Rethinking “The Family”: A Site for Intimate Failures or Potentials?
Universal definitions of family had been a salient topic of anthropological research until the late twentieth century. Such definitions, however, began to be challenged and criticized for their inability to cover the broad range of practices and ideologies associated with the family. In particular the idea of “The Family” as an autonomous hetero-reproductive, biological unity has been a paramount one, yet it has been contested by the studies focusing on the roles played by the new medico-legal technologies of the body which change the very meaning of the family (e.g. reproductive policies, surrogacy and artificial insemination techniques, sex reassignment surgeries etc.), the role of “real” and “fictive” kinships in shaping subjects and the non-normative forms of families. Breaking with the endless and futile search for “essence,” the family has instead begun to be regarded as an ideological, social and cultural construct that is embedded in power relations and mechanisms and that is imbued with certain affective or emotional orientations and norms.
As a contribution to the recent anthropological explorations on family, in this panel, we want to rethink the family as a border-making site that produces categories, capacities and forms of inclusion, exclusion and imagination. We aim to discuss how the concept of family is woven through discourses, disciplines, and practices of the body, desire, sexuality, technology, community and politics, and what it means to inhabit the family on a daily basis as an experiential reality.
More specifically, we seek answers to the following questions: How are the borders of the family being shaped, contested and reconstructed in relation to new medical technologies of the body? How do these technologies transform the family ties, interpersonal relations and domestic norms? How do non-normative forms of community change the very meaning of family? What kind of intimate, social, cultural and political borders does the family draw in our everyday lives? How do we make use of the concept of family in our theorizations of gender, the body, sexuality, community and politics? What does it mean to think about the family as an alternative community or political form? Or does it still, whether in hetero or homo settings, continue to be a very productive site for certain normativities? As Halberstam (2011: 71) suggests, should we reject deploying the concept of family altogether since it is a “false narrative of continuity” that makes “connection and succession seem organic and natural”? What does it mean to undermine the family and emphasize other modes of relating, belonging, and caring for political and/or ethical relationships? Or can we talk about new emergences or creations of crossings between the family as a form and other forms of relating, belonging and caring? Does that necessarily mean the foreclosure of other alliances and coalitions, or can we think about the family as a form, which enables and produces particular intimacies, bonds and care that would otherwise go invisible and be silenced?
Please submit 250-word abstracts to Asli Zengin at email@example.com and Oyman Basaran at firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than April 5, 2012.
University of Toronto
Department of Anthropology
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