The Fall of Kinship: Towards an Epidemiological Explanation

in Journal of Cognition and Culture
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Abstract

Kinship used to be described as what anthropologists do. Today, many might well say that it is what anthropologists do not do. One possible explanation is that the notion of kinship fell off anthropology's radar due to the criticisms raised by Needham and Schneider among others, which supposedly demonstrated that kinship is not a sound theoretical concept. Drawing inspiration from epidemiological approaches to cultural phenomena, this article aims to enrich this explanation. Kinship became an unattractive theoretical concept in the subculture of anthropology not simply because of problems with kinship theory per se, but also on account of fundamental changes in the very conception of anthropological knowledge and the impact of these changes on the personal identity of anthropologists.

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