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2 Kinship I am sick to death of bonding through kinship and ‘the family,’ and I long for models of solidarity and human unity and difference rooted in friendship, work, partially shared purposes, intractable collective pain, inescapable mortality, and persistent hope. (Haraway, 1997: 265) Donna Haraway’s plea suggests, perhaps, that kinship has had its day. That it may no longer be either a helpful or interesting way to make sense of human relationships. But, at the same time, it is a wistful plea that suggests – as one lesbian adopter put it to me – ‘a feeling of hopelessness before the enduring power and pervasiveness of kinship’.

As Daniel Miller has argued, ‘there is ... a danger, as is so often the case with attractive new ideas, of swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction until the other end of the kinship spectrum, that concerned with formalisation, normativity and fixity, in turn disappears below our gaze and we actually lose the appropriate sense of balance’ (Miller, 2007: 537). Consider, for example, the biologically-based connection claims made by many lesbian parents using assisted and donor insemination techniques.

But, at the same time, it is a wistful plea that suggests – as one lesbian adopter put it to me – ‘a feeling of hopelessness before the enduring power and pervasiveness of kinship’. Given the range of contemporary practices that challenge kinship defined by blood or by marriage/law, these are pertinent and vital questions. But, if it is really defunct, then what happens, as Janet Carsten asks, ‘after kinship’? (Carsten, 2004). And why, despite such claims, are reports of kinship’s demise so greatly exaggerated?

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