Making Kinship Bigger: Andrew Shryock in Conversation with Golfo Alexopoulos, Nadav Samin, David Henig, and Gísli Pálsson

One of the tall tales of modernity goes like this: As human societies become more complex–more industrial, urban, mass mediated, and public–the importance of kinship as an organizing principle decreases. The rule is invoked in multiple settings, often with a judgmental spin. Democratic nation-states (and socialist people’s republics) should not be controlled by groups of close kin; neither should open or centrally organized markets, or universities, or the courts, or even the ecclesiastical ranks. Too much kinship in any of these domains is likely to provoke accusations of corruption and politically retrograde tendencies. The notions of progress and backwardness that suffuse this mindset are morally complex. They prop up Orientalist accounts of the West and the Rest, yet they also fuel liberatory reforms in laws pertaining to sexuality, inheritance, citizenship status, adoption, and marital rights.

You are probably amending or rejecting this account as you read along, tallying all the ways in which kinship and modernity in fact constitute each other. It is a healthy response. Seldom does an identity narrative seem so self-evidently true and false at the same time. If we were to flip it, keeping its exaggerated feel but reversing the implications, the story might sound like this: claims about the diminishing significance of kinship (and its radically changing forms) have ethical weight because they are contested, very often inaccurate, and based on aspirations that are hard to realize in everyday life because ideas of relatedness are so important to us. Is this an improved version of the tall tale, or evidence that we need to tell a different kind of story altogether?

In the conversation that follows, I invite four CSSH authors to talk about this problem. Each of them engages directly, and creatively, with kinship motifs in their research, and all of them work in settings where, according to modernist doctrine, kinship should be muted.

Golfo Alexopoulos (50(1): 91-117) studies Stalinist political culture, a system in which an elaborate bureaucracy focused its disciplinary might on enemies of the people, but also on the relatives of those enemies, who shared beds, food, blood, and (it was assumed) loyalties. The importance of kin networks to the exercise of Soviet power has obvious parallels in Putin’s Russia today. In the US, where Bushes and Trumps preside over family empires that intersect with federal and state governments, and with international business interests, the potential of concentrated kin power is all too obvious. In the Arab Gulf states, paternal ancestry, registered in tribal pedigrees and family trees, is a prominent feature of citizenship. Nadav Samin (58(4): 935-954) analyzes the relationship between genealogies and nationalism in the United Arab Emirates, revealing the complications that arise when the ideal of pure descent meets the reality of massive in-migrations and a populace of mixed, often non-Arab origins. David Henig (58(4): 908-934), at work in the post-socialist Balkans, shows how Sufi adepts transmit their knowledge and spiritual authority lineally, in networks that resemble (and sometimes include) blood-based genealogies, in order to rebuild transregional religious communities. Very old and very new forms of Muslim cosmopolitanism are at stake, and kinship would appear to be a vital aspect of both. Gísli Pálsson (51(2): 288-313), contemplating the stereotypically (hyper)modern realm of “biosociality,” explores the labor relations and medical technologies that create new kinds of tissues, treatments, and living materials that blur the lines between animal and human, nature and culture. This is the stage on which so much of “new kinship studies” has played out, but it is not always clear if bioscience is challenging taken-for-granted ideas of human relatedness, or if the latter are shaping the avenues along which bioscience develops and re-enters everyday practice. Across all these contexts, it is hard to imagine how interpretation, or the construction of historical accounts, could be done without steady resort to kinship ideas. Yet these very ideas can make analysis difficult: precisely because they capture so much that is necessary and contradictory in social life.

Andrew Shryock: Golfo, I’d like to begin by noting an odd likeness between your relationship to kinship, as a researcher trying to figure things out, and Stalin’s relationship to it. I’m not suggesting that you should run your own gulag, but it does seem that, in making sense of Stalin’s system, you came up against kinship as something persistent and deeply problematic, yet indispensable to understanding how power and resistance were organized. What does the centrality of kinship really mean in this case?

Golfo Alexopoulos: In the early Soviet era, the party of Lenin was openly hostile to kinship. It viewed the family as backward and an obstacle to revolution. The family was an object of contempt for the revolutionaries—a site of tradition, hierarchy, oppression, and exploitation. It wasn’t just that the Bolsheviks believed kinship ties would diminish with the emergence of socialist modernity. They believed that the rejection of kinship was a necessary precondition for revolutionary change. The finest revolutionaries would resist the pull of kinship ties, as their primary affection and loyalty were to the party. When a young man named Pavlik Morozov denounced his father to Soviet authorities, the Stalinist regime turned him into a national hero.

