Blood, culture or life stories: How should we define kin?

Hot weather and compelling tennis have been keeping me away from the computer, but in the meantime I have been reading What Kinship is…And is Not by University of Chicago Emeritus Professor Marshall Sahlins.  It is a very short book but heavy going for someone who is not an anthropologist by training, each academic discipline having it’s own impenetrable terminology.  Easier to read is a commentary on the book by Jeanette Edwards from the University of Manchester who takes Sahlins basic precept that kin are people “who participate in each other’s lives…belong to one another…are parts of one another…partake of each other’s sufferings and joys and feel the effects of each other’s acts” and uses it as a lens to look at the modern relational phenomenon of donor siblings.  Kinship may include a genealogical connection and often does, but Sahlins and Edwards are clear that this is not a necessary prerequisite for inclusion of people in a kin network.  Sahlins writes about how parents are kin prior to the conception and birth of their children.  This is because they fulfil the conditions of kinship (above) and as such I can only assume that a gamete donor who is unknown to the couple or individual concerned, would not be kin.  A known donor might or might not be. So what to make of half-siblings (known affectionately as ‘diblings’ to some), many of whom may never meet in person but who have connected via registries (notably the Donor Sibling Registry DSR in the States) and talk together on Skype or social media.  From the small amount of research that has been done on families where donor sibling links have been made, it is clear that for most the conditions of kinship are present.  Half-sibs Ellie and Helen, quoted by me in previous blogs, are quite clear that they are sisters, deeply involved in each other’s lives. Freeman et al (2009) cites one mother as saying of her child’s donor  siblings, “I felt very maternal toward my son’s brother and sister….What really surprised me was just how strongly I felt towards them.  It changed my concept of ‘family.’   I know that genetically, I have no relationship to any of them but they are my family, they are part of me.  They just are!!….If they ever needed anything, I’d do whatever I could for them….They mean the world to me.” And yet, as Edwards says, “This is a kinship link that is both involuntary (given through the circumstances of one’s conception) and entirely voluntary and which may or may not stand the test of time.”  It is the knowing of the genetic connection that sparks the interest and effort entailed in making the links.  Of course for many families, particularly heterosexual couples, knowing of the presence or likely existence of half-siblings somewhere is a worrying prospect.  Kinship with half-sibs and their families is the last thing on their minds.  The imagined connection is one they feel threatens the integrity of their family.  This is often true even for parents who are open with their children and others about their use of a donor for family creation.   Some donor conceived young adults known to me have not taken the opportunity to sign up to Donor Sibling Link at the HFEA because they feel they are unlikely to have anything in common with half-sibs raised in different families.  They feel no sense of kin with them. An interesting aspect of Edwards commentary is her reference to an observation made about a study of 492 donor conceived people in the US.  To quote “…unlike siblings who grow up together, these siblings are ‘perfect’ – related to them (and not to their parents) and no immediate threat to parental love, resources or time.  Therefore, they are imagined – or already known as – ‘cool’, ‘fun’, ‘neat’; they are people who understand them (Nelson et al in press 2013) This being in direct contrast to sibs raised together who are often rivalrous and quarrelsome.   Being neither an anthropologist nor a psychologist I have no explanation for the differences between those who seem fascinated by the idea of half-sibs and those who are not.  But it does seem clear that whilst genetic links do spark interest and curiosity in some, it is not inevitable that shared genealogy creates kinship.  Look at Phoebe in The Archers (sorry those of you who don’t listen or are outside the UK).  Her genetic mother is an embarrassment who fails to tune in to her teenage daughter whilst the mother who raised her is warm and empathetic.   And what are we to make of Long Lost Family, the tear-jerker of a TV programme where (mostly adopted) people are helped to connect with birth family members?  Could it be that it is, as Edwards says, the knowing about a genetic link or a person that makes the longing to be re-united so great.  Is it all just the stories we tell ourselves or is blood really thicker than water? I’d love to hear what you think.

Jeanette Edwards commentary can be seen here:  http://www.haujournal.org/index.php/hau/article/view/hau3.2.018/764

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About oliviasview

Co-founder and now Practice Consultant at Donor Conception Network. Mother to two donor conceived adults and a son conceived without help in my first marriage.
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140 Responses to Blood, culture or life stories: How should we define kin?

