Kinship Unbound: Performativism, Bioessentialism, and The Ethnographic Record
Robert A. Wilson (La Trobe University)

October 22, 2019, 5:00pm - 6:30pm
Dianoia Institute of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne campus

Videoconference room, Level 4, 250 Victoria Parade


Australian Catholic University


If you have trouble accessing the 4th floor at 250 Victoria Parade, you can phone Stephanie on 0413283149.

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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