Kissing Cousins: A New Kinship Bestiary

Kissing Cousins: A New Kinship Bestiary

by Frances Bartkowski


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Kissing Cousins: A New Kinship Bestiary by Frances Bartkowski

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231144520
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 09/11/2008
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 4.60(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Remember the 2000-Year-Old Man?
Part I
1. Kissing Cousins
2. Forget the Alamo...
3. The Newly Born Century
4. Sisters of the Bone
Part II
5. Apes 'r Us
6. When Apes Rule
7. Again, by a Declaration of Rights
8. From Cage to Caves
9. Trees of Origin
10. Bonobos in Our Midst
Part III
11. Kintimacy: Blood Brothers
12. Of Pigs and Men
13. Mendel's Nephew
14. Of Love and Law
Epilogue: Here Come the Cavemen
Works Cited
Works Consulted

What People are Saying About This

Lee Quinby

Frances Bartkowski's dazzling study of kinship in the contemporary era more than lives up to its provocative title. As with the bestiaries of the Middle Ages, which brought together stories of moral significance about the real and fanciful beasts of a divinely created universe, Bartkowski's bestiary brings together contemporary stories from popular culture, news media, literature, and social science and scientific studies, not only to highlight the arbitrary divisions of myriad kinship arrangements but also to point to crucial shifts that reimagine traditional moral systems.

Cary Wolfe

A wonderfully written, genuinely searching exploration of our new and myriad forms of intimacy and kinship—'kintimacy,' to use the author's term. Anyone interested in the emotional complexities and the ethical stakes of our changing connections to each other across lines of species, gender, family, and much else will find this an immensely rewarding book.

Judith Butler

Kissing Cousins is an extremely well-written effort to come to terms with new modes of kinship and new modes of imagining human community. The text makes a clear argument for the widening of those circles of sentient beings with whom humans have kinship. How broadly we conceive kinship has direct bearing on the conditions and limits of empathy and affiliation, and this has direct consequences for matters of love and war. Moving, singular, provocative, and pervasively intelligent, Kissing Cousins will appeal not only to academic readers in literary and cultural studies but also to an interdisciplinary range of readers in science and animal studies, anthropology, and film studies.

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