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Savill 2002: 44

The view was not powerful enough to displace the doctrine that the fetus has
no legal personality (it lacks full autonomy; as an incomplete human being,
it is in corporeal terms sui generis.). It also left out the extent to which the
maternal body is changed by pregnancy, and indeed becomes in its new state
dependent on the fetus for the completion of its developmental trajectory. This
is the point at which Savill (2002: 66) quotes Karpinā€™s illuminating suggestion
30 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


that we conceptualise the maternal body as a ā€˜nexus of relationsā€™. Karpin does
not mean:

a relationship in which mother and fetus . . . are equal partners because that would
rely on a basic premise of distinction. The value of a nexus-of-relations perspective
is that it makes obsolete a notion of subjectivity that is dependent for its subject
status on distinction, separation and defensive opposition to others.
Karpin 1994: 46

I have one disagreement.41 I do not think we need be afraid of distinctions
and separations. In the same volume, Gatens (2002: 168) turns to Spinoza for
his understanding that individuals:

are not ā€˜atomsā€™ or ā€˜monadsā€™ but are themselves made up of ā€˜partsā€™ that are in
constant interchange with each other . . . [such that] for an individual to endure
requires exchange, struggle and cooperation with other individuals, who are also
made up of parts.

Spinozaā€™s ethicalā€“political ontology, she remarks, ā€˜facilitates understanding
difference as enabling identity and relations of interdependence as enabling
autonomyā€™ (2002: 169, my emphasis). Biotechnology has introduced into the
domain of body management the kinds of separations, cuts and combinations
that have always characterised relations between persons.
Yet the fact remains that Euro-Americans do not always talk about relations
very clearly. Some of their current dilemmas stem from those areas in which
the vocabulary for the interests at stake is exhausted.42 I have suggested that
certain aspects of biotechnology, such as recombinant genetics, offers fresh
ways of thinking about social arrangements and indeed about biotechnologyā€™s
own interventions. Franklin (2003) provides an arresting account of people
moving in and out of the discourses of genetics in dealing with kin relations.
If so, the virtue is less the novelty of these discourses than their capacity
to bring people back to what they already know. They already ā€˜knowā€™ that
mother and fetus are both separable and parts of each other; what is lacking
is an adequate language for this kind of relation. This limits the way in which
responsibilities are conceptualised. It is as though Euro-Americans could only
speak of each as either merged with or external to one another, an exclusive
unity or an exclusion of the one from the otherā€™s interests. Yet (to put Spinozaā€™s
words into another frame) it is their separability that is at the basis of their
interdependency. If literal separation is the precondition for recombination in
the case of families, then in the case of mother and fetus separation is integral
to any relationship between them.43
31
RELATIVES ARE ALWAYS A SURPRISE


I would repeat that people already know this. But one reason for the shortage
of relational idioms is the overdetermination of other idioms. For when it
comes to legislation and litigation, a relationship is not (and cannot be) a
legal subject in Western (Euro-American) law. This is a problem we shall have
to live with. So the arguments remain fascinating but inconclusive.
Other problems are shifted, and the consequences of how people make
decisions have evident effect in the conclusions people draw.
Children born of donated gametes, and given the nature of the procedures
it is more likely to have been the sperm donor rather than the egg donor
who has been completely separated from the results of conception, are now
in the position of having to decide whether or not pursue their genetic pater-
nity. Members of Sydneyā€™s Donor Conception Support Group are reported as
saying: ā€˜They just want to ļ¬nd out who they are. They donā€™t want replacement
parentsā€™ (Sydney Morning Herald, 29 November 2001). Certain donors do not
wish even that, the same article goes on, ā€˜I would much prefer them to simply
say thank you, enjoy their mothers and fathers and get on with their livesā€™, said
one donor who threatened to take legal action if he was identiļ¬ed. Or it may
be a mother who makes such a decision on behalf of her child, as in the case of
the sperm donor who went to the Family Court in Melbourne to seek access
to a two-year-old boy; the Court was told that the child was not being de-
nied a relationship, just ā€˜an active parental relationshipā€™ (Sun Herald, Sydney,
27 January 2002).44 Other decisions follow, such as an IVF clinic trying to elim-
inate anonymous donations altogether from their procedures because of the
ethical problems to which they give rise. ā€˜Nowadays, the clinic advises clients
to ask a friend or relative to provide spermā€™, said a nurse (Sydney Morning
Herald, 29 November 2001).
ā€˜Or relativeā€™! A ļ¬nal surprise, then, sprung by relatives, in this case by
relatives who ā€“ like friends ā€“ are willing to donate to kin they know. If one
recalls all those early debates about anonymity being needed to protect the
nuclear family, saving it equally from intrusive strangers and the shadow of
incest, a wheel seems to have turned full circle. Seemingly, that problem has
been pushed to one side, and pre-existing kinship comes into its own.45 Of
course, it is not without complications. Edwards (1999; 2000) offers an account,
and it is one of the few fully ethnographic accounts, of the way English kinsfolk
weigh up such matters. Thompson (2001 : 174) describes a Californian fertility
clinic where friends and relatives are involved in gamete donation, and where
ā€˜certain bases of kin differentiation are foregrounded and recrafted while other
are minimizedā€™. Although this may be so that the intending parents come out
ā€˜through legitimate and intact chains of descent as the real parentsā€™, my focus
is on the separations and recombinations that make this possible. In one case,
32 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


for example, the surrogate asked to gestate eggs and sperm from a husbandā€“
wife pair was the husbandā€™s sister. It was not counted as incest. It was a near
thing, though, and the sister joked that it was lucky she had her tubes tied
because that ensured that none of her own eggs would meet any sperm that
might accidentally be transferred with the embryo. A further case Thompson
(2001 : 187) cites is a co-venture of a kind that came to the fore from the early
days of IVF, namely mothers and daughters assisting one another, in this case
the daughter providing an egg to be inseminated by her motherā€™s husband.
The fact that he was her stepfather helped, but the fact that the egg contained
genetic endowment from the daughterā€™s father (motherā€™s former husband)
was not mentioned. In this case, the daughter was happy to have helped her
mother, but did not like thinking about the spare embryos that were not used
and that, outside her motherā€™s body, simply remained the creation of herself
and her stepfather.
Yet however painful, casual, taken for granted or requiring great effort it is,
relatives can probably handle the complex business of negotiating closeness
and distance, separating themselves from this part of procreation in order to
associate with that part. Is it because, regardless of what happens in other parts
of their lives, kinship has taught them to be adept at managing two kinds of
relations at once, not just connections but disconnections as well?


acknowledgements
Considerable thanks to the Julius Stone Institute and to Helen Irving and the
Law Faculty at the University of Sydney for the opportunity to participate
in the 2002 Macquarie Bank Lecture series Biotechnologies: Between Expert
Knowledges and Public Values. The Gender Relations Centre and Department
of Anthropology at the Research School of Paciļ¬c and Asian Studies, Australian
National University, Canberra, also my hosts, provided much further dis-
cussion; warm personal thanks to Margaret Jolly and Mark Mosko. I remain
grateful to the other authors of Technologies of Procreation for their continuing
insights; however, I have probably drawn more on Sarah Franklinā€™s (2001 b;
2003) re-conceptualisations than I realise. Janet Dolgin once again provided
me with something of a base, as did Alain Pottage. Monica Bonaccorsoā€™s
study proved very informative, and Maria Carranza gave exceptional help in
acquainting me with current affairs in Australia.
2




Embedded Science




Our picture of science is still heavily impregnated with epistemology ā€“ that
is, the ā€˜theoryā€™ of knowledge.
John Ziman, 2000: 6




I n 2003 the international council for science prepared to
launch what it regarded as one of its most important strategic reviews
ever. This was a review of the responsibilities of science and society. A fas-
cinating phenomenon of the last decade or so has been the international
circulation of the idea that science needs society as much as society needs
science. ā€˜Science and Societyā€™ programmes seem to spring up on all sides. In
summoning the combined skills of experts and non-experts alike, such pro-
grammes try to make explicit the interdependence of the two. Thus a central
formula in U.K. science policy has recently undergone a shift in that direc-
tion: from the Public Understanding of Science to the concept of Science and
Society.1 The call is for a greater understanding of how society is implicated
in science, and how science might be made accountable to society: a ā€˜new
social contractā€™.2 In thinking about what stands for society, how one knows
when it has been engaged, society becomes itself an explicit object of inquiry.
There is considerable interest here for a social anthropology engaged with
what is made explicit and what is left implicit. For anthropologists frequently
claim that much knowledge is embedded in habits and practices that render
it implicit. If the same claim were to be made for Western (Euro-American)
science in its societies of origin, where would one look for a tacit or embedded
science?
Supposing science is already ā€˜inā€™ society, then, where is it? What do I need
to make explicit in order to ļ¬nd examples of its embedding? I am going
to introduce certain knowledge practices. I shall argue that Euro-Americans
33
34 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


