chapter  7
16 Pages

Contact with Kin: The Effective Kin Set

In Chapter 6 we examined the structure of the kin universe as a whole, kin of past generations as well as contemporary kin, kin simply known about as well as kin in active social relation. We now consider in structural terms those kin of most interest to our enquiry, those with whom our informants were in active social relation. These are the sets of people whom we have termed ‘effective kin’, meaning by this that they are more than a name and a description, that the recognition of the relationship has some effect, however minimal, on the social life of the informant. As the simplest criterion of ‘effect’ we have taken contact of any kind with the kinsman, whether by telephone, correspondence, visiting, exchange of services or common attendance at family gatherings. In all such cases some form of social action is involved. In later Chapters we examine the quality of such contact and its significance for the social life of our informants; here we are interested primarily in mapping the field, in stating in more precise terms the kinds of kin who are effective.1