General Anthropology Division
Oral Presentation Session
Harold Scheffler is best known for his extensionist theory of kinship. Gary Witherspoon, by contrast, has advanced a culturalist view of Navajo kinship. I argue here that Scheffler's position better fits the Navajo data. I show as well that there is a logical relation between Scheffler's ideas on kinship and his less well-known statement on gender classification, and that, contrary to Wesley Thomas and others, Navajo theory posits only two focal gender classes. Finally, I assess the relative merits of culturalist and extensionist approaches to indigenous social theory, and I reach the conclusions that the latter better fit the data, and that the former, despite claims to the contrary, disrespect native understandings in favor of an unsustainable nativist agenda.