This essay introduces the concept of "biodiplomacy" through a combination of philosophical reflection, historical and etymological arguments, media reports, critical analyses of bioethics controversies, and the author's own participation as a "diplomat" of anthropology for an international commission about science and society. It explores how the notion of corps diplomatique that once represented the Enlightenment ideal of an exclusive, "family of diplomats" is apparent today as the diffusion of an open, more participatory "global talk." The effects of this development on critical social theory are discussed under the rubric of "biodiplomatica"; particular attention is paid to (i) the immanence of critique as a relational mode of action for interventions in public anthropology, and (ii) the theorist's role in seeking to engage a critically reflexive anthropology of bioethics.
The humanitarian community's definition of family and household provides an organizational framework that determines how benefits are offered to refugees. As a result, in refugee camps, social relations become a means to access resources as well as a measure of security, rights, and responsibilities. Bulgur marriage is a disparaging term used by Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinean camps to refer to conjugal unions based on the sharing of bulgur wheat provided by the United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP). For the participants, this arrangement is a form of kinship that carries weight socially, materially, and affectively. An ethnography of "bulgur wives" reveals subtle aspects of navigating relatedness in unstable environments. Their non-linear journeys involve dead ends and censure as well as opportunities to become "big" women in the community. This article examines the moral ambiguity of bulgur marriages, exploring the potential and pitfalls of these new forms of relatedness.
Anthropological studies of assisted reproduction and allied technologies offer new ways of understanding kinship. This paper follows those themes in the context of the Middle East, specifically Lebanon. The nearest equivalent to a word for "kinship" in Arabic is arguably qarābah, or "closeness," an important category within Islamic discourse: closeness is also a useful term for approaching a broader set of thematic concerns in the region, including an interest in "close marriage." Here I explore these ideas and how they are refracted through the issues posed by new medical technologies and "globalization."
One much-commented upon feature of globalization is an increased access to information. If new kinds of information, and a new speed of access to it, characterize the so-called "global society," then how do new kinds of kinship information and kinship knowledge affect Western practices of kinship, or a Western "sense of self?" Examining the place of certain kinds of knowledge in Western idioms and practices of relatedness and personhood, this paper explores the effects of new kinds of information upon family ties. The role of information and knowledge in pre-natal testing, in adoptive kinship, in the searches undertaken by adoptees for their birth kin, and in transfers of bodily substance in fertility treatment, provide some specific contexts to understand the way that kinship knowledge contributes to people's sense of connectedness to their relatives, and to their own sense of identity. Rather than assuming a clear trajectory from a world of ascribed ties to one in which such ties are achieved, I highlight some of the more complex processes which people put to work when they constitute themselves through their various kinds of relations. A web of intertwinings, separations, and rejoinings between what is apparently inherited from the past, and what is created anew can be discerned as central to Western kinship practices.
Carla Freeman (2001) has recently argued that both globalization theory and the very processes defining globalization are ascribed a masculine gender and as a result, masculine globalization theory has implicitly produced a powerful dichotomous model which is separated from empirical studies of local gendered experiences of globalization. Expanding on this argument, I discuss Japanese men's desires for masculine, national, and modern identities in relation to their Filipina wives in urban Japan. I contend that inquiring into men's experiences as situated in intermediate locations between individual subject formation and local and global structures of power opens up a space for new theoretical imaginations to emerge, contributing to our efforts to destabilize the masculine domination commonly found in theories and depictions of intermarried "First World" men and "Third World" women. In addition to humanizing descriptions of the partners of intermarried women, I situate in broader global historical contexts the polarized pair, First World/Third World, within which Filipina-Japanese liaisons are normally located. My ethnography suggests that such relations not only create personal relationships but also haunt the meanings and power relations of the binary terms, thereby altering the theoretical frameworks. By juxtaposing previously unimaginable actors and attributes, the paper shows the surprisingly transnational dynamics and gendering human relations born of the increasing numbers of cross-national, cross-ethnic marriages at the multiply crisscrossed intersections of the global and the local.
