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Re: VS: [xmca] Re: Knotworking (ex: Double stimulation?)

Yes greg, kinship is an ideal, a cultural construct, necessary for the maintenance of certain kinds of project. In cultures where primogeniture prevailed (Jane Austen's England, Japan, for example), if the eldest son was a ne'er-do-well, the head of the household would adopt a young man from another family and simply declare him eldest son. Just as today, couples seek to adopt in order to realise their commitment to project their own life project into future generations (prolepsis?). There are many forms.


Greg Thompson wrote:
Yes, this idea of projects works very nicely for capturing the mutual imbrications of persons in one another's lives.

But I'm still caught up on "voluntary associations" vis a vis kinship. My "beef" here is with the idea of historical discontinuity of primitive vs. modern systems. I think there always were "voluntary association" as you put it, and perhaps the major difference is one of scale.
Consider this passage from Marshall Sahlins on kinship:

"On the Alaskan North Slope, the Iñupiat will name children and sometimes adults after dead persons, thus making them members of their namesakes’ families. Over a lifetime, reports Barbara Bodenhorn (2000: 137), an Iñupiat may acquire four or five such names and families, although those who bestow the names were not necessarily related before, and in any case they are never the birth parents. Begetters, begone: natal bonds have virtually no determining force in Iñupiat kinship. Kinship statuses are not set by the begetters of persons but by their namers. Indeed, it is the child who chooses the characteristics of birth, including where he or she will be born and of what sex.""

Thus, kinship itself can be a "voluntary association" that holds different groups together. Exogamous affinal kinship relationships make the point still more clearly - kinship is always a "voluntary association" and one that holds groups together in projects by virtue of imputing a sameness of substance. Today it seems that the modes of establishing a sameness of substance are making all kinds of inter-relations possible that were previously unthinkable. Creating bonds by marital relations are rather limiting in terms of bond-forming since marriages typically involve small numbers of persons - notwithstanding polygynous and polyandrous marriages - which increase the numbers of connections only slightly. Those numbers are miniscule in comparison to the bonds that are formed by modern statehood and nationality.

Benedict Anderson's book Imagined Communities provides a nice case study of the kinds of projects that you speak of, Andy, and with respect to the emergence of "nationality". In Anderson's narrative, states are formed by the process of nationalization of a language and, critically, by the creation of a national press. Collective projects (the basis for imagined communities such as a "state") thus are implied by collective representations of happenings in the world.

But the situation has been transformed still more by recent developments.

Today a student in Brazil can watch a video of the tazing (or pepper-spraying) of a student or bunch of students in California and feel a kind of shared substance - that she and I share some essential substance of commitment to a cause or oppression by a dominant power. It would seem that this creates whole new possible forms of kinship/nationalism/solidarity. A step towards conditions in which workers of the world might begin to see their common situation?
maybe that's taking things too far.


On Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 7:16 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    And as Mike sketched a few days ago, what an amazing little
    country Finland is!!

    The point is that in order to understand an object (such as the
    unique nature of Finland, or the upsurge in Brazil) - complex,
    dynamic entities - we need *units* which are themselves processes
    of development. For example, I don't believe we can understand a
    nation state as a collection of *social groups* (eg ethnic, or
    economic, etc.), but rather as a process made up of many other
    distinct processes of development, i.e., projects, which interact
    with one another.

    Formally speaking, the "systems of activity" which Yrjo introduced
    are indeed processes of development; but "project" is much more
    explicitly so. Further, we individuals apprehend these units (be
    they "systems of activity" or "projects") as *concepts*, and the
    rules, norms, community, division of labour, etc. etc., *flow from
    the concept* as does the *ever-changing conception of the
    *object*. If objects (and community, norms, etc.), pre-exist an
    activity, then we don't have Activity Theory at all, we have some
    variety of structuralism of functionalism.

    So it is important to begin from the project, each of which is a
    particular instance of a concept, and all the elements (norms,
    tools, etc.) of the project flow from its concept and the
    conditions in which it is developing.

    So for example, I don't think it is appropriate to conceive the
    social movements, voluntary associations, protests, political
    conflicts and alliances of 20th century Finland as "systems" or
    "institutions." They are projects, projects which constructed
    modern Finland, and which indeed, one day, become "systems", but
    never irreversibly. The institutions which are the products of
    social movements, protests, and so on (projects) are never
    irreversibly reified as "fields" or "figured worlds" or
    "pratico-inerts" or "structures" or any of the other renderings of
    the social fabric as composed of dead and lacking in teleological


    Rauno Huttunen wrote:


        Similar things happened in Finland too. See article by
        professor Martti Siisiäinen: Social Movements, Voluntary
        Associations and Cycles of Protest in Finland 1905-91
        (Scandinavian Political Studies, Bind 15, 1992).



        Lähettäjä: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
        <mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu>] k&#228;ytt&#228;j&#228;n
        Andy Blunden [ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>]
        Lähetetty: 26. kesäkuuta 2013 3:30
        Kopio: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
        Aihe: Re: [xmca] Re: Knotworking (ex: Double stimulation?)

        But to make a distinction is not necessarily to set up a

        In Australian social history the appearance of voluntary
        associations n
        the 19th century (mostly trade union-type organisations, but
        also sports
        and recreation, mutual-aid of various kinds, and later
        political parties
        and groups) was a significant development, which meant people
        travelling long distances to stitch together the fabric of the
        nation. In the US, the parallel role was played, I believe, to
        a great
        extent, also by Protestant sects, who pioneered the building
        of new
        bonds of sociability and trust across great distances.

        These New World projects constructed a new kind of civil
        society and the
        basis for modernity. According to Hegel for example, modernity is
        characterised by the eclipse of family as the chief bond and
        force in a state, by voluntary associations, such as professional
        associations or regional community organisations, where people of
        differing traditions construct new modern conditions of
        But of course, the family and the state both remain in place!


        Greg Thompson wrote:
            Yes, Andy, I think the anthropological notion of kinship
            captures your
            point that not all biological relatives are "kin".
            David Schneider, for example, points out how kinship is
            really just
            the Aristotelian notion of "identity", and that "kinship" is
            fundamentally a matter of sameness of substance. Thus,
            political and
            religious affiliations are, in his view, systems of kinship.

            Seems like the same would be true of so-called "voluntary
            (scare quotes because of skepticism of notions of
            voluntary and the
            assumptions it makes about us as subjects). Any voluntary
            worth its salt will surely have this sense of shared
            substance (and
            with regard to the making of this shared substance,
            Durkheim is
            essential - but that's a different story for a different
            time!). And
            don't most of these organizations have some sense of
            kinship built
            into their relational terms, whether "brother" or
            "brotherhood" or
            "family" or whatever?


            On Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 6:47 PM, Andy Blunden
            <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>
            <mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>> wrote:

                Yes, there is no doubt that the commitment many people
            have to
                continuing the work of their parents and even
            ancestors, and their
                investment in their children, evidences a project, an
                project in fact. "Voluntary associations" are
            historically a
                relatively recent invention, prior to which kinship
            was possibly
                the most significant project in human life. Of course,
            it is not
                always the case that a kinship relation always
            indicates the
                relevance of the concept of "project" - I have cousins
            whom I have
                never met and to whom I have no commitment whatsoever.


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-- ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    *Andy Blunden*
    Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>
    Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts

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Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602

*Andy Blunden*
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts

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