already act out ways of putting together knowledge that are ā€˜scientiļ¬cā€™. But they
do not always make it evident to themselves in such terms, and in this sense
the practices are only science in a tacit or implicit manner. Two arenas catch
my attention. The ļ¬rst is that of anthropologists prosecuting their discipline
although they inhabit a rather arcane and esoteric corner of society in doing
so.3 The second belongs to a part of social life far from arcane, indeed the
parts of their lives people often ļ¬nd ordinary, as I expound in the second half
of the chapter.
What science do I mean? I mean the science that claims its antecedents
in the scientiļ¬c revolution of the seventeenth century, a precursor to the
European Enlightenment. That was the century that witnessed ā€˜self-conscious
and large-scale attempts to change belief, and ways of securing belief, about
the natural worldā€™, when people felt that they were proposing ā€˜new and very
important changes in the knowledge of natural reality and in the practices by
which legitimate knowledge was to be securedā€™ (Shapin 1996: 5). It laid down
ways of thinking that are still very much with us, or (better put) that have
spurred numerous other revolutions that keep science at once recognisable
and forever changing. One can have a greater or lesser sense of epoch, but
that earlier period is at least a starting point for asking about implicit habits
of scientiļ¬c thinking.4
ā€˜The scientiļ¬c world is . . . that which we verifyā€™ (Osborne 1998, quoting
Bachelard). For present purposes, I take ā€˜scienceā€™ as standing not for one kind
of knowledge, nor for that matter ā€“ though it would have the greater historical
accuracy ā€“ for many kinds. Rather, I take it as allowing for twinned or paired or
otherwise related but divergent thinking that rests on, among other things, two
ways of verifying information. The divergence between invention and discov-
ery is the case in point. One might see this as the difference between verifying
hypotheses enacted out through new instruments of knowledge (such as in-
venting an engine to use the force of compressed steam or a technique to use
the behaviour of enzymes in determining gene sequences) and verifying what
new observations can yield with respect to what is already known (such as
discovering landfalls or micro-organisms, hitherto unnamed or unrecorded
but recognisable). The line may be ļ¬ne, but the law turns this duplex into a
critical distinction. In the arena of intellectual property rights, the law consid-
ers the distinction as coming from science, and attributes to science different
ways of relating to the outcomes.5 At any rate, such divergence allows ideas
to appear alongside of and co-produced with critiques of them, and it creates
the possibility of different kinds of knowledge existing in tandem.
The duplex works with fractal effect; the same divergence can be repeated
at any scale. So each element of a pair can itself bifurcate, that is, become a
35
EMBEDDED SCIENCE


pair itself. I do not draw attention to this process, but it makes for constant
dovetailing in the narrative that follows.



isolated knowledge
In The island of the day before, Eco (1995) has his hero of sorts sail between
islands inhabited by people who live by different theories. Thus on one island
people are forever on their knees gazing into ponds, for they hold that someone
who is not seen cannot be. On the next, the inhabitants exist only by being
the subject of narration, talking incessantly to keep one another alive, striving
to make each story unique in order to be able to tell one another apart. These
islanders have mistaken theories for life. Yet there is another truth behind their
predicament that a social anthropologist might appreciate. Eco has to put his
people on different islands because otherwise they might have heard about
one anotherā€™s theories and come to hold their own less tenaciously.6
One spectacle that the new genetics has brought onto centre stage is the
realisation that scientiļ¬c knowledge is no island. It has been impossible to
isolate the knowledge that people assume scientists are accumulating about
the working of the human genome. On the contrary, this has been a prime
area in which it is thought irresponsible not to anticipate possible social reper-
cussions (it attracts many science and society projects). What is interesting
is prominence given to knowledge itself. It is not just the implementation of
knowledge that is at issue, for example, in the form of protocols to deal with
risk or pharmacogenetics (ā€˜My very own medicineā€™7 ), but also the very hold-
ing of knowledge as such when that knowledge is derived from the human
(that is, some personā€™s) genome. One of the products of genetic knowledge
acquired for clinical purposes is widely understood to be information on a
whole range of matters about life circumstances of great interest to the person
in question. The issue is that many of them could also be of great interest to
third parties. In this light, it has become a truism to say that genetic knowledge
is frequently regarded as at once full of promise and full of danger.
Following its discussion document, the report of the U.K. Human Genet-
ics Commission (HGC 2002) addresses debate in this area. What might be
knowledge for the individual is also given something of a distance as ā€˜personal
genetic dataā€™, namely, information about other individuals that is personal to
them. Several questions that have to do with what kind of information con-
cerning third parties it is permissible to have access to, and to keep, acquire
further weight when that includes information about genetic make-up. In
its recommendations, the HGC report very quickly moves from its opening
36 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


premise that personal information is private information to the point that it
is not private at all:

Genetic knowledge may bring people into a speciļ¬c moral relationship with one
another. We have therefore proposed the following concept of genetic solidarity
and altruism, which promotes the common good.
2002: 13, original emphasis

Such interest in relationships is not taken for granted but must be ļ¬‚agged as
an explicit value to be taken into account. So although, as the HGC report
explains, many of the principles to which it adheres are concerned with safe-
guarding the individual, ā€˜it is important . . . to see the individual as a member
of societyā€™ (2002: 2.8).8 Note the imperative to recognise this fact of soci-
ety. Recognition then produces a moral precept that becomes an awkward
problem. Society is concretised as ā€˜communityā€™ and then ā€“ echoing terms en-
countered in the previous chapter ā€“ revealed in a particularly distinctive form,
the family:

We do not lead our lives in isolation, but as members of communities, large and
small. We must also think of a family as a micro-community.
2002: 2.10

The problem is evident: how to balance the fact of sharing information that
may lead to better medical outcomes with the privacy that an individual
expects. The balance is particularly acute when it comes to relations with
other family members.9 Information that one family member has may be
important for others, and the ā€˜web of moral responsibilitiesā€™ that characterises
such relations becomes an example of a more general issue of balancing ā€˜social
and individual interestsā€™.10
The crux is that knowledge personal to one person may also be informa-
tion that is potentially personal to another, so that revelation could help the
third party. Regardless of the entanglement of relations, difļ¬culties are cre-
ated by conventions in the handling of information as such. Thus, if personal
information is considered private, ļ¬nding out about the genetic make-up of
another person becomes an invasion of privacy; if testing for genetic disorders
becomes likened to research or invasive surgery, then the worry is intervening
when the patient is not someone who will be the beneļ¬ciary of the knowledge
(2002: 4.54). ā€˜Informed consentā€™ becomes pretty stretched for those trying to
deal with what is perceived as the ā€˜ethicsā€™ of the case.
It is ironic that what began as an aid to uncovering hereditary diseases ā€“
being able to trace kin connections ā€“ has turned into a different kind of aid
and a different kind of problem. It was once the case that genetic knowledge
37
EMBEDDED SCIENCE


could only be built up through information known about family members by
family members. DNA diagnosis can bypass cumbersome trawls through kin
connections, and cuts to the heart of the matter; information about inheritance
is bundled up in the individualā€™s own genome. The HGC report dwells on the
issues that arise in what it calls family analysis, ā€˜carrying out a test on one person
in order to ascertain the signiļ¬cance of a genetic characteristic that is shared
with a relativeā€™ (2002: 4.54). There is the related question of whether individuals
knowing about their own make-up should volunteer their knowledge for the
information of others (Finkler 2000), a topic to which the next chapter returns.
Relatives are turned from those who are a source of information about genetic
connections (as were inferred from lines of descent) into those who need to
be told.
Such issues have become the bread and butter concerns of media debates,
ethical scrutiny, and the like. I want to suggest there is a bit more here than
meets the eye, and that concerns the role we accord knowledge. Can I use the
social anthropologistā€™s eye, or voice, or theory, to develop the point? Of course
anthropology does not exist on an island, and its theories are not immune to
inļ¬‚uence from others. And for as many who take the archetypal subject of
ethnography to be an island society, many more assume that the entities they
study are no more like islands than people are. I shall try to elucidate.


relations everywhere
Perhaps it was no great surprise after all that it was ā€˜relationsā€™ that jumped out
of the kinship material in Chapter One. And I could present other examples.
However, Gell (1998) is particularly helpful in giving us a familiar response
to how one understands social anthropologyā€™s basic position while doing so
in an unfamiliar place. What, he asks, would an anthropological theory of
art look like? It would have to look like other anthropological theories, and
they all look like theories of social relations, that is, of social interactions.11
ā€˜The ā€œanthropological theory of artā€ is a theory of the social relations that
obtain in the neighbourhood of works of artā€™ (Gell 1998: 26). An exceptional
pronouncement for the world of art perhaps, but totally unexceptional for a
social anthropologist, which is exactly the effect for which Gell was striving.
Relationships provide a ā€˜relationalā€™ context in which to account for the pro-
duction and circulation of art, that is, a theory of relations. But how does that
come to be the anthropologistā€™s response? Where on earth do we get a relational
view from?
Relations are at once anthropologyā€™s ļ¬eld of enquiry, its problematic, and in
the eyes of some a problem for it. The accusation is that it seems impossible to
38 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


see beyond them (Weiner 1993; Moutu 2003). But why is social anthropology
constituted by its relationality? What are the needs to which it is responding?
One of these needs appears to have been put in its path by science, and ā€˜scienceā€™s
relationā€™ (see the Introduction to Part I) offers an answer with two aspects
to it.
Arguably, the ļ¬rst part of the answer lies in certain nineteenth century roots
of social science. The burgeoning of social science was at once made possible
by natural science and carried the self-knowledge that the very idea of sci-
ence could be incorporated into the study of society via certain protocols and
methods. Statistical methods were one. Moore (1996: 11) dilates on Foucaultā€™s
observations here. If the notion of the art of government as a means of man-
aging populations emerged in Europe between the sixteenth and eighteenth
centuries, this was also the time when, as a model for government, the family
(and patriarchy) disappeared. In its place was a new understanding of internal
organisation, to be found, in Foucaultā€™s phrase, in statistics as the science of
the state.
There is nothing novel in observing that present-day statistical methods
developed as a reaction to the opening up of the world to bureaucratic inter-
vention ā€“ after the traders, the administrators ā€“ and to administratorsā€™ need
to know about the populations they controlled. The point about statistics is
that it rests on the supposition that knowledge is generated by putting distinct
pieces of information together and then measuring the degree of their relation
to one another. The systematic search for correlations between entities was
the result.12 Descombes epitomises the consequence for social science:

Sociologists inspired by positivism imagine that in order to be scientiļ¬c they must
bow to the rules of what they call the ā€˜naturalist[ic] methodā€™: scientiļ¬c work would
then consist of collecting data, preferably quantiļ¬ed, and of seeking correlations
between the data.
2000: 39

