General Anthropology Division
Oral Presentation Session
Harold Scheffler contributed to kinship studies a theory whereby human kinship and its representation in language are always centered on procreation and the triadic relations within the nuclear family (self, genitor, genetrix). This theory is typically contrasted with several schools of thought (from structuralism to constructivism) that assert that what constitutes human kinship and how kinship terms are assigned to their referents are context-dependent. In linguistic pragmatics, however, "context" is understood in no fuzzy terms as the anchoring of the formal and semantic sides of an utterance in the deictic moment of language acquisition and speech production. From the perspective of speech act theory, language also has a focal point, namely the Speaker as well as a fundamental triad of roles (speaker, addressee, referent) onto which categories of space, time, social relations and personhood are mapped. I argue that, while performativity and context play an important role in the subject's processing of and participating in social relations, Scheffler's model of focality and extensionism provides a valuable metapragmatic model that orchestrates and manages different social and pragmatic contexts. And by extension, while anthropology as a discipline brings together a myriad of contexts, perspectives and models, human kinship as a system of biological procreation and social reproduction organizes these perspectives into a synthetic, metaanthropological model. The unswerving focus on kinship that Harold Scheffler held throughout his career was therefore a celebration of anthropology in all of its diverse meanings.