Naturalism and the Invention of Identity

in Social Analysis
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  • 1 Cambridge University ms10026@cam.ac.uk
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Abstract

Its author ever hopeful of abandoning nature-culture or nature-society, this brief sketch is an attempt to understand some part of the dyad. It fishes among materials on biological relatedness, ideas about reproduction, and configurations of kinship that might amount to a naturalist cosmology, detectable among other things in the problems it generates. There is nothing new in apprehending how much of society was already ‘in’ the nature that came to be distinguished from it. However, the anthropologist’s net has its own gauge, and thus the argument at once depends on historical niceties and disregards them. What gets caught in the mesh flung over this huge area are certain issues concerning identity and individuality. These demand a closer inquiry into the character of the relations being supposed, the matter with which the article opens.

Contributor Notes

Marilyn Strathern had the good fortune to receive initial—and indelible—training in Papua New Guinea, which led to work among other things on kinship and gender relations. In the United Kingdom, she subsequently became involved with anthropological approaches to the new reproductive technologies, intellectual property, audit cultures, and interdisciplinarity. Now retired from the Cambridge Department of Social Anthropology, she is (honorary) Life President of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth (ASA). Strathern is currently working on issues in the conceptualization of relations, some of which are sketched out in her book Kinship, Law and the Unexpected: Relatives Are Always a Surprise (2005).

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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