Such data are understood as individual elements in the same way as persons
may be thought of as individuals and society deļ¬ned as the connections be-
tween them (Schlecker and Hirsch 2001 : 71). This leads to innumerable issues
in the deļ¬nition of the unit of comparison (Strathern 1991 ) but is nonetheless
held to reļ¬‚ect a scientiļ¬c approach. Here, then, there is a fairly direct and
explicit gesture toward the inļ¬‚uence of ā€˜scienceā€™ on the subject.
Correlation may be taken a signiļ¬cant further step in the quest for causal
relations. Demonstrating causal relations ā€“ veriļ¬cation through predicting
outcome ā€“ is another hallmark of scientiļ¬c method. But science, and this
became especially true of social science, does not need this step to appreciate
39
EMBEDDED SCIENCE


the force of correlation. It is an achievement in itself to demonstrate the ļ¬t
among data from different domains.
Now, regardless of the personal beliefs of practitioners, the material and
apprehensible world of the seventeenth century had become conceivable as a
self-verifying system (hence the attraction of auto-regulating mechanics and
perpetual motion, for example, Crook 2004). If it operated without anyone
having to seek a cause beyond it, then it must operate on its own terms. The idea
of entities existing on their own terms was replicated in the items that made up
the natural ā€“ or social ā€“ world, that is, the items between which connections
were being sought. If an aim was ļ¬t between data from different domains,
then the very independence of these domains from one another became the
prerequisite to determining co-variation or correlation; this became ā€˜Galtonā€™s
problemā€™ (Jorgensen 1979). Relations were made evident to the extent that
the items being related to one another were otherwise autonomous. In short,
apparently unique elements in the world could be explained by the way they
impacted on or were variously connected to one another, and what science
determined and described were the relations between them.13 Indeed, they
were not to be explained by anything beyond one another, and knowledge
came from nowhere but the demonstration of interrelationships.
We might see the effort to demonstrate connections through relating hith-
erto unconnected facts as involving the creation or invention of new kinds
of relations, new systems of classiļ¬cation, say, that link phenomena already
known in other ways. Such instruments of description turn hypothetical con-
nections into actualised ones, ones that stay stable (Law 1994). However, re-
lating apparently independent entities to one another (inventing the relations
that made them connected) is but half of the scientiļ¬c enterprise. The other
half has to do with discovery, uncovering relations that already exist. When it
comes to the elucidation of society, perhaps social scienceā€™s own pre-eminence
in this sphere (discovery) meant that associations between this aspect of nat-
ural science and the development of social science have tended to remain
implicit. This is the second part of the answer.
Ziman (2000: 5, original emphasis) observes that there are many forms of
knowledge: ā€˜What makes any particular form of it scientiļ¬c?ā€™ He sums up the
old answer in the phrase ā€˜epistemological naturalismā€™. Science is a complex
system, with various elements interacting, itself a model of such interrelations.
Although he hopes for a new (non-epistemological, even possibly ā€˜life-worldā€™)
model, for present purposes I shall be satisļ¬ed to elucidate aspects of the old.
By that I mean the science that addresses a world understood in terms of
itself. If relating hitherto unconnected facts involves the invention of new
kinds of relations, then showing or uncovering how each fact is already part of
40 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


everything else, already predictable or deļ¬nable through the internal coher-
ence of relations that already exist, is more like discovery.
The other half of the scientiļ¬c enterprise, then, is to specify the co-deļ¬ning
elements of an internally coherent system that will furnish a description of
every element as part of it ā€“ as one might (literally) imagine the periodic
table, or the model of DNA ā€“ thereby creating the notion of ā€˜ordersā€™ of kinds.
Knowledge will come from specifying what does, or does not, belong to the
system. The system entails its own canons of veriļ¬cation. Science here consists
of a circuit of intelligible signs that mutually reinforce one another, a percep-
tion of their ļ¬eld of which nineteenth scientists were particularly conscious
(Beer 1996). This does not mean the circuit is all-encompassing (ā€˜scientiļ¬c
paradigms are never epistemically complete or coherentā€™ [Ziman 2000: 198]),
but it does mean that deļ¬nitions are bound up in one another. Neutrons,
electrons, positrons ā€“ these terms must be mutually sustaining.14 Systems of
classiļ¬cation appear in a new light, not as the invention of scientists but, when
the gaps get ļ¬lled in, as a means to discovering what is known to exist but is
not yet brought to light.
Now this is, so to speak, an approach to the world with which social science
was to become familiar (and echoes political economyā€™s critique of classical
economics). It came out of a criticism of the ļ¬rst view that, translated into
the orbit of social life, saw society as the links between individuals, entities
otherwise independent of one another. The criticism is that to understand
social relations as existing between individuals is mixing orders of logic. By
deļ¬nition, individuals preclude relations. Relations can only exist between
relata ā€“ elements of the relation. Far from relations being sought as connections
among things, here things are already in relation, that is, co-implicated, with
one another.
The contrast was played out in social anthropology with great force be-
tween structural functionalists and structuralists in the middle of the twenti-
eth century.15 On the one hand, it was supposed, alliance, as found in relations
set up through marriage, rested in the connections people created between
autonomous social groups deļ¬ned by independent criteria such as consan-
guinity or descent. On the other hand, went the objection, the possibility of
such connection was already implicated in the very deļ¬nition of groups as
wife-givers and wife-takers to one another. Rather than being created in the
effort to make connections, in their co-implication relations are seen to be
inherent in the very way in which the entities are classiļ¬ed, a pre-condition
of their existence.
Nonetheless, what seemed obvious to students of society could also be
elusive as an object of analysis. How is such co-implication to be veriļ¬ed? The
41
EMBEDDED SCIENCE


pre-condition of relationality becomes elusive if one tries to attribute it to
some pre-prexisting mental state or to the collective properties of people and
societies. Descombes (2000), taking up Winchā€™s (1958) claim that the mental
and the social are ā€˜two different sides of the same coinā€™, sees the antecedents
of this claim in Durkheimā€™s efforts to elucidate collective representations:

One cannot ask any longer whether such and such a form of representation (for
example the concept of space or of causality) belongs to an individual conscious-
ness or a collective consciousness. But one can ask oneself in what social world
can people form such a concept. And then reverse the question: what concepts
does one have to possess for such a social relation to establish itself?
Descombes, 2000: 39

He ends with the example of property.16 The concept posits a social relation
between holders and non-holders. In this sense the idea of property is a ā€˜col-
lective representationā€™, for the idea and the social relation it incarnates are
dependent upon one another. The point to draw more generally from the ar-
gument is that relations exist ā€˜internallyā€™ as elements of a system that is already
described by the relations it consists of; it is in this Dumontian sense holistic
(self-organising).
The pre-condition of relationality becomes very obvious (self-evident) in
one sphere, and this is found in an unusual quarter within anthropology.
Radcliffe-Brown and the structural-functionalists, who according to their crit-
ics failed to get the point when it came to delineations of descent groups or
elements of myth, saw the priority of relations brilliantly when it came to the
analysis of kinship terminologies. It was in this context that social anthro-
pologists insisted on the analytic term ā€˜personā€™ (rather than individual), for
the person was already an element of a social relationship, already a relata, a
function of relating. Indeed, it was possible to talk of kinship systems, which
made up ā€˜a complex unityā€™, or more generally of a structure, which constituted
ā€˜an arrangement of persons in institutionally controlled or deļ¬ned relation-
ships, such as the relationship of king and subject, orā€™ ā€“ the kinship analogy
quickly follows ā€“ ā€˜that of husband and wifeā€™ (Radcliffe-Brown 1952: 53, 11).
Paradigmatically, to be a parent implies a relationship with a child. Here is
evidence of co-implication: entities in a state of mutual deļ¬nition.
The relations I have been talking about exist in the systems of knowledge that
science has developed. I said that relations remain anthropologyā€™s problematic,
and problem. Their elucidation takes divergent paths. Explicit comparison
with science was made possible by the positivist supposition of a world of
discrete entities between which connections were to be made. At the same time,
the kind of closed system that kin terminologies suggested to anthropologists,
42 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


the matrix of mutually deļ¬ning terms co-implicated with one another, evokes
a comparison ā€“ that remains largely implicit ā€“ with that second set of scientiļ¬c
suppositions, where relations wait to be discovered. But what does the Euro-
American observer (including the anthropologist) imagine is produced by
such relational exercises?
Viveiros de Castro draws from a contemporary of Durkheim, Tarde,17 who
asks: ā€˜What is society? From our point of view, it can be deļ¬ned as the recip-
rocal possession, under extremely varied forms, of everyone [all] by everyone
[each]ā€™. Entities are no more nor less than the sum total of their reciprocal
inter-possessions. This may come about through striving for connection or
from uncovering a prior state of relationality. Either way, I want to fold this
supposition into one of Viveiros de Castroā€™s own insights, that the hallmark
of modernist philosophy is the ā€˜conversion of ontological questions into epis-
temological onesā€™ (1999: S79). He writes that Euro-American anthropologists
ā€˜persist in thinking that in order to explain a non-Western ontology, we must
derive it from (or reduce it to) an epistemologyā€™ (1999: S79 [emphasis omit-
ted]), that is, to a concern with representations, with how people make things
known to themselves. An example is a nod to natural science from Radcliffe-
Brown (1952: 7), ā€˜The basis of science is systemic classiļ¬cationā€™. Classiļ¬cation is
understood as an epistemological matter for the observer (how one organises
information), a cognitive matter for the informant (how one understands).
From either view, knowledge is both ends and means.
If one asks what fuels epistemological fervour, then one answer could lie
in that perpetual motion machine, the tool science has made of the duplex
ā€˜relationā€™.18 Its two kinds of relations are simultaneously about creating con-
nections (between things) and about the prior co-implication of everything
in everything else (things already connected). These two divergent, if related,
views of the relation, and thus of modes of relating, capable of summoning
whole theoretical positions, are each a potential source of criticism for the
other. Positivism and its critiques develop together.19 They are both ā€“ overtly
or not ā€“ an outcome of scientiļ¬c thinking insofar as they put ā€˜knowledgeā€™ at
the forefront of relational endeavour and can imagine different approaches
to it.
But what is partly explicit, partly implicit, as far as the discipline of social
anthropology is concerned, is wholly implicit when it comes to the second
arena, a segment of ā€˜ordinary lifeā€™, I turn to consider. I have wanted to suggest
ways in which scientiļ¬c thinking is embedded in Euro-American thought
without necessarily being recognised as scientiļ¬c. If it (scientiļ¬c thinking) is
indeed carried by the divergent notion of relation outlined here, where else
may we ļ¬nd it?
43
EMBEDDED SCIENCE



