Kinship Unbound: Performativism, Bioessentialism, and The Ethnographic RecordRobert A. Wilson (La Trobe University)
Videoconference room, Level 4, 250 Victoria Parade
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This is a talk in the philosophy of social science that offers a critique of performativist or constructivist view of kinship, views that are widely accepted in contemporary anthropology. After briefly characterizing the shift from bioessentialism to performativism in kinship studies (section 2), I consider a key ethnographic argument for performativism, one offered recently by Dwight Read and Marshall Sahlins but with much wider resonance amongst cultural anthropologists (section 3). The remainder of the paper critiques each premise in this argument, initially by identifying problems with the claim that culture is conceptually prior to biology vis-à-vis kinship (section 4) and then by rejecting the claim that cultural ignorance about biology favors performativism (section 5). Finally, I challenge the pluralistic strand to performativism by drawing on the recent revival of extensionism about kinship terminologies (section 6).
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