three levels can be improved by paying careful attention to kinship.

Kinship, Genealogy, Objectivity, and Ethnocentrism

This describes the factual and epistemological mistakes leading to the collapse of anthropological interest in the scientific analysis of kinship and social organization in the 1980s, their persistence to the present, and the alternative that avoids them.

The basic argument is that while kinship was and is a challenging topic, the reason for the collapse of kinship studies in response to David Schneider's criticism in 1987 had did not reflect those inherent problems.  They reflected self-contradictions and counter-factual assumptions in the conceptions of science, meaning, and objectivity in the approaches that were taken to it, both by those Schneider criticised and by Schneider himself.

The paper details the steps by which those errors accumuluted in this particular line of argument.  It does so in part by contrasting this line with my own approach that avoided them, and that Schneider knew about but evidently did not understand.

Research Reports

Can a Local Descent Group Become an International Network? Research on the Rashāyidah in Five Countries

Local descent groups that all have the name – Rashāyidah – are found in many places in the eastern Arab world. There is evidence that at least some of these groups originated in northwest-ern Arabia, where some of their ancestors lived centuries ago. More significantly, many of them have recently become aware of each other’s existence. Some are constructing a historical and genealogical narrative about common out-migration from Arabia. This narrative does more than explain why they share the same name; it also (re)constructs the kinship bonds that link them. Research has begun in Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan to explore this process of “awakening” to a common past. Nine researchers are collecting ethnographic and linguistic data about six different Rashāyidah groups and the various localities where they live. The researchers will describe the relationships of each group with its neighbors and will explore the motivations for adopting a new, diasporic, identity while at the same time re-working the de-tails of their established tribal and national identities.