kinship uncovered
Let me remind you of the question: Why on earth a relational view? I have very
sketchily said something about the provocative nature of the question for the
way social anthropologists prosecute their discipline. The discipline is not the
kind of representative (Callon 1986) of ā€˜societyā€™ most people would ļ¬rst think
of, and I promised another arena where we might ļ¬nd science already ā€˜inā€™
society. Nonetheless, it has been helpful to begin with academic knowledge
because of not dissimilar preoccupations that dominate the second arena as
well. I refer to what the HGC in the United Kingdom concretised as a micro-
community, though to dwell less on the family than on kinship. I refer to how
people think about and interact with their relatives.
As a corner of the ordinary everyday world in which Euro-Americans live,
kinship is an unexpected candidate only in the way that Gellā€™s art objects
are; if art objects are not where you expect to ļ¬nd social relations, kinship
is not where you would expect to ļ¬nd science. What we would be looking
for is a particular, divergent, notion of relation. I draw here on an earlier
exercise, and must be forgiven for refracting Euro-American through English
kinship.
On the one hand, the individuality of persons is the ļ¬rst fact of English
kinship, that is, out of a relationship (between procreative partners) comes a
unique entity of a different order altogether, in whose identity kin relations
play only a partial role. Kinship (among other sets of social relations) is thus
thought of as something over and above the individual. Kin roles evoke the
individualā€™s relational part (Strathern 1992a: 14, 78). English language usage
co-opts the term ā€˜connectingā€™ for such relations. The connotations of the
term give English kinship its sentimental cast ā€“ relatedness predicated on
the absorption of difference by commonality and togetherness (Viveiros de
Castro 1999: S80) ā€“ and posit the connections as linking discrete individuals.
But where, on the other hand, would one ļ¬nd the analogue to relations already
co-implicated in one another?
We have seen that kinship terms afforded British social anthropology a
model of mutually co-deļ¬ning, co-implicated, elements. Such kinship sys-
tems were being examined from all parts of the world, in the majority of cases
from well outside the orbit of the scientiļ¬c revolution. Science hardly invented
mutually deļ¬ning kin reciprocals! Perhaps, though, its habits of thought, its
ways of knowing, helped fuel the divergent thinking that allowed anthropol-
ogists to uncover the phenomenon elsewhere. For, perversely, it is the one
characteristic of nonā€“Euro-American kin systems that is often far more de-
veloped terminologically than it is in, say, English. English has conceptual
44 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


reciprocals such as parentā€“child but, apart from same-sex ā€˜brotherā€™ and
ā€˜sisterā€™, and ā€˜cousinā€™, few terminological ones. On the contrary, something
else happens. I suggest that an analogue to the co-implications found in kin
classiļ¬cations elsewhere emerges in a ļ¬eld that, on the face of it, does not
appear to be about kinship at all, what the indigenes call class.20
Nothing is straightforward, of course, and social class (in the indigenous
sense) exists not only as an adjunct to kinship but also as a divergent if re-
lated domain of action and thought in itself. How class is treated or regarded
replicates the same contrast between two types of relations that fuel the ac-
quisition and validation of knowledge. We have seen this at work in systems
of classiļ¬cation.21 So although kinship classiļ¬cation (in the anthropological
elucidation of indigenous models) seems to be the place where traditional
anthropologists discerned relationality as a matter of co-implication, classi-
ļ¬cation in other spheres, such as where anthropologists compare ā€˜societiesā€™,
could take on the character of connections between discrete, individual entities,
exemplifying the authorā€™s creativity in analysis.22 This is also my hypothesis
about class. I wonder if it might be possible to perceive early modern an-
tecedents in the way class combined with kinship.
First, connections: class reinforced the positivist view of kinship as a network
of relations. The metaphors here are those of association, of webs of connection
through which individuals moved. I do not know what was going on in the
seventeenth century in terms of kinship formation. But in parallel to what
we learn about seventeenth century societies for the validation of knowledge
(Shapin 1996: 133),23 the English eighteenth century is full of (kin) relatives
validating the status of their association with one another, literally, the ā€˜societyā€™
they keep (Handler and Segal 1990). In fact, how one judged scientiļ¬c facts,
what was claimed and what carried authority, rested in part on the scientistā€™s
personal connections (Shapin 1994).24 There was no particular kinship cast to
the efforts to establish procedures for vetting scientiļ¬c information and thus
how one was to ā€˜knowā€™ it, but there were suppositions about the quality of
scientiļ¬c gentlemen that had deļ¬nite class overtones: who was admissible as
a social acquaintance and whose work thus carried credibility.
For the eighteenth century was the time when, outside the sphere of the
court, the middle classes were developing their own rules of social admissibil-
ity. Who counted as ā€˜a connectionā€™? What today the English would call relatives
were frequently referred to as connections. This was also the time when a cru-
cial distinction emerged between connections and family (Handler and Segal
1990: 32). Handler and Segal argue that the distinction captured that between
the man-made or constructed and the natural. Connections, on the one hand,
were mutable, created, invented in that sense, made socially knowable through
45
EMBEDDED SCIENCE


strategies of acknowledgement. The natural, on the other hand, was found in
the certainty of the blood tie, and was open to discovery, where much drama
might be made of welcome or unwelcome facts, it being close relations be-
tween people already linked who came to be known as ā€˜familyā€™. Yet divergence
in the apprehension of relations reappears here too. For seen from the outside,
it was the concept of family, a term Johnsonā€™s dictionary used for class, tribe or
species (Handler and Segal 1990: 32), that also gave evidence for the paradig-
matic distinction between naturally individuated units and the connections
that can be made between them.25 I return to some of these points in Chap-
ter Three.
The notion of family had itself been undergoing changes without which it
could not have been appropriated in these ways. Across Europe in the seven-
teenth and eighteenth centuries, families began acquiring an equivocal associ-
ation with the household, which formerly contained persons both related and
unrelated. The principal index had been the ā€˜houseā€™ (the original meaning
of familia). But the urban middle classes had households, not (large) houses.
Once the idea of a household was separated from that of the house, it could
embrace smaller units of people already related to one another as kin, ā€˜blood
relationsā€™ (Mitterauer and Sieder 1977: 7ā€“10 passim).26 People were reclassi-
fying themselves both in respect of their given identities and in respect of the
relations they made.
Secondly, co-implications: I suggest that social class provided a second way
of thinking about relations. Class smacked of system; it was encompassing,
holistic. And it worked on a different meaning of family, principally as the
prime determinant of someoneā€™s status. The family with this class inļ¬‚ection
was so to speak the holistic counterpart to a network of connections between
individuals. Class ļ¬xed people. Because classes were ļ¬xed, immobile (it was
individuals who moved), they were totalising; everything about someoneā€™s
comportment, style, accent and upbringing uncovered his or her class before
it uncovered his or her family. Certainly within the middle class, how people
lived their lives as family members evinced and created their middle class
milieu. At the same time, one was naturally at home in oneā€™s own class.
There was even for a while an ideology that drew parallels with the way that
populations divide naturally (classes perceived as natural systems).
This relational dimension was a phenomenon of which the actors were only
too aware, namely the relative position of classes and gradients within classes,
down to ļ¬ne details of discrimination. Ultimately, it was a question of oneā€™s
standing in relation to oneā€™s own and other classes that was totalising. Much
class activity required co-acknowledgement, that is, protocols delineating who
it was with whom one was prepared to be associated and, as idiom had it,
46 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


possibilities for individuals to rise and fall. However, the relations between
classes themselves were a given.
There are points here of interest to contemporary kinship thinking, such as
the longstanding impasse between individualism and its critics. The questions,
predictably, diverge. Why is relationality so clumsily an object of exhortation (a
constant subject for [re]invention)? Why is it not presupposed (only waiting to
be discovered)? Why do Euro-Americans have to tell themselves ā€“ and we saw
the Human Genetics Commission doing just this ā€“ that they should recognise
the extent to which they are related? And why, then, are they surprised when
they discover that they are already related? Finally, despite the commonalities
across Eurasian kinship systems and indeed across Europe, correlated with
all kinds of values to do with property, agriculture and so forth, there is a
strong feeling that northern European and North American societies and
their offshoots have further commonalities. Perhaps we can build up kinship
as a case where long ago science became embedded in society, and society in
science.
Science did not rise from the sea as an island. Ways to conceptualise its
descriptions and claims emerged through borrowings from other domains of
life (Ziman 2000). Certainly, we know that nineteenth century evolutionists
looked to the connection between individuals (genealogies) to talk about
connections (classiļ¬cations) between non-human creatures and things (Beer
1983). Was there a sense in which kinship fuelled earlier conditions for certain
kinds of scientiļ¬c thinking? May we hazard, in turn, that if science drew on
kinship it also changed it?
When Viveiros de Castro speaks of the displacement of ontology by epis-
temology, he is making a comparative, rather than a historical, statement. I
want to add that whatever epistemological foundations lay in Europeā€™s history,
today we live out an epistemology of a special kind. We can dub it scientiļ¬c
if we like. It turns kinship into an artefact of knowledge, and at its core is
the possibility of knowledges ā€“ antithetical, in parallel or in combination ā€“
coming from more than one source. And with that comes different ways of ver-
ifying connections between persons. In the organisation of such knowledge,
Euro-Americans have, we might say, a scientiļ¬c kinship system.


