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Presenting twenty-nine original chapters - each written by an expert in the field – this Handbook examines the history of kinship theory and the directions in which it has moved over the past few years. Using examples from across the globe (Africa, India, South America, Malaysia, Asia, the Pacific, Europe and North America), this Handbook highlights the power of kinship theory to address questions of broad anthropological significance. How have recent advances in reproductive medicine fundamentally altered our understanding of biological properties? How has globalization brought in its wake new ways of imagining human relatedness? What might recent shifts in state welfare policies tell us about those relations of power that define the difference between 'functional' versus 'dysfunctional' families? Addressing these and many other timely concerns, this volume presents the results of cutting edge research and demonstrates that the study of kinship is likely to remain at the core of anthropological inquiry.
Meyer Fortes once wrote about the privileged place that food taboos occupy in the discipline of anthropology. Eating, he argued, is a uniquely individual act in that each person must eat for her or himself – it is not an activity that one person can undertake for another (also quoted in M. Strathern 1988:20). Furthermore, eating is both “organic” and “social”: “it is a means by which we are not merely made aware of an external reality but take permitted parts of it into our [body] …” (Fortes 1966:16). This being so, it is not surprising that food taboos have captured the imagination of anthropologists. Not unlike Lévi-Strauss's (1949) leitmotif – the incest prohibition – dietary restrictions tease and titillate us with the possibility of casting light on some of the West's most persistent analytical dilemmas: the relationship between mind and body, and the individual and society.
I am not in this chapter going to offer up a new theory of taboo. Nor will I enter into some of the more specific debates which have surrounded how anthropologists have approached the subject (see Lévi-Strauss 1962). Instead, I want to examine one feature of taboos which has received scant analytical attention: their capacity to image the apparently contradictory states of unity and disjuncture. Most anthropological treatments of taboo have taken the issue of boundary maintenance and disjuncture as their point of departure.
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