This was the ultimate gesture of civic loyalty—the subordination of kinship to politics. The state, party, or revolutionary class was supposed to replace the family as one’s primary source of identity and affection. Stalin lived this principle. His eldest son died in a Nazi concentration camp because the Soviet leader refused to negotiate his wartime release.

Yet kinship was incredibly powerful in the Soviet era, perhaps more as an idea than a lived experience. Kinship ties were undermined by various factors, including urban migration and modernization, in addition to the social atomization associated with state terror. At the same time, the party’s fear of kinship’s subversive potential intensified. Herein lies the contradiction: that which the ruling elite believed would necessarily diminish under socialism, in fact, grew into its obsession.

In the context of Stalinist political violence, kinship ties were profoundly important and durable. State repression under Stalin was mass in nature because the regime insisted on the collective punishment of kin. At the height of the purges in the late 1930s, the typical pattern was this: the male head of household would be arrested and shot, the wife exiled or confined to a labor camp, and the children dispatched to a state orphanage. Other relatives would become stigmatized as the family members of these “enemies of the people.” Indeed, “family member of ___” constituted a formal criminal category. During and after the war, for example, people were arrested as “family members of traitors to the motherland.”

The building of socialism in the early Soviet period did not coincide with the diminishing significance of kinship. Rather, relationships that were supposed to be consigned to the dustbin of history became exaggerated and reified. For example, small children of “enemies of the people” who grew up in a Soviet orphanage would still be considered untrustworthy because of their parents’ distant arrest. No amount of Soviet re-education could change the fact that they remained tainted. The state could not view them as anything other than children of their condemned parents.

Andrew Shryock: It’s fascinating, the extent to which the enemy/friend distinction was assimilated to a kinship logic. Politics and kinship were different versions of the same thing. The odd result is a progressive vanguard absolutely obsessed with kinship and dependent on it as a tool for social control.

Golfo Alexopoulos: The idea that individuals possessed competing loyalties seemed threatening to a political leadership that viewed people as “either with us or against us.” The Soviet Manichean worldview made kinship ties an object of suspicion, and this persisted throughout the Soviet era (in varying degrees, to be sure), as people with relatives abroad or relatives who applied to emigrate or relatives in a labor camp were considered suspect themselves. In the case of state socialism, the importance of kinship is striking. There are even ruling family resemblances—Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, Fidel and Raul Castro, and Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un. Marx and modernity be damned.

Andrew Shryock: Yes. It seems that the dynastic principle, which is at heart one of kinship, can express itself in almost any modern political system. It’s scandalous when communist leaders become de facto kings, but for many observers, it’s equally peculiar to see real monarchs dressed up in the political garb of nationalism, so much so that it becomes difficult to describe these political formations as modern or traditional in any stock sense. Nadav, this is terrain you know very well. What do you make of this vexed relationship between pedigree and polity?

Nadav Samin: Golfo’s story about Stalin’s son reminds me of the pre-Islamic Arabian tale of the two warrior-poets, Imru al-Qays and Samawʾal Banu Adiyya. Imru al-Qays’s enemies approached Samawʾal’s fortress, demanding that Samawʾal hand over Imru al-Qays’s armor, which Samawʾal had promised to safeguard for the itinerant warrior. Hand over the armor, they threatened, or they would execute their hostage, Samawʾal’s son. Samawʾal chose loyalty to his comrade-in-arms over his progeny. In this pre-Islamic Arabian story, purportedly from the 6th century though probably invented or elaborated several centuries later, we can observe the celebration of a form of social solidarity that is hostile to blood kinship. It is perhaps not coincidental that the Jewish poet Samawʾal emerged in the Islamic era as a proverbial emblem of loyalty to higher ideals, since this question of what to do about kinship was (and remains today) one of the central tensions at the heart of the last major universalizing faith, Islam.