caveat
ā€˜There was no such thing as the Scientiļ¬c Revolutionā€™. Shapin has no sooner
uttered this phrase than, referring to his work by this title, he adds, ā€˜and this
is a book about itā€™ (1996). There was no event in the seventeenth century that
went under this name (the phrase was apparently coined in the 1930s),27 no
47
EMBEDDED SCIENCE


integrated body of knowledge that could be lumped together as ā€˜scienceā€™; and,
even more crucially, if one starts looking at what people actually did or said,
science was nothing but a whole range of thoughts and practices that had
their own local trajectories in the context of a general public that by and large
was ignorant, indifferent or sceptical. At the same time, it is clear that the
precursors of scientists were working in ways that had effects that have been
out of proportion with what was happening then, have gathered momentum
ever since and are of intense interest to the present. An anthropologist might
put it differently: being unable to see close to what appears very visible from
afar is a matter of incommensurate scale.
For there is a question about how to validate my argument. I have been
speculating about phenomena for which I can produce almost no evidence
of the kind with which social anthropologists commonly deal: facts on the
ground, the sustained ethnographic case. It is not the simpliļ¬cations in this
account that are at issue, it is knowing what kind of material would qualify
as verifying. Here it may prove impossible to ļ¬nd sufļ¬cient historical detail
of the appropriate order to substantiate what I am suggesting about the char-
acteristics of Euro-American kin reckoning and the scientiļ¬c imagination,
or indeed about the validity of Euro-American as a cultural conļ¬guration in
such terms. Insofar as individual and person are phenomena that belong to
different orders of description, we could also say that in summoning different
ideas about relations they exist at different scales. Concomitantly, data are of
a different scale from the models I have been describing.
This is the chaotic puzzle: feet appear to touch the ground, but magnify
them to many orders and you will ļ¬nd convolutions and indentations in the
surface that repeat themselves at ever greater orders, until it seems that nothing
is touching anything. A description of an organism is lost in attention to the
molecular characteristics of its genome. What characterises a population will
not necessarily characterise an individual component of it, and so forth. These
are old maxims, and they are in anthropology too. Neither Durkheimā€™s society
nor LĀ“ vi-Straussā€™s structure could be seen in the particulars. The whole point
e
of Suicide, as Durkheim expounded his discovery, was that individual reasons
did not detract from collective ones; the point of the distinction between
statistical and mechanical models, which LĀ“ vi-Strauss invented, was that one
e
model could not be refuted by material generated from the other.
There is a further way the anthropologist might put it differently, and
the comment comes from Hirsch (personal communication, 2003). People
can only act in the world they inhabit, but the impetus to action includes
imagined dimensions of it, situations within their apparent grasp and thus
culturally feasible. Foucaultā€™s (1972: 191 ā€“2) discursive formation (ā€˜the total
48 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


set of relationsā€™, ā€˜an indeļ¬nite ļ¬eld of relationsā€™) is about everything that
creates the conditions of feasibility. Chapter Three enlarges on the point. In the
meanwhile, even supposing that nothing of my speculation remains or that the
imagined worlds are not plausible enough, the questions about anthropologyā€™s
commitment to relations and the different ways in which relatives sort out
their connections will not be disappeared so easily. They too are raised again in
Chapter Three. A small comment on the role of knowledge in a contemporary
facet of kin reckoning provides a conclusion of sorts for this one.
Going back to the genetic information case with which I began is to ap-
preciate that there could be a no more knowledge-intensive technology than
testing for genetic connections. Franklin observes:

what is ā€˜conceivableā€™ about amniocentesis testing, or genetic screening for breast
cancer,28 or paternity testing, is already built into the conception of kinship as a
hybrid of individual and society, of natural and cultural facts. The dilemma of
ā€˜what to make of our genesā€™ derives from the assumption that they make us who
we are to begin with.
2003: 74, original emphasis; footnote added

What is also built into the conception of kinship, I have argued, is the double
legacy of scientiļ¬c knowledge. We can now give a certain precision to this
connection. It is already implicated in what I have said about the dependency
of scientiļ¬c knowledge on two ways of conceiving relations (the made and the
given, connections and co-implications) and, following from this, two ways
of validating knowledge (as invention, discovery).
Perhaps indeed it is not surprising that Euro-Americans see kinship as the
site par excellence of relationality, and among anthropologists get suitably in-
trigued about other peopleā€™s kinship systems. At least as far as English kinship
is concerned, relations inhere in the web of connections people make, their
individual networks, for in this they see much that is open to invention, to
recognition in the sense of active acknowledgement.29 The recombined fam-
ilies of Chapter One deliberately foster relations between elements that were
once other families. At the same time, relations also inhere in the recognition
of (in the sense of uncovering) given capacities, ties and characteristics that
already connect persons to others; these relations, open only to discovery, are
premised on the demonstration of existing relationship.30 A clinic could not
call on friends and kin to help with gamete donations if the pre-existing tie
did not hint at pre-existing obligations, even though in the case of relatives
old kin are turned into new kin. Both these modes take knowledge, if I can
put it like that, as informative of kinship.
49
EMBEDDED SCIENCE


There is much more one could say about the role of knowledge in Euro-
American kinship formation. Highly relevant to the present is how notions
about biology and genetics, a kind of secondary, explicit absorption of science
ā€˜intoā€™ society, probably overlays much older absorptions of various kinds,
recoverable only as implicit or tacit dimensions of knowledge practices. The
genome is available for discovery, but personal information derived from it
sends people scurrying to their relatives and connections, as well as to the
law in the hopes that regulation can settle all the old questions of who should
be in the know. If not, new regulations must be invented. They do so with
the inļ¬‚ection we have already noticed; whom one allows into oneā€™s circle of
acquaintances slides into whom one allows to become acquainted with genetic
information about oneself.


acknowledgements
My thanks to James Weiner and Andrew Moutu for making me see the question
that needs asking. Alan Strathern will know why he too is to be thanked. With
the title ā€˜Living scienceā€™, an earlier version was presented at the 2003 ASA
Decennial meetings in Manchester, convened under the rubric Anthropology
and Science. I am grateful to Jeanette Edwards, Penny Harvey and Peter Wade
for their generous invitation.
3




Emergent Properties




Geneaology or issue which they had, Artes which they studied, Actes
which they did. This part of History is named Anthropology.
Richard Harvey 1593, Philadelphus. Oxford English Dictionaryā€™s
ļ¬rst entry for ā€˜anthropologyā€™

Indeed it would be lost labour to seek for the parentage of all words,
when many probably had none. But there is no such thing;
there is no word which is not . . . [the] son of something . . .
Richard Trench 1882, On the study of words




A nthropologists often ļ¬nd themselves gravitating toward
debate, public dispute, litigation even, as telling moments in cultural
life. For what may be as interesting as the positions being defended are the
cultural resources people bring to their aid, the narratives, tropes and images
enlisted in the service of the persuasive point. An unusual state of affairs is
rendered familiar or one situation is made vivid through analogy with another;
conviction might lie in appeal to the old, or quite new combinations of ideas
may be conjured up. Of course, what is said in the heat of argument is likely
to be a poor index to what people contemplate in less freighted moments. Yet
an unreliable guide in this regard can turn out to be a fascinating guide in
another respect. If only in order to persuade, the narratives, images, tropes and
analogies must at the least communicate what is possible, and anthropological
interest in such resources is an interest in the possibilities entailed by what
is said or done for what others say or do. It is that possible and potentially
realisable world that anthropologists abstract as culture. This is not an idealist
view, rather, it opens up empirical study to the potentials people make all


50
51
EMERGENT PROPERTIES


the time for themselves (and for others), and thus to the possible worlds that
inform their actions in the present one.
In pulling and pushing language for the sake of argument, people may
force new properties onto old concepts. Although the arenas in which new
properties emerge are not only legion but also often inaccessible to scrutiny,
debate and litigation have at least the virtue of being accessible. These two
arenas offer some present-day materials for my own exposition, although I
present them somewhat warily.1 However, if I have a question it is about
emergent properties and new claims that came from the early modern English-
speaking world. This means I also touch on historical materials, although
with no pretence of handling them as an historian would. The question is
what made the English at this time endow the words ā€˜relationā€™ and ā€˜relativeā€™
with the property of kinship, kinship by blood and marriage, that is. I do not
answer it, but I do hope to show why it might be interesting to ask.
The reasons begin, and end, in the present. I sandwich the historical issue
between recent ones. This tracking back and forth to some extent mimics the
way in which kinship in its various guises appears and disappears as a cultural
resource for thinking about other things.

I

Multiple Origins
I take inspiration from an anthropologist and lawyer who is an observer of
the family as it has been faring in U.S. litigation over the last quarter century.
American lawmakers concern themselves simultaneously with traditional val-
ues and with new rules reļ¬‚ecting changing conventions. The families being
constructed by the law may either be ā€˜holistic, solidary communitiesā€™ or be
understood as ā€˜collections of autonomous individuals making their own se-
lections, free to choose relationships through bargained negotiationā€™ (Dolgin
2000: 543). Dolginā€™s argument opens with the opinion of a lawyer who, on
behalf of his clients, made it clear that they would always love any child born
to them, evoking a traditional moral frame.2 At the same time, the intending
parents were advertising an offer of $50 000 for female gametes (ova) chosen
for (anticipated) characteristics speciļ¬ed in some detail. The ingredients for
creating a child may be obtained in the marketplace, then, although once a
baby is part of the family market values should no longer intrude and relation-
ships should take their expected course. Perhaps we must simply see these as
dimensions being held in tandem: a new location for individual choice is also
52 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


a location for expressing enduring values of family solidarity. Incidentally, the
advertisement attracted a big response.
Dolgin writes about determinations of parenthood where relationships
complicated through gamete donation and surrogacy lead to dispute. Al-
though it is possible to track a path through lawsuits that shows the value
Americans put on genetic ties (Dolgin 1990), it is equally possible to show the
extent to which the fact and quality of relationship is taken as paramount.
Courts have been known to refuse evidence about ā€˜biologicalā€™ paternity and
attend only to familial relationships. One man who discovered that he was not
the biological father and tried to sever ties with his son was brought back to
the relationship he had already established: if ā€˜a parentā€“child bondā€™ had been
formed then ā€˜a relationship still exists at lawā€™ (2000: 531).3
So what creates a relation? Although the fact of relationship may be deduced
from behaviour between parents and children after birth, legal decisions have
also given weight to the possibility of prenatal determinations focused on
the birth yet abstracted from the birth process. Claims are based neither on
biology nor on behaviour. Rather they are based on a mental condition: the
parentsā€™ intention. Dolgin describes in detail a case brought in 1998 to the
California Court of Appeal.4 A child had been born from an embryo created
from anonymous donors and gestated for a fee by a surrogate; the original
couple, Luanne and John Buzzanca, were now divorced and Luanne sought
parental status, arguing that she and her former husband were the legal parents.
Despite, as Dolgin points out, there being six potential parents (the divorced
couple, the surrogate and her husband, and the sperm and egg donors), the
trial court had come to the conclusion that in law the child had no parentage.5
The appellate court overturned this; intention is sufļ¬cient cause:

a husband and wife [may] be deemed the lawful parents of a child after a surrogate
bears a biologically unrelated child on their behalf. . . . [A] child is procreated
because a medical procedure was initiated and consented to by intended parents.6
California Court of Appeal 1998 (72 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 282)

