Society for Medical Anthropology
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
Anthropologists have long studied intergenerational relations through the subject of kinship. Kinship classics have evaluated everything from how societies develop and function, to social cohesion and the logic of culture, to property relations and social change (Carsten 2002). Later generations of scholars addressed kinship through people’s everyday experiences with reproductive technologies, political infrastructures, and symbolic systems. This paper reflects on anthropology’s multi-generational attention to kinship, not by defining the term (Sahlins 2013), but by examining kinship’s relationship to the environment. When climates change, fires erupt, pollution rises, species go extinct, and beings are displaced, how is kinship – and its study– transformed?
Recently, scholars have suggested that making kin, not population, may provide hope on a damaged planet (Clarke and Haraway 2018). Attuning to multispecies interconnectedness and cultivating intergenerational kinfulness are proposed as ways to address ecological damage and change (Benjamin 2018; Tsing et al 2017). But how do anthropologists today wrestle with the ambivalent, toxic and sometimes violent consequences of making kin, and justify staying with kinship as an analytic? Drawing on two ethnographic projects – one on sperm in China and another on seeds in the United States – this paper considers kinship through contemporary practices of isolating, analyzing, saving, and swapping germ cells? How do intergenerational kinmaking practices – as well as anthropological depictions, defenses and reimaginings of kinship – speak to the changing climates we live in today?