Events 2019



Care: Exploring Hierarchies and Social Transformations

2nd Workshop: 11.–12.11.2019

Andrew Dawson

Work, structures of affect and care: A comparative analysis

Rebecca Kay

‘She’s like a daughter to me’: Insights into care, work and kinship from rural Russia

1st Workshop: 8.–9.4.2019

Petra Ezzeddine

The gender of guilt: diversity and ambivalence of transnational care trajectories within postsocialist migration experience

Sara Lei Sparre

Between care and contract: Ageing immigrants, self-appointed helpers and ambiguous belonging in the Danish welfare state

Public Lectures


The Work of the Eugenics Record Office in the United States: Technologies for Pathologizing and Terminating ‘Degenerate’ Family Lines and ‘Purifying’ the Nation

The story of the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) in the United States has much to say about the ways in which the measurement of kinship relations through the calculation of the intergenerational transmission of ‘heritable’ traits can become a tool for defining national belonging. In this paper, I consider how the newly rediscovered Mendelian laws of inheritance, at the beginning of the twentieth century, provided the ERO researchers with a statistical means for calculating the transmission of heritable traits — physiological, mental, temperamental, and moral — across past and future generations. I analyze the genealogical, ideological, and the cost-benefit technologies they deployed to bring into being and ‘make visible’ the category of ‘degenerate’ families and to make the case for their reproductive segregation and/or sterilization.  And I demonstrate how they used the hereditary distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad strains’ of the population to craft what was essentially a class- and race-based case not only for ‘purifying’ the nation but also for ‘building a wall around the nation’ to rid the country of existing ‘degenerate families’ and prohibit others from entering and becoming citizens.

Susan McKinnon


Imagining and Living New Worlds: The Dynamics of Kinship in Contexts of Mobility and Migration

This talk will consider kinship in the contexts of movement and migration. Delineating two quite different models of kinship -‘doing’ and ‘being’, the performative and the ascriptive highlights how mobility and migration are consonant with performative models of kinship. I take movement and migration as a prism to show how kinship provides a uniquely dynamic reservoir of resources to creatively imagine and enable moving to and living in new worlds, both geographically distant and near at hand. Rather than being deviant or an unusual process in the life course, mobility can be seen as enfolded within the capacities that kinship generates. But kinship also provides a repertoire that may promote settlement, and in the conclusion I suggest that both performative and ascriptive models might contribute to an understanding of kinship in the context of migration.

Janet Carsten




2019 Conference of the German Anthropological Association at the University of Konstanz

It has become a truism in anthropology that kinship is negotiated. The idea that kinship is a universal human relation that links people even without their knowledge is nevertheless gaining persuasive power. Based on this assumption, diverse technologies are being developed and applied to measuring kinship in order to achieve closure in negotiations of relatedness. For example, the routine application of paternity tests and genomic testing seems to put an end to insecure identities and ethnic or national belonging. The increasing importance of such ‘proofs’ of kinship to diverse claims to inclusion and entitlement, displays an interesting tension. At a time when the seeming voluntariness of ‘new’ family forms is celebrated as an expression of tolerance and supposedly declining importance of kinship in ‘modern’ societies, the ‘end of negotiation’ could increasingly sustain and consolidate a naturalization of social and political inequalities.

This workshop sets out to interrogate the enduring — or even increasing — importance of kinship, as well as its practical and epistemological consequences. First, we seek to discuss ways in which ideas of kinship evolve and are translated into diverse scientific, bureaucratic and legal technologies for testing, measuring and modelling kin relations. Secondly, we are interested in the consequences of converting degrees of kinship into (at least temporarily) non-negotiable facts: such determinations often entail obligations (e.g., care, knowledge of health risks or financial support) and entitlements (e.g., to inheritance, citizenship, family reunification, affirmative action or insurance and compensation payments).


Introduction: Measuring Kinship–Negotiating Belonging


The Work of the Eugenics Record Office: Technologies for Terminating ‘Degenerate’ Family Lines and Purifying National Belonging


Fatherless Children and Listening Spirits: Ritual Technologies of Measuring Kinship and the Rhetorics of Closure Among the Khmu of Northern Laos


Genetic Ancestry Testing, Whiteness and the Limits of Anti-Racism


Kinship, Risk, Race: Scales of Belonging in Genetic Counselling


Kin Enough: Traffic Accidents, Insurance Claims, and the Measurement of Kinship Closeness


Lecture Series Critique

Is social/cultural anthropology a critical science and in what sense if so? Is its task epistemological, ontological or genealogical? Should ethnography feed into an anthropology of critique interested in logics of justification and contestation, or is critique rather a project that takes up and enables resistance by our interlocutors? What do each of these mean for the development of theory and the practice of ethnography?
The talks within this series will circle around questions of the meaning, ethics and position of critique in anthropology.


Blow Up. A Critical Approach to Ethnographic Exposures

Didier Fassin


The critique of tone and the tone of critique

Ghassan Hage

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