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Panel 13: Genealogical methods: Kinship as practical ontology


Anne Salmond, Amiria Salmond, Billie Jane Lythberg, Dan Hikuroa, Conal McCarthy, Albert Refiti

Session presentation

Ontological debates in anthropology derive considerable momentum from the (now not so-) New Melanesian Ethnography, especially the work of Marilyn Strathern and Roy Wagner. The notion of theories of relatedness built from materials that are themselves relationally constituted traces a recursive arc throughout these discussions, from which anthropology emerges as a field of activity constituted by its own distinctive relational practices and concepts. In the Pacific as elsewhere, these inflect how kinship is spoken of, thought about, and practised well beyond the academy, but do not replace other modes of reckoning and generating relations. Ways of relating distinct to Oceania continue to be mobilized to think through difference and sameness as well as to produce new connections and detachments, not least (but not only) by Pacific peoples themselves. Kinship is used to analyse unpredictable situations, experimentally test different theories of action and strategically investigate, negotiate, and intervene in complex legal, philosophical and political predicaments. Approaching kinship as philosophy, empirical analysis and political action—as practical ontology—allows us to explore ways of relating in which e.g. rivers, mountains, the ocean and other more-than-human actors play increasingly prominent roles in intellectual and political projects and environmental negotiations in Pacific settings.

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