chapter  7
30 Pages

EMERGENT RELATIONS

Anthropologists often find themselves gravitating toward debate and litigation as telling moments in cultural life. For what may be as inter­ esting as the positions being defended are the cultural resources people bring to their aid-analogies and tropes to make the persuasive point, new properties forced onto old concepts. Debate and litigation offer present-day materials for my own exposition.1 However, I also have a question about emergent properties and new claims from the early modern English-speaking world. The question is what made the English at that time endow the words relation and relative with the property of kinship-kinship by blood and marriage, that is. At the least, I hope to show why it might be of interest to ask. The reasons for that begin and end in the present, and I sandwich the historical issue between recent ones. This tracking back and forth will mimic the way in which kinship appears and disappears as a cultural resource for thinking about relations.