Kinship as a mechanism of political combination and bifurcation, or as a problem to be reckoned with morally or politically, is thus not a new phenomenon. Yet in the modern Arab Gulf states, which are in a very loose sense descendants of Imru al-Qays and Samawʾal’s oasis statelets, kinship has taken on a new resonance as a key idiom of modern Gulf nationalism. Ethnicity, faith, and language, my reasoning goes, fail to distinguish the Gulf states (to include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and formally Oman) from their larger and traditionally more powerful Arab neighbors. Egypt, Syria, and its sister republics long ago mastered the discourse of Arab ethno-linguistic nationalism and official Sunni piety, thus crowding the field. How might the Gulf states, with their overflowing wealth and zest for distinction, stand out? They do so with recourse to a kinship idiom of nationalism, to mean the celebration of the kin group (family, clan, and tribe) as a distinctly Arabian social vehicle for realizing their respective national destinies.

These kinship ceremonials start, as expected, right at the top, where the faces of Gulf rulers and their fathers, brothers, or uncles are plastered along many if not most highways and tall buildings. The celebration of kinship ties penetrates to every level of the state, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where other forms of civic association (e.g., unions, political parties) are prohibited. The glorification of kinship also engenders a sometimes fierce counternarrative. In a new chapter for an edited volume, I describe a small but significant campaign by Saudi affiliates of Islamic State (ISIS) to kill their own parents, uncles, and cousins who work for the Saudi state’s security services. This campaign, I argue, represents an unsuccessful repudiation of the ideology of kinship ties that binds the kingdom together.

These celebrations of and assaults against kinship ideas are not taking place against modernity, nor are they occurring because of it. They are transpiring at the intersection of paradigms, where traditional ways of reckoning kinship are being reconfigured for the era of mass consciousness, repurposed to answer larger questions such as, who are my neighbors in the villa or apartment across the way, and how am I expected to relate to them if we are not historical cohabitants or kin? How Gulf societies respond to these questions is surely a complex muddle. The formation of societies is not a neat process in which groups move cleanly across Weberian categories, nor is it a linear one. While I continue to believe, perhaps after Darwin, that good taxonomy is the basis for all useful knowledge, we must be cautious about layering on top of this fundamental operation any overly grandiose social schemes.

Andrew Shryock: Well put. Your point is made more compelling by the fact that the people we study are often drawn, for diverse reasons, to grandiose social schemes. The idea, for instance, that all “true” Jordanians can trace their genealogies to the remote ancestors of certain tribal groups living in Jordan today does not seem like political overreach to everyone 1. Your book on the importance of genealogy in Saudi Arabia, Of Sand or Soil (2015), is a brilliant study of very similar ideas. In fact, I see strong likenesses between the kind of kinship nationalism you analyze in the Gulf and the models of genealogical authority that predominate among the Sufi orders David Henig studies in the Balkans.

Nadav Samin: I have always found the relationship between the Sufi master-disciple silsila (pedigree or line of succession) and the genealogical (nasab) account of laypersons or tribal groups to be an interesting one. Both connect us back to the Hadith tradition of oral narration, and to the still highly significant (yet too often overlooked) personalized ways of reckoning religious and social authority in many Muslim societies. I wonder, having read David’s essay, how does genealogy or lineage factor into the discourse of today’s orthodox southeastern European ulama (Muslim clerics)? Do they profess their own Salafi lines of authority, for instance? Are the Rifaʿi Sufis in dialogue with their more powerful orthodox rivals, or have they truly and fully retreated to the inner sanctum of esoteric knowledge, to genealogies and other such obscure things?

David Henig: Before I answer that question, Nadav, I’d like to say that your paper and Golfo’s open up several important problems. I found myself thinking of two interrelated ideas in particular: first, the flexibility of kinship, in that it persists and continually adapts regardless of large-scale ruptures; and second, the fact that kinship is pervasive across all domains of life, time and space.

In the case of the Bolshevik revolution, followed by the despotic Stalinist regime, kinship was central to politics, citizenship, and economic survival despite Lenin’s open hostility to it. It was an asset as well as a burden. As Golfo shows, one’s kinship ties could easily become a liability; a channel through which Stalinist political violence could be extended; a transmitter of stigma, criminalization, and coercion across generations. But we also know that kinship and quasi-kinship networks flourished during the Soviet era of command economy as a means of accessing goods and services. 2 Nadav brings a different rupture into the comparison. Although his material is not about revolution, it deals with a no less revolutionary theme. Kinship unfolds here as a mechanism to reconfigure the modes of belonging in the modern nation-state. The arrival of the nation-state, be it in the Gulf, or in southeast Europe, has hardly been an orderly process. Nationalism has called into question political loyalties, traditionally anchored across the Gulf to one’s kin group. Nadav illustrates how the modern Gulf states draw on kinship reckoning and kinship idioms to foster nationalistic consciousness, imagination, and belonging. Rather than sending kinship to the dustbin of tradition, we can observe here a particular “structure of conjuncture” at work whereby modern nationalism is subsumed by the logic and practice of kinship rather than the other way round.

