not selfish gene theory!

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Mon Nov 29 01:03:49 PST 1999

>But this is where they're most utterly deluded about how kinship schemes
>actually operate. Because they're not at all based on "natural" or
>"biological" kin-relations but on cultural ones. They're _arbitary_ (in the
>Saussurean sense) schemes of descent, residence, marriage, etc. That's why
>anthropologists who study kinship salivate when someone starts citing their
>geneologies: because they know they're going to hear about complex social
>dynamics, not biological ones.
>So yes kinship systems do have conceptions of shared substance between
>members, and yes, these conceptions have corresponding notions of
>sociability. But this is not about "shared genes." Members "inside" a kin
>group are always more closely related to lots of people outside the group.
>All but a small fraction of a person's geneological kin can in fact be
>excluded from "close kin," while conversely kin systems always stress
>"close" commonalities with people only distantly related or indeed complete
>(genetic) strangers. (And this not because they've been "hoodwinked" into
>thinking their nonkin are biological kin, but because kin membership, as a
>social and not biological phenomenon, is obtained performatively, not

The clearest example of arbitrariness of kinship organizations was the "peculiar institution" of the American South. Private property routinely triumphed over biological connections. On plantations, shared genes didn't save children of slave mothers & white masters from slavery. I wonder if sociobiologists ever look at this example.


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