It is the law that validates the relation, deeming what shall be so, but it is the
parentsā€™ intention that gives it reason.
Recognition of intent is consonant with the emphasis that can be put on
choice and the individual subject as decision maker, where ā€˜the law reļ¬‚ects
and fosters an ideology of family that prizes autonomous individuality, [view-
ing] . . . the domestic arena in terms once reserved for life in the marketplaceā€™
(Dolgin 2000: 542). At the same time, it is made clear that establishing legal
parentage would set up obligations. Once so declared, the relationship to the
child has consequences, especially economic ones in this case, given that the
53
EMERGENT PROPERTIES


divorced husband was trying to avoid child support. The state has its own
interest in establishing paternity precisely because the relationship carries re-
sponsibility; regardless of the ways in which parenthood may be created, the
child must still be looked after, and someone must be accountable.
Numerous arguments are going on at the same time, including the place of
the market in the making of families and the fact that relationships entail re-
sponsibilities. Taken for granted is the role of medical technology, which (after
Latour) has lengthened the chains of events, circumstances and personnel it
takes to produce parents and children.7 It feeds peopleā€™s interests in attaching
persons to or detaching them from one another. Indeed, technology would
not multiply the number of claimants or the bases on which claims can be
made were it not for the way people seize on new openings.8 The legal decision
reported on here has added another possibility. Creativity lies in mental acts,
and ā€˜intendingā€™ parents emerge with the power to create children.
At this point I jump to another arena altogether, from debate in the law
courts to debates among practitioners of science and speciļ¬cally biomedicine.
I am thinking here of Biagioliā€™s (1998; 2003) study of scientiļ¬c names, how
authors become attached to their works. The International Committee of
Medical Journal Editorsā€™ (ICMJE) guidelines, speaking for hundreds of
English-language journals, now require that each name listed in an articleā€™s
byline ā€˜must refer to a person who is fully responsible for the entire article (not
just for the task that he/she may have performed)ā€™ (Biagioli in prep.: 23, origi-
nal italics). This is in response to many issues, among them authors not always
being aware their names have been appropriated. A series of fraud cases that
questioned how responsibility was distributed through multiple authorship
fuelled debate (1998: 7ā€“8). Also in the background, recent sociotechnolog-
ical magniļ¬cation ā€“ the ā€˜increasingly large-scale, collaborative and capital-
intensive contexts of [biomedical] researchā€™ (1998: 6) ā€“ has led to an explosion
in authorial naming. Large numbers of names are strung together.
In scientiļ¬c authorship, as Biagioli describes it, multiple naming has be-
come the norm. Being named carries at once credit and liability; those whose
reputation may proļ¬t from publicity are also declaring their accountability
as far as intellectual content is concerned. At least this is how the ICMJE
guidelines attempt to strengthen the concept of authorship, as a declaration
of responsibility requiring individuals to choose how they publicly attach
themselves to particular projects. But people have protested at the idea that
authors should vouch for one another. A 1997 letter to Science invokes what
could almost be Dolginā€™s modern family of autonomous subjects9 : ā€˜If mar-
riage partners are not held liable for the actions of spouses, why should we
assume that scientiļ¬c collaborators are liable?ā€™ (quoted by Biagioli 1998: 10).
54 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


Others point to pre-existing relationships. Indeed, at the further extreme, one
organisation has adopted a no-choice model: all publications emanating from
the laboratory have an author default list that contains the names of everyone
contributing to the enterprise as a whole.10
What Biagioli brings to light, then, are divergent values, not unlike Dolginā€™s
two present day American families. Side by side with a model of individual au-
thorship is one that (like the traditional family) stresses solidarity between all
those involved in creating knowledge. For not all scientists agree that author-
ship should be restricted to intellectual contribution ā€“ advocates of a corporate
model would include a diversity of scientiļ¬c workers.11 So a quite different
solution is the proposal to replace ā€˜authorshipā€™ altogether, for example by di-
viding contributor from guarantor. Contributorship would include everyone,
differentiated by descriptions of their functions that the reader could assess,12
whereas others would guarantee that audit controls were in place.
One of the British journals, British Medical Journal, that has been interested
in just this proposal has also committed itself to offering copyright owner-
ship to its authors (Times Higher Education Supplement 28 January 2000).
Todayā€™s electronic methods of production and distribution mean that authors
can search out audiences before they publish, and in any case may have an
independent interest in dissemination. In the U.K. proposals, journals would
instead secure a ā€˜license to publishā€™.13 This move could be seen either as en-
dorsing or as turning on its head earlier provisions that separated copyright
from moral right.14 Moral rights protect certain relationships between a work
and its creator, as in the right to be identiļ¬ed as author15 ; a creator, with a
claim on the workā€™s integrity, is thus technically distinguished from an owner
claiming economic beneļ¬t. Although copyright protects the originality of the
authorial composition, ownership of the copyright has often been vested in
the publisher. These most recent proposals would universalise the ā€˜authorā€™,
literary or scientiļ¬c, as copyright holder. Hence the division between creator
of the work and owner of the economic rights remains the same, but the
term copyright has shifted across the divide; it now rests in the author, and
the journal publisher (or whoever) becomes a license holder. Truly, as Biagioli
notes (in prep.), ā€˜[T]he kinship between authors and works is a tricky two-way
streetā€™.
However, Biagioli is not saying this in relation to intellectual property.16
On the contrary, the claims to scientiļ¬c authorship that he discusses are at a
tangent to rights (for example, via patents) created by intellectual property
law. In science writing there is no dichotomy between property rights which
fence off the commons through the ļ¬ction of the single author, and the public
domain. Scientiļ¬c authors search for ways to claim accreditation of their work,
55
EMERGENT PROPERTIES


and these can only come from the public domain; attributions of originality,
or monetary gain, could detract from such claims and impede veriļ¬cation.
Literary credit is another matter: if individual creativity is central there, that
very notion of creativity is the result of historical struggles over intellectual
property where (he opines) ā€˜the focus on the individual author as the holder
of . . . property rights misrepresented the long chain of human agency that
produced a literary workā€™ (Biagioli 1998: 11).17 But perhaps there are chains
of distribution as well as production. Perhaps, for literary producers at least,
the emergent ļ¬gure of the new copyright holder will keep two dimensions in
tandem: a new location for individual originality becomes at the same time a
location for a new sense of community. Think of the knowledge and electronic
skill with which the authorā€“entrepreneur can now open up original networks
of access to his or her products.18
I should comment on this leap from one arena to another: from parental
suits to scientiļ¬c authorship. In each, debates turn on the implications of
multiplicity. Yet such echoes between the two appear adventitious, trivial,
a ļ¬‚eeting effect of phrasing. Surely we could not sustain an analogy long
enough to think usefully about the former (parenthood) in terms of the latter
(authorship)? The potential parallels in this juxtaposition can, therefore, be
interesting for one reason only, because they bring to mind a possibility already
realised, an occasion when someone has in fact proferred connections of just
this kind. What I have presented is not a worked-out analogy, then, but rather
the kinds of raw materials from which analogies are made and the cultural
possibilities these contain. My pretend analogy sets the stage for one that was
no pretence at all.