Indeed, kinship is too pervasive to go away. How can we then connect these two examples of political kinship with a group of Sufi disciples from Bosnia-Herzegovina? The experiences with both nationalism and state socialism are important. But there is more at stake, I believe. Here I deliberately propose to shift gears from the focus on kinship to a focus on kinshipping. “Kinshipping” is a heuristic coined by Andrew Shryock and Dan Smail in Deep History (2011) to explore particular threads of connections and relations that propel as well as constrain change. It is a useful device for moving our analytical gaze “through time and space by means of relationships and exchange” (2011: 32). Nadav, you’ve raised a number of important issues about the Sufis’ loyalties, genealogical imagination, and religious authority. I read them as being about how kinshipping works among many Muslims in the era of the modern nation-state, be it in southeast Europe or elsewhere. To address your questions, let me go back to the pun I use in the paper, namely routes and roots as two vectors of kinshipping whereby these “Other Muslims” forge and sustain connections across time and space.

Across southeast Europe, the ulama and Islamic religious authorities by and large have been entangled for more than a century in cementing the roots rather than exploring the routes. Here the metaphor of roots serves as a shortcut for nationalistic imagination and loyalties. As I point out in my paper, some Sufi groups are closely tied to these nationalist projects and forge a genealogical imagination that, in effect, nationalizes an Islamic tradition, be it Sufi or Sunni. My question is different: in such a highly nationalized context, what would the genealogical imagination look like from the perspective of routes? As a metaphor, routes gestures at a different scale of kinshipping and its different textures and vocabularies (in my paper I explore sonic, graphic, and genealogical modes). It is a horizon of genealogical imagination located “beyond the nation,” beyond a “purified” national territory, orienting our attention to other times, other places, other mobilities; and opening different temporal depths and far-flung groupings. In other words, it is a vector of kinshipping that allows us to examine “the trans” and “the inter.” Gísli’s paper goes even further in this respect by examining other intertwinements of life forms.

One of the central concerns among the Sufi disciples I write about is the sheikh’s silsila (a genealogical chain of succession). As I documented in the paper, the series of geopolitical shifts, political upheavals, and repercussions throughout the 20th century led to many ruptures in Sufi practice, and disruptions of silsilas among the Sufi groups in southeast Europe. The post-socialist years, coinciding with the emergence of biosocial discourses of the kind Gísli Pálsson writes about, led to a proliferation of religious forms as well as of many “‘new” sheikhs. This has triggered a crisis of genealogical legitimacy among the sheikhs and their disciples. The sheikhs’ newly acquired authority and claims to authenticity, traditionally derived from the genealogical legitimacy of silsila, have become widely debated and are surrounded by uncertainty, particularly in cases where genealogical links are hard to make. As a result, different and competing forms of silsila claims made by the sheikhs have emerged (e.g., locally rooted, uninterrupted, mobile, hybrid, or received through dream visions). With these claims has come a proliferation of doubt, speculation, as well as miracles and accusations of forgery among the sheikhs’ disciples. This particular historical rupture thus leaves both routed and rooted silsilas surrounded by a fundamental ambivalence as to how silsila can be ultimately legitimised, authorized, and authenticated.

Andrew Shryock: This has been a problem throughout Muslim history. I think it’s probably a built-in epistemological feature of all genealogical traditions: can we be sure this line of transmission is pure? Who can say so, and using what evidence? Those questions are urgent when ownership, authority, and belonging all depend greatly on descent, legitimate transmission, or related principles.

David Henig: One thing I document in my paper is how “routes,” as a mode of kinshipping beyond the nation, can become a mode of authentication. And it is the question of authentication that allows me to zoom out and bring my argument closer to Gísli’s paper. The most obvious quest for genealogical authentication I can think of today is the search for knowledge of one’s genomic inheritance, tracing one’s ancestors, and knowing where they came from. Indeed, routes of kinshipping open up space, to use Gísli’s words, for charting bio-graphies of various kinds and assemblages. This is the case regardless of whether they are oriented towards the (Sufi) past and contained in travelling ethnographic biographies written by an anthropologist, and thus circulating across spatial distance (across the Bosporus for example), or oriented — as Gísli tells us — towards the future, and across biosocial terrains.