Brazilian "country" music, both in its commercial (música sertaneja) and folkloric (música caipira) forms, is performed by duplas (duos), most often of brothers. In this paper, I account for the increasing popularity of brotherhood as the means of organizing rural musical performance. I also account for the fact that, even in cases where the dupla is composed of friends rather than brothers, male siblingship still provides the most important organizing principles of the genre. In all elements of dupla performance, what is crucial about masculine siblingship is that blood and harmony brings them together, while the hierarchical nature of their roles within the dupla sets them apart. In the alternation between equality and hierarchy, the dupla form inculcates a means of fostering unity while managing inequality. Through what is presented as the pre-discursive quality of the bond between brothers, the dupla form enacts a critique of the voluntary forms of association thought to permeate social relations deemed urban. It also portrays modernization as a corrupting rather than a progressive influence. In effect, therefore, this musical approach to brotherhood provides a mode through which to comment upon: a perceived disintegration of meaningful social ties, the nature of Brazil (brasilidade), and the politics of culture.
Since the late 1990s, adult adopted Koreans have been officially welcomed back to their country of birth as "overseas Koreans," a legal designation instituted by Korea's state-sponsored "globalization" (segyehwa) project. Designed to build economic and social networks between Korea and its seven million compatriots abroad, this policy projects an ethnonationalist and deterritorialized vision of Korea that depends upon a conflation of "blood" with "kinship" and "nation." Adoptees present a particularly problematic subset of overseas Koreans: they have biological links to Korea, but their adoptions have complicated the sentimental and symbolic ties of "blood" upon which this familialist and nationalist state policy depend. Because international adoption replaces biological with social parenthood and involves the transfer of citizenship, to incorporate adoptees as "overseas Koreans," the state must honor the authority and role of adoptive parents who raised them, even as they invite adoptees to (re)claim their Koreanness. Government representations optimistically construe adoptees as cultural "ambassadors" and economic "bridges," yet for adoptees themselves––whose lives have been split across two nations, two families and two histories––the cultural capital necessary to realize their transnational potential seems to have already been forfeited. Based on fieldwork with an expatriate community of adoptees living and working in Seoul, this article examines how adoptees are specters of both family and foreignness in Korea. I argue that, rather than demonstrating the possibilities of a borderless world, Korean adoptees illuminate how state practices and political economy structure "kinship" and "nation" for transnational subjects caught up in contemporary dialectics of nationalism and globalization
The essay pursues three ends. Two are theoretical. The first of these seeks to clarify and elaborate the consequences of approaching kinship as a distinctive system of subjectivation that yields an equally distinctive ethical domain. The second pursues the characterization of such a system as autopoietic or self-producing. The third end is diagnostic. It seeks to illuminate the modulations of the autopoetic economy of kinship in a global market that establishes consumption as its fulcrum. Treating the wedding and the funeral industries, the controversies surrounding same-sex marriage and the kinning of DNA, it reveals the systematic accentuation of the sumptuary and the demotion of keeping while giving in favor of acquiring while spending. Yet it also reveals an ethics of kinship that, if permitting the intrumentalization of the inconsumable, often does so for distinctly anti-aquisitive and anti-sumptuary ends.
International conventions and domestic adoption laws in Euro-American nations regulate the construction of adoptive families through a series of legal fictions. The most significant of these is the principle of the legal clean break, which cancels a child's ties to pre-adoptive kin and incorporates him or her into the adoptive family (and adoptive nation) "as if" s/he were the family's (the nation's) "own." Drawing on research with transnationally adopted adults and their families in Sweden and the United States, and on memoirs and films produced by adopted adults who have reunited with (officially nonexistent) kin, I focus on the productivity of this space of erasure, where biology is both cancelled and discovered anew as a site of surface (dis)connection, and continuity is produced over time in a series of returns. This work has implications for our understanding of what Foucault (1997) describes as "the biological-type caesura" in the production of "what appears to be a biological domain" in the adoptive nations to which adoptive children are sent and those to which they return. At the same time it suggests some of the ways that familiar cultural forms (the nation, the family, the Swedish, and so forth) are reconfigured by the presence of a child (and later an adult) whose quality as "almost the same, but not quite" confounds any sense of what a biological family (or native land) might naturally be.