An Analogy
Behind the Buzzanca appeal was a much cited case brought to the California
Supreme Court in 1993.19 One of the judges, in her dissent, analysed the courtā€™s
clinching argument: it rested on a hidden comparison between reproductive
and intellectual creativity. She exposed the analogy in order to dispose of it; in
her view it was misleading (and it did not re-emerge as such in the Buzzanca
hearing).
Anna Johnson had undertaken to act as a gestational surrogate on behalf of
Crispina Calvert and her husband; the embryo came from their own gametes.
In the dispute that followed, each woman laid claim to motherhood (the one
through birth, the other through genes). The Supreme Court found that the
Calverts were the ā€˜genetic, biological and naturalā€™ parents. That ā€˜and natu-
ralā€™ was determined by one crucial factor, procreative intent.20 The majority
56 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


argued: ā€˜But for [the Calvertsā€™] acted-on intention, the child would not existā€™.
They quoted a commentator, who proceeded to make a most dreadful pun:
The mental concept of the child is a controlling factor of its creation, and the
originators of that concept merit full credit as conceivers.
California Supreme Court 1993 (851 P.2d at 795) (my emphasis)

The pun I return to. The commentator meant the conceivers of the mental
concept, valuable for ļ¬xing in ā€˜the initiating parents of a childā€™, a sense of
their obligations (cf. Morgan 1994: 392).21 Because the child would not be
born but for the efforts of the intended parents, wrote another commentator,
this meant they were ā€˜the ļ¬rst cause, or the prime movers, of the procreative
relationshipā€™. Justice Kennard, dissenting, seized on this formula: she pointed
out that the originator-of-the-concept rationale is frequently advanced when
justifying protection of intellectual property.
With this one ā€“ among six ā€“ reasons for not concurring with the major-
ity view that intention should be the decisive factor, Justice Kennard thereby
exposed these phrases as half an analogy; the other half came from the philos-
ophy of intellectual property which holds (as she put it) that an idea belongs
to its creator because it is a manifestation of the creatorā€™s personality or self.
The majority were implying that ā€˜just as a song or invention is protected as
the property of the ā€œoriginator of the conceptā€™, ā€ so too a child should be re-
garded as belonging to the originator of the concept of the childā€™ (California
Supreme Court 1993: 851 P.2d at 796). But, she argued, there is a problem in
making a comparison with rights to property: the marketplace. Unlike songs
or inventions, rights in children cannot be sold for a consideration or made
freely available; no one can have a property right of any kind (intellectual or
otherwise) in a child because children are not property in the ļ¬rst place.22
Now the comparison is not just with property; it is also with the kinds of
connections that exist between parent and child and between the originator of
a concept and its realisation. Just as well perhaps that the majority judges did
not pursue further the analogy with intellectual property. They might have
run into some of the current controversy (found in information technology
[IT] applications for instance) over idea and expression.23 If the parallel is
to patenting an ā€˜inventionā€™, it cannot be the idea of a child to which claim is
made ā€“ that is already in the public domain ā€“ but to its embodiment in a new
outcome24 ; whereas if it is a particular expression of the idea, as in a song
subject to copyright, then claim can only be laid to the unique features of the
child itself, and one might have to argue about how much was intended by
the parentsā€™ intention and what in any case was copiable about it. Intellectual
property rights would, in fact, bring us back from vague claims about creativity
57
EMERGENT PROPERTIES


to the particular child who had been born. Yet vague as the claims were, they
obviously made cultural sense.
First, in abstracting parents from the birth, the doctrine of intent allows
medical technology to appear as enabling of natural inclinations as it does of
biological functions. (The role of the surrogate is not under dispute; it is the
ā€˜realā€™ parent about which there is categorical doubt [Strathern 1998].) Second
is the value given to abstraction as such, as though ideas hold the immaterial
essence of things. (This was contested vigorously by Justice Kennard, who
pointed out that but for the gestational surrogacy the child would not exist.)
Third and above all is the fact that the analogy between reproductive and
intellectual creativity is ā€“ as we shall see ā€“ not pulled out of thin air.
Of interest to the anthropologist is the possibility of the analogy being
articulated at all. That it was put down with serious argument was no slur
on the judgesā€™ own creativity in implying such a parallel. It had potential,
was culturally plausible. People are culturally at home when they can jump
across different domains of experience without feeling they have left sense
behind. What links the two domains in this case ā€“ reproductive and intellec-
tual creativity ā€“ is an entirely commonsensical (although not uncontested)
view about the originators of things claiming beneļ¬t or having responsibility
attributed to them; the language of intellectual property rights emphasises the
ā€˜naturalnessā€™ of an identiļ¬cation between conceiver and conceived. Another
link is the warning against confusing identiļ¬cation with economic possession
when persons are at stake. The idea of owning children as property appears
to go against commonsense, but it does not, I think, go against cultural sense;
the warning goes on being given.
Not out of thin air: something is being sustained here that might hold our
attention. Old patterns emerge from new convergences, more, it seems, not
less, stimulated by the pace of change. Just such a pattern lies in the way, in the
same breath, English-speakers ļ¬nd it possible to talk about practices to do with
making kinship and practices to do with making knowledge.
As in the comparison of spouses and scientiļ¬c collaborators, one might have
supposed that kinship relations would invariably be the source of ļ¬gurative
language for the production of knowledge, not the other way around. Note,
for instance, how the term ā€˜paternityā€™ has slipped into regular usage to desig-
nate one of the new moral rights that English intellectual property law recog-
nises (protecting an identiļ¬cation between author and work). However, I gave
Justice Kennardā€™s opinions space precisely because of the direction of her anal-
ogy. She asserted that the arguments being putting forward about parental
claims were derived from arguments familiar from the lawā€™s protection of
authorship. This too is not out of thin air; this direction, counterintuitive as it
58 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


might be, has a history of its own. I shall take up some already much discussed
materials in order to thicken the air further. Another stage must be set, and
this will be the stage for my historical question.


II

Offspring into Property
If one were not alert to the way in which idioms appear and disappear, a
hasty glance backward might suggest that paternity was an old established
trope. The truth is that only recently has it been incorporated into English
copyright law. It is therefore fascinating to consider its fate at the very time
when authorial rights in literary works were becoming an arena for debate,
that is, in eighteenth century England (see Coombe 1998: 219ā€“20).25
When Daniel Defoe protested in 1710, ā€˜[A] book is the Authorā€™s Property,
ā€™tis the Child of his Inventions, the Brat of his Brainā€™ (quoted in Rose 1993: 39),
Rose suggests that he was casting back to familiar sixteenth and seventeenth
century metaphors: ā€˜the most common ļ¬gure [of speech] in the early modern
period is paternity: the author as begetter and the book as childā€™.26 To ascribe
signiļ¬cance in the hindsight of modern property rights, however, would be
to pluck a metaphor out of context. Defoe is not talking about an enduring
proprietorship27 but complaining of piracy through unacknowledged print-
ing, which he likens to child-stealing. He is arguing for the protection of the
writerā€™s interest in selling his work (e.g., to a printer) for proper remuneration.
The author rewarded, property in it passes to the purchaser; the author re-
tains an expectation of acknowledgement. Of those sixteenth and seventeenth
century usages, Rose comments:

Inscribed with the notion of likeness more than of property, the paternity
metaphor is consonant with the emergence of the individual author in the patriar-
chal patronage society concerned with blood, lineage, and the dynastic principle
that like engenders like.
Rose 1993: 39

Notions of parenthood and parentage had far ļ¬‚ung referents, summoning
both economic values (the productivity of children) and political ones (the pa-
ternalism of the state). Indeed Rose (1993: 40) characterises Defoeā€™s paternity
trope as at once harking back to courtly Renaissance ideas of patronage and
evoking contemporary middle class domesticity. Authorial property rights, by
contrast, emerged in a liberal society and with other arguments. The eigh-
teenth century battle bears some re-telling. Pressed into the authorsā€™ cause
59
EMERGENT PROPERTIES


was an old equation between literary property and landed estates from which
a living might be made28 ; a new notion was growing at the same time, that
such property could refer not only to the material (such as an estate) but also
to the immaterial, not only to the book as a physical body but also to a more
abstract entity, the composition as a text.29 Here, far from assisting the new
ideas that were developing about authorship, the idiom of paternity seems to
have got in the way. It was of course being propelled out of political discourse
in general ā€“ for liberal theorists of the eighteenth century, to whom property
was the basis of political rights, ā€˜the claim that begetting conferred rights was
problematicalā€™ (Jordanova 1995: 375)30 ā€“ but perhaps there were some local
reasons as well.
At the very moment when a creational concept of author was taking shape,
that particular kinship idiom, with its emphasis on inheritance and descent,
seems to disappear from view. Works might continue to be referred to as
offspring, but the vivid vision of paternity fades. Was the image of the book
as a fatherā€™s child altogether too concrete? Children and money again! Rose
observes that the metaphor would quickly run into trouble if the idea of
begetter and offspring were extended to the marketplace. Who would sell their
children for proļ¬t?31 He does not go so far as to claim this ostensible absurdity
was the reason for the ļ¬gureā€™s demise, he simply observes that it would present
rhetorical difļ¬culties.32 But he gives a clue as to what else might have been
going on.
Creeping up on new ways of thinking about property were, we have seen,
new ways of linking writers to their writing: the emergent owner was not
the bookseller but the author, and the emergent book not the volume but
the text. As Rose (1993: 89) quotes Blackstone, here defending the argument
that duplicates of an authorā€™s work make it no less the authorā€™s original work
in conception: ā€˜Now the identity of a literary composition consists intirely
in the sentiment and the language: the same conceptions, cloathed in the
same words, must necessarily be the same compositionā€™ (from Blackstoneā€™s
Commentaries, 1765ā€“69, emphasis removed). Then there was the claim that the
authorā€™s right was based on the fact that he created rather than just discovered
or planted his land (Rose 1993: 56ā€“7, 116). So could it also be that creeping
up on paternal begetting as a ļ¬gure of speech were fresh possibilities in ideas
of conception and creation? But other possibilities perhaps offered somewhat
different grounds for identifying the author with his work.
ā€˜Conceptionā€™ (and ā€˜creationā€™ by that time) had long established double
connotations, at once procreative and intellectual, and they are still in place:
witness the dreadful pun brought into the surrogacy case. We know that by
the end of the eighteenth century the view had taken hold that it was the
60 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


