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Unit information: Kinship in 2017/18

Unit name Kinship
Unit code ARCH10018
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. HadziMuhamedovic
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This course is an exploration of the key anthropological contributions to the study of kinship. Firstly, it looks into the defining theoretical and methodological shifts and their later deployments/critiques. Secondly, it builds on the rich ethnographic accounts of the diverse, historically, socially and spatially contingent kinship practices.

Throughout the course, students will tackle a large number of kinship-related problems, such as: gender and sexuality; technologies (‘old’ and ‘new’); religion and ritual; landscape and ‘non-humans’; state, nation and empire; home and migration; economies, inheritance and property; violence and conflict; love and intimacy; ethnicity, class and race; ‘individual’ and the ‘body’; memory, etc. These problems are set to frame the broader discussions of political, moral, legal and other implications for the practice and the study of kinship.

The course also introduces the history of kinship in relation to the development of social anthropology and explores: the 'invention' of kinship as a comparative problem in relation to the rise of professional ethnographic fieldwork, major theoretical paradigms, critical debates which led to the demise of kinship from the 1970s to the 1990s and the new flourishing of kinship studies in the context of reproductive medicine.

In particular, the course aims to show how anthropological theory of kinship continues to evolve under the challenges of new perspectives, whether they come by way of feminist and queer theory, ethnographies of ‘different’ kinship systems, artistic practices or another ‘place’.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of this unit, a successful student will be able to:

  1. describe key debates in the Anthropology of kinship
  2. discuss the history of the discipline and its categories.
  3. summarise comparative ethnographic material about western and non-western societies
  4. discuss current UK debates on society and reproductive medicine.
  5. employ the skills of applying ethnographic data to theory.

Teaching details

One 2hr lecture per week.

Assessment Details

All the assessment is summative:

Two 1500-2000 word essays (50% each). Assesses ILOs 1-5

Reading and References

1) Carsten J. 2004. After Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2) Edwards et al. 1993. Technologies of Procreation: kinship in the age of assisted conception. Manchester University Press.

3) Holy, L. 1996. Anthropological perspectives on kinship, London: Pluto Press.

4) Parkin, R. 1997. Kinship. An Introduction to the basic concepts, Oxford: Blackwell

5) Rapport, N. and J. Overing, Social and Cultural Anthropology. The Key Concepts. London: Routledge.