Andrew Shryock: That’s a crucial point. Kinship has a kind of binary critical potential. It can be used to delimit and stabilize relations, working in a figuratively up-down direction in space and time, through notions of transmission. It can also be used to connect across these well-defined spaces, working in figuratively lateral directions, across space and time. There seems to be no point, and no scale, at which it can’t do both! An important question, which I hope Gísli can help us with, is how big, or how small, do we want kinship to be?

Gísli Pálsson: Ralph Waldo Emerson wasn’t known primarily for being a social theorist, but he made a keen social insight when he observed that, “A man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower and fruitage is the world.” While Emerson is usually cast as a romantic transcendentalist, his imagery here seems very down-to-earth – environmental, authentic, generative. It brings to mind some of the core themes of modern social and biological theory: individuality and context; origins and worlds. Where does that leave “bundles of relations”?


Andrew Shryock
: Exactly. The bundle is its own little thing, but it’s also the whole world. Seed, soil, and everything else. It’s a lot to take in.

Gísli Pálsson: Yes. That’s probably why kinship has been a persistent theme in the humanities and social sciences, and especially in anthropology. Historically, we often see an elective affinity between the dominant anthropological approaches and the study of kinship. A prime example of grand narrative in anthropology has been structuralism, which inspired theorizing in several related disciplines, including linguistics and biology. Aided by mathematical concepts, formalism, and analytical precision, anthropologists of a structuralist bent claimed they were able to explain the patterned qualities of kinship, language, cosmology, politics, and just about anything else. When doing fieldwork, these anthropologists would usually begin by busily categorizing kin groups and relationships, with a passion resembling that of Carl Linnaeus in his naming of natural kinds. Kinship took on a life of its own, whatever the realities of the ethnographic context.

Andrew Shryock: It was treated as foundational, but also as “primitive” in the dual sense of generating other things and being somehow basic, or ancestral; hence, the evolutionary implications, which can easily devolve into an idiom of backwardness.

Gísli Pálsson: Anthropologists were not alone in that respect. Modernization theory, generated during the Cold War and maintained under the banner of “third-world development,” highlighted conditions in the impoverished South, a space characterized by tradition and lack of education—and a supposed overabundance of kinship. In the South, it was argued, in contrast to the socialist East and the capitalist West, kinship prevented necessary growth and initiative, breeding endemic corruption instead. Perhaps the most damning argument against modernization theory and its focus on the restrictive bonds of kinship in the “underdeveloped” world was Andre Gunder Frank’s point that Euro-American elites, businesses, and corporations—the platform on which development theory was constructed—were characterized by insider trading, by kinship and corruption. As Golfo already noted, the Soviet socialist take on kinship demonstrated a similar irony: “relationships that were supposed to be consigned to the dustbin of history became exaggerated and reified.” Drawing attention to the contested nature of kinship in modern Gulf nationalism, Nadav suggests that while “good taxonomy” may be “the basis for all useful knowledge, we must be cautious about layering on top of this fundamental operation any overly grandiose social schemes.”

Andrew Shryock: So how do we outsmart this tendency? It corresponds to something real in the worlds we study, but it also limits our mobility as analysts. What are we snagging on?

Gísli Pálsson: Implicit in the traditional theoretical notion of kinship is the idea of “biological individuals” variously related through cultural networks and categories, depending on context. The nodes in such networks, it was assumed, were isolates, not interconnected bundles of relations. An expanded and destabilized notion of the individual, the idea of “biosocial dividuals,” highlights a conflation that has always been there, despite its suppression in modernist thought. In fact, bundled relationality has always extended down-to-earth; in a literal sense, it is geosocial, made of the earth itself, as Heather Anne Swanson and I have argued. 3 Humans are not only composed of planetary material, they develop in relation to the land, identifying with, say, mountains, glaciers, and rivers. Geosocial kinning – or “kinshipping,” as you call it – is no less significant than the narrow kinship constructed by classical social theory, which presumes human relatedness to be independent of the earth and erected on top of a material base.

Such rethinking will help us challenge dominant understandings of kinship that insist on the separateness of its biological, material, and social aspects, an insistence that refuses to acknowledge the interdependencies of humans, other kinds of beings, and the planet on which we dwell. The Anthropocene is characterized by a growing and damaging human impact on Gaia, and the post-human condition is rapidly evolving alongside new forms of genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, and human prosthetics. What used to be called “life itself” is increasingly modified by humans through artificial means, undermining the separation of the “natural” and the “artificial.” The notion of “fictive kinship,” as opposed to “real” kinship, no longer makes sense.