particular form in which (literary) authors gave expression to ideas that
belonged to them, and this form was the mark of their unique work.33
Woodmansee (1994: 36ā€“7) describes how this eighteenth century notion of
the author being inspired from within took over from earlier sixteenth and
seventeenth century views of the writer as a vehicle inspired by external agen-
cies, human or divine. Recapitulating that earlier relationship in a fatherā€“
child idiom ā€“ the writer fathering his book, just as God fathered the world
(Rose 1993: 38, quoting Gilbert and Gubar 1979) ā€“ would reinforce the writerā€™s
perception of dependency. Did those too-vivid images of dependency need
to disappear? Was authorial creativity best separated from enmeshment in
relationships?
I can only extrapolate.34 Perhaps the concreteness of the fatherā€“child image
had lain partly in the kind or quality of relation it presupposed. Those who
used the imagery apparently wanted to claim the kind of possessiveness that
parents felt toward their children35 ; did a new rhetoric of conception and
creation instead allow one to take the childā€™s view? The authorā€™s text was
now to embody the authorā€™s genius and it was this, as Woodmansee (1994)
describes, which made a work unique. Genius lay in style and expression. It
was the childā€™s view, we could say, insofar as the father becomes superļ¬‚uous:
the omnipotent heir can create his own world.36 If there is pride in saying
that one will create works that never existed before, then the author does
not want the pre-existence of fathers either, for he must be as original as his
work.37 The relationship between author and text could instead be imagined
as one of correspondence, a kind of non-generational generation or, as the
North London mothers (see Introduction: Part I) might prompt us to reļ¬‚ect,
as extensions not only of himself but also of the conceptual world in which
his works lodge. Either way, evidence of authorial identity would lie not in
lineage or genealogy but in an informational matrix (as might be said these
days) where a work encodes information about the producer of it.
If anthropological interest in cultural resources is indeed an interest in the
possibilities that peopleā€™s saying or doing hold for what others say or do,
then there is only a certain universe of things anyone can and cannot do. In
such a universe, not making connections may be as enabling as making them.
Relocation, displacement, making the once present absent, withholding what
others are expecting ā€“ these can all capacitate the contexts in which people
act (Battaglia 1995; 1999). We might see dropping an inappropriate kinship
metaphor as part of a nexus of ideas and concepts that link kinship and
knowledge, not apart from it. Can one suggest that the metaphor of paternity
was actually edged out by new notions of creativity that were powerful precisely
61
EMERGENT PROPERTIES


to the extent that the resonances with kinship could be held at a remove? For if
ā€˜conceptionā€™ and ā€˜creationā€™ retain kinship echoes, they seemingly displace the
idea of an interpersonal relationship with more immediate but at the same
time more abstract evidence of connection: the work itself informs one about
the author. Does creation become a kind of procreation without parenthood?
If so, this would be consonant not only with the emerging originality of the
author but also with the emerging uniqueness of the literary text.


Information into Knowledge
As we already know, what was happening with the text did not take quite the
same route in science. Sixteenth and seventeenth century booksellers originally
had authorsā€™ names printed in order to point to the person responsible for the
contents should they prove seditious or libelous (cf. Biagioli 1998: 3). Indeed
Defoe had appealed to the complementarity of punishment and reward (Rose
1993: 38); if he were liable to attack for what was ill judged he should also reap
the beneļ¬ts for what was well performed.
Accountability was then and continues to be important in scientiļ¬c writing.
It is not the form of the presentation over which claims are made but the quality
of information about the world that is being communicated, and this has to
be veriļ¬ed. Scientiļ¬c authorship is implicated in a type of text production
deļ¬ned by the responsibility being claimed for its content. Here its value lay ā€“
and lies ā€“ in how it can stand up to other kinds of information about the
world; the author is actually abstracted from it in that sense.38
However, the author abstracted from the text is made concretely present
elsewhere; he or she has become one of an assembly of authors. For scientiļ¬c
authorship has long been a plural entity, a situation that Foucault originally
attributed to the development of the scientiļ¬c method. If today there are many
kinds of names associated with a scientiļ¬c paper, alongside the citations of
other authors of other papers, this is all part of an informational process; the
presence of several names does not dilute authorship but strengthens it, as
Biagioli remarks, and may do so in part by placing the author within an arena
of social relations.39
Writing about the problems of trust engendered through the collective
character of empirical knowledge-making, Shapin (1994: 359) observes that
ā€˜scientiļ¬c knowledge is produced by and in a network of actorsā€™ (emphasis
removed). He is talking of the seventeenth century. He asks how veriļ¬ability
was ascertained, and answers that ā€˜knowledge about people was constitutively
implicated in knowledge of thingsā€™ (1994: 302). What counted as knowledge
62 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


depended on what people were willing to attest, and the value of their testi-
mony rested in turn on the kind of people they were:40

What was understood of gentlemen generally, and what was routine and expected
in their social relations, might effectively be appropriated to pattern and justify
social relations within the new practice of empirical and experimental science.
Shapin 1994: 123

Texts that circulated with a presumed equality between them, having to hold
their own, were also circulating between persons who could vouch for one
another. Accountability had to be a social matter; relations linked people who
could be relied upon. It was the relations that turned a multiplicity of persons
into a social arena of authority.41
Relations were also doing something else. It was relations that produced
knowledge out of information.42 If items of information, the categories in
terms of which the world could be described, were judged against one another,
any ļ¬t was simultaneously a relation between them. ā€˜Knowledgeā€™ became
understood as accountable information, and it was by virtue of being relational
that it was accountable. Here we return to the notion outlined in Chapter Two
that the concept of ā€˜relationā€™ and its partner ā€˜connectionā€™ may well have enabled
the kind of secular enquiry fueled by the Enlightenment conviction that the
world (nature) is open to scrutiny. Relations are produced through the very
activity of understanding when that understanding has to be produced from
within,43 that is, from within the compass of the human mind and without
reference to divinity, when things in the world can only be compared with
other things on the same earthly plane.44 What validates one fact are other
facts, always provided the connections can be made to hold. And Shapinā€™s
seventeenth century experimenters were looking for connections everywhere,
always provided the facts could be made to hold.45
Let me generalise, for a moment, from a perspective that begins with the
perspective of ā€˜scienceā€™s (kind of) relationā€™ but shifts beyond it. We can recog-
nise the divergence between two modes of relating characteristic of scientiļ¬c
interest: creating connections between things (invention) and elucidating the
pre-existing relations that already implicate things in one another (discov-
ery). However, with scienceā€™s relation in place, other conceptual operations
become visible and among them those that give social anthropology some
of its operational purchase. ā€˜Anthropologyā€™s relationā€™ also encompasses more
general features of conceptual relations, ones not tied to the foundational
ideas of culture and nature or to the epistemology they generate, that come
from conditions of sociality at large. At the same time, in so far as these fea-
tures are pressed into service by anthropology as a discipline derived from
63
EMERGENT PROPERTIES


the Enlightenment and the scientiļ¬c revolution, making knowledge for the
purposes of description and analysis remains a contingent context for them.
So what, in this context, are these general features of conceptual relations?
One grasps a piece of information as knowledge by being aware of its context or
grounds, that is, of how it sustains a relationship to other pieces of information;
in short, knowledge is gained through knowledge. As a result, it (knowledge)
can also always appear as a linking middle term; it is what we know about this
and know about that which has us bring items together. I comment on two
signiļ¬cant properties of conceptual relations from this view.46
The notion of relation can be applied to any order of connection; this is its
ļ¬rst property. Hence one can, seemingly, make connections anywhere. For in
describing phenomena, the fact of relation instantiates connections in such
a way as also to produce instances of itself. At whatever level or order, the
demonstration of a relationship, whether by resemblance, cause and effect
or contiguity, reinforces the understanding that through relational practices ā€“
classiļ¬cation, analysis, comparison ā€“ relations can be demonstrated. We could
call the relation a self-similar or self-organising construct, a ļ¬gure whose
organisational power is not affected by scale. Without this powerful device
one could not, for example, generate new properties out of old and thus
allow old ones to emerge from the new. To go back to the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, perhaps the capacity for making conceptual relations
was itself being ā€˜conceptualisedā€™ (forming concepts about concepts) under
the pressure of systematic enquiry into practices of knowledge-making.47
Conceptual relations have a second and quite distinct property: they require
other elements to complete them. They are relations between what? This makes
their connecting functions complex, for the relation always summons entities
other than itself, whether ā€“ as we have seen elaborated in scienceā€™s relation ā€“ the
appearance is that these entities are pre-existing (the relation is between them)
or whether they are obviously brought into existence by the relationship (and
thus exist within it).48 One not only perceives relations between things but also
perceives things as relations.49 Yet insofar as ā€˜thingsā€™ (the terms bound by or
containing the relation) are routinely conceptualised apart from the relation,
we can (after Wagner 1986) call the relation an organising trope with the
second order capacity to organise elements either similar to or dissimilar from
itself.50 Hence the relation as a model of complex phenomena has the power to
bring heterogeneous orders or levels of knowledge together while conserving
their difference. It allows concrete and abstract knowledge to be manipulated
simultaneously. It makes Latourā€™s (1986) two-dimensional inscriptions, the
diagrams, charts and tables that have long enabled scientists to superimpose
images of different scales and origins, work. Indeed, working as one might
64 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


say technology works,51 conceptual relations are part of the machinery of
exposition. One cannot point to a relation without bringing about its effect.
The very concept (relation) thus participates in the way we give expression
to what we know about it. So relations themselves can appear at once concrete
and abstract. They can produce a sense of an embedded or embodied knowl-
edge out of information that would, otherwise, be abstracted from context,
ļ¬‚oat around weightlessly. Or they can seem ethereal or disembodied, hypo-
thetical linkages hovering over the brute facts and realities of information
on the ground. However, equally so, conceptual relations are but one part of
anthropologyā€™s (kind of) relation. Drawn from social life at large, both from
the disciplineā€™s observations about society and from its interests in peopleā€™s
descriptions of their connections with one another, what ethnography pushes
into the foreground are all kinds of interactions. Anthropologyā€™s relation also
summons what are thought of as interpersonal ties.
On the face of it, the conceptual relations of knowledge-making discussed
here might seem at a far remove from the arena of social relations such as
those acted out in the families of various sorts that have also appeared in
this chapter. As dreadful as the double entendre in ā€˜conceiveā€™ is, have I simply
conjured another pun (relations at once conceptual and interpersonal)? Not
if, as promised, I can articulate the historical question properly.


Relations into Relations
I have no idea what conceptual relations once connotated52 or how one should
be differentiating the eighteenth from the seventeeth century in this regard. So
I am not really certain when, or in what social milieu, to locate the question.
But this is it. We can imagine the part that the concept of relation played in the
unfolding of understandings about the nature of knowledge. How then did it
come to be applied to kin? For it would seem that relation, already in English
a combination of Latin roots, and variously a narrative, reference back to
something or comparison, became in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

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