1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Kinship Matters

The Department of Anthropology has long had considerable strengths in the study of kinship. As a topical mainstay of our discipline, kinship studies have illuminated the multiplicity of ways that humans have organized systems of kinship and marriage; have highlighted their central importance to far-reaching structures of alliance and exchange; and have probed the diversity of human understandings of what it means to be “related.”

We are particularly interested in the ways in which meanings of intimacy, kinship and marriage are entangled in other social domains—political, economic, religious, and ecological. How can kinship help us comprehend the structure and dynamics of citizenship, nation, and the state or of corporations and their apparent power to generate wealth? How do ties of kinship and marriage facilitate or block movements across national borders creating the grounds for both transnational connections and conflicts? How do technological innovations reshape kinship and vice versa? And how do different forms of kinship signify what counts as modern or not?

We also have strong interests in the prehistoric and historic dimensions of kinship. We ask what historical linguistics can tell us about the forms of kinship, marriage and alliance that were practiced in past societies? How can archaeology use the evidence of households, houses, alliances, and exchange to explore the development of social inequalities, hierarchical polities, and urban societies? How can demography elucidate the historical study of particular communities and changing patterns of marriage, mortality, and fertility?