Andrew Shryock: And we can’t get out of that conceptual mess simply by insisting that it’s all fictive, or all real. We’re going to have to do something more substantial than that.

Gísli Pálsson: Much more! A growing awareness of the conflation of the natural and the social through studies of human-material relations, the post-human, and contemporary biopolitics might well become one of the key forces transforming social theory, and much of academia, in the near future. Given how radically the human condition is being refashioned in the contemporary world, the humanities and the social sciences need to do extensive homework on theory, concepts, and methods. Now, perhaps, with the bundling of bios and the social world, with the mutual constitution of the planet and its inhabitants, and with the remaking of life “itself” in the Anthropocene, kinship studies will be challenged and rethought. This time, the rethinking will be far more profound than that attempted by modernization theorists during the Cold War. It is time to return to Emerson’s “knot of roots,” or perhaps to a “knot of routes.” Nowadays, as David reminds us for the Islamic context, genomic routes—across nations and territories—are no less important than roots for crafting genealogical ties. Both modes of connecting can be material and social. They are, in new ways we must now struggle to understand, geosocial.

Andrew Shryock: I’m reluctant to end this conversation. I feel like we’re just getting started, and I’m now convinced that the way forward is to make kinship bigger, to make it explain more, not less. The four of you show very clearly that kinship is woven into structures of power and state formation in ways we probably can’t undo now, and often don’t want to. Kinship is pervasive and adaptable, giving rise to the most cosmopolitan and parochial of worldviews. For better or worse, it shapes how we relate to the planet, to other species, and to the larger networks of relation and constraint that make kinship itself possible for us, as humans. It’s probably best to conclude by accepting Gísli’s homework assignments: theory, concepts, and methods of kinship study will have to be reconfigured, making its objects more encompassing, more explicitly present and relational, less beholden to what moderns have made of them, and, most important of all, more than human. Thanks for good ideas on how to do that essential work.

CONTRIBUTORS

 

Golfo Alexopoulos is professor of history at the University of South Florida in Tampa and the author of Illness and Inhumanity in Stalin’s Gulag (Yale University Press, 2017). She is currently founding director of the USF Institute on Russia.

Nadav Samin is an historian of the Arabian Peninsula. He has taught history, anthropology, and politics at Dartmouth, NYU, and Hunter College. His first book, Of Sand or Soil: Genealogy and Tribal Belonging in Saudi Arabia, was published by Princeton in 2015, and by Jadawel in Arabic translation in 2017. He has authored articles for CSSH, The Hedgehog Review, and other publications, and is currently at work on a new history of Wahhabism and religious change in pre-oil boom Saudi Arabia.

David Henig is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology in the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent (UK), and editor of the journal History and Anthropology. He received his PhD in anthropology at Durham University. He is the author of numerous articles on Muslim politics and post-socialism in Southeast Europe, and more recently on a dialogue between anthropology and diplomatic studies. He has co-edited (with Nicolette Makovicky) Economies of Favour after Socialism (Oxford University Press, 2017), and is currently completing a book manuscript on remaking Muslim lives in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Gísli Pálsson is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iceland. He has written on a variety of issues, including human-environmental relations, biomedicine, the social context of genomics, and slavery. He has done fieldwork in Iceland, the Republic of Cape Verde, the Canadian Arctic, and the Virgin Islands. His most recent books are Biosocial Becomings: Integrating Social and Biological Anthropology (co-edited with Tim Ingold, 2013); Nature, Culture, and Society: Anthropological Perspectives on Life (2015); Can Science Resolve the Nature/Nurture Debate? (co-authored with Margaret Lock, 2016), and The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan (2016).

  1. Andrew Shryock (1995). Popular Genealogical Nationalism: History Writing and Identity among the Balqa Tribes of Jordan Comparative Studies in Society and History 37(2): 325-357
  2.  Ledeneva, Alena (2008). Blat and Guanxi: Informal Practices in Russia and China. Comparative Studies in Society and History 50(01):118-144.
  3.  Gísli Palsson and Heather Anne Swanson (2016). Down to Earth: Geosocialities and Geopolitics. Environmental Humanities 8(2): 149-171.