The settler colonial anti-kinship: Helen Gardner, ‘Kinship acknowledged and denied: Collecting and publishing kinship materials in 19th-century settler-colonial states’, History of the Human Sciences, 2022


Abstract: In the second half of the 19th century, anthropology rode the coat-tails of modernity, adopting new printing technologies, following new travel networks, and gaining increasing access to Indigenous people as colonialism spread and new policies were developed to contain and control people in settler-colonial states. The early innovator in kinship studies Lewis Henry Morgan and his two greatest proteges, Lorimer Fison and A. W. Howitt, working respectively in the United States, Fiji, and Australia, epitomised this conflation of governance, technologies of representation, and anthropology. They corresponded on the alterity of kinship systems across increasingly regularised postal routes, and developed new forms of collecting and new diagrammatic representations of kinship using developments at the press. Nineteenth-century kinship studies were focused exclusively on relationships formed through biology and descent, and there was little recognition of kinship making beyond these forms. This was especially significant for Howitt, whose closest Aboriginal interlocutor, Tulaba, claimed him as a brogan (brother), according to Gunaikurnai kinship paradigms. This article tracks the links between the collection and publication of kinship material in the questionnaires and the books of the latter part of the 19th century across the English-speaking world and the outcomes for Indigenous peoples, as arguments for distinctive kinship systems helped define their ‘primitiveness’ and dismissed Aboriginal attempts to forge kinship links across the settler/Indigenous divide.

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