Kissing Cousins: A New Kinship Bestiary

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Columbia University Press, Oct 6, 2008 - Philosophy - 224 pages
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Since DNA has replaced blood as the medium through which we establish kinship, how do we determine with whom we are kin? Who counts among those we care for? The distinction between these categories is constantly in flux. How do we come to decide those we may kiss and those we may kill?

Focusing on narratives of kinship as they are defined in contemporary film, literature, and news media, Frances Bartkowski discusses the impact of "stories of origin" on our regard for nonhuman species. She locates the role of "totems and taboos" in forming and re-forming kinship categories-groupings that enable us to tie the personal to the social-and explores the bestiary, among the oldest of literary forms. The bestiary is the realm in which we allegorize the place of humans and other species, a menagerie encompassing animals we know as well as human-animal chimeras and other beings that challenge the "natural" order of the world. Yet advances in reproductive technologies, the mapping of genomes, and the study of primates continually destabilize these categories and recast the dynamic between the natural and the cultural.

Bartkowski highlights the arbitrariness of traditional kinship arrangements and asks us to rethink our notions of empathy and ethics. She shows how current dialogues concerning ethics and desire determine contemporary attitudes toward issues of care, and suggests a new framework for negotiating connection and conflict.

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Remember the 2000 YearOld Man?
1 Kissing Cousins
2 Forget the Alamo
3 The Newly Born Century
4 Sisters of the Bone
9 Trees of Origin
10 Bonobos in Our Midst
11 Kintimacy Blood Brothers
12 Of Pigs and Men
13 Mendels Nephew
14 Of Love and Law
Here Come the Cavemen

5 Apes R Us
6 When Apes Rule
7 Again a Declaration of Rights
8 From Cage to Caves
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About the author (2008)

Frances Bartkowski is associate professor of English and women's studies at Rutgers University. She is the author of Feminist Utopias and Travelers and Immigrants, Inmates: Essays in Estrangement, and the coeditor of Feminist Theory: A Reader.

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