  1. marilynn says:

    But the separation from their brothers and sisters is soooooo forced false and so contrived that they needed a whole separate set of laws applied only to gamete donors their estranged children and other relatives to successfully sequester their ch.ildren from them and hide them from their families.
    Imagine having a handful of siblings you know about but are not close with yet because you just met over the internet. Then imagine having the people who made a point to separate you from your own siblings tell you that they were not really your siblings unless they grew up with you. You’d want to wallop them! They caused the separation that they say erases your kinship its really insulting. Normally half siblings will at least know about one another and have access to one another’s records because they have a common parent – they can both live with their respedive mothers and step fathers but that won’t mean they don’t know one another vacation together etc. Normally parents foster the child’s relationship with siblings as much as possible. In the case of donor offspring it’s like the people raising them decide that the family of the step parent counts more than the family of the person being raised and then they simply don’t allow them to develop normal bonds by preventing contact while they are young.
    e
    So telling someone their sibling is not real because of a separation orchestrated by the teller is a pretty good way to loose trust. It lacks integrity and shows no depth of emotion.Not saying that about you Olivia, just that for those who think calling a person’s sister a dibling because she does not have full sibling value in their eyes due to separation they requested it’s like – do they really expect that will garner love or respect its deep like the shallow end of the pool.

  2. gsmwc02 says:

    I think a lot of it are the stories we tell ourselves that the grass is always greener on the other side. As humans we have a tendency to want what we can’t or are unable to have. It makes us lose site of what we have.

    I don’t doubt that for some people the genetic link is everything but for others it isn’t. It’s important to recognize that one story is one story not the end all be all for how every story is.

  3. whosedaughter says:

    “I can only assume that a gamete donor who is unknown to the couple or individual concerned, would not be kin.” Simple is as simple does. This subject is way to complex to simply be reduced to ‘love makes a family’ kind of simpleton mindset. My father wanted nothing to do with me, but he is kin (to me, my children and everyone of blood connection as well as social connection to all involved/connected). A couple of my halfsiblings want nothing to do with me (but several do, as well as their immediate bio/social family) THEY ALL ARE KIN, regardless (to me and my children, and their children to my children etc. – all because of my dna connection to my father and through my father – if that didn’t exist, there would be no connection) Is it just “choice” that makes kin? No. That’s really quite ridiculous and non nonsensical (and insulting to the intelligence of everyone involved). These kinds of statements are an obvious indicator of bias (and bias-blindness).

    • gsmwc02 says:

      Biology isn’t the only thing that makes kin despite popular belief that it trumps all.

      • whosedaughter says:

        No one here is saying (has ever said) biology trumps all. It’s nuanced in it’s complexity and context to the discussion.

        • gsmwc02 says:

          The importance of biology is taken to an extreme. No doubt it has importance. For some it’s greater than others. But there are other ways kinship is formed and that shouldn’t be dismissed because it’s felt that biology isn’t made to be important enough.

  4. whosedaughter says:

    Just needed to add in addendum to:
    “A couple of my halfsiblings want nothing to do with me (but several do, as well as their immediate bio/social family) THEY ALL ARE KIN, regardless (to me and my children, and their children to my children etc. – all because of my dna connection to my father and through my father – if that didn’t exist, there would be no connection)”

    The half siblings who chose to look beyond the political constraints of their social family organization and reached out and bonded with me and my children – allowing our children to bond with their cousins (aunt/uncles and as much as possible all that goes with it)….WAS dna based that brought us together BUT it was much more than dna and the simple constraints of what family is that caused this to happen. There was absolutely nothing easy and simple about what they/we did (obviously, and we all agree this is a messed up situation to find ourselves in) but we are ALL worthy of knowing, loving and being embraced as WHAT WE ARE…kin.

  5. oliviasview says:

    Sorry you think I am biased. I was simply extrapolating from an anthropological perspective on kinship and asking a lot of questions. Clearly kin for you is genealogically based but it is isn’t for everyone.

    • whosedaughter says:

      It’s both. One can’t really be extrapolated from the other. If you look up the definition of “kin” you’ll see it lists both blood relations as well as general sociological family.

  6. whosedaughter says:

    Yes, Olivia, you clearly are biased and admitting that would go a long way in support/openness/honesty about the DCN. Clearly some ppl just don’t care about biology and “the law” is fully on their side, but they can’t speak for everyone connected/affected by these choices who “the law” completely and totally ignores. The ‘biology doesn’t matter’ camp is fully supported. Everyone else the law just doesn’t care about (and there are many more affected by these single (selfish) choices – the ramifications are enormous as we are now learning but very rarely are they acknowledged). So for those who don’t care, congratulations enjoy the celebration. The rest of us will just have to eat cake and deal with the fallout.

    • gsmwc02 says:

      Karen,

      On the other hand there is a bias the other way against non biological families. Granted I get why you feel that way based upon where you’ve come from. But your story is your own that has to do with no one else’s story. And no one else’s story has to do with yours.

  7. This is a very interesting topic. I always thought kin meant family, whether provable by DNA (such as my half-siblings and our father or my cousins) or recognized by law (such as my dad — my non-biological social father — or my adoptive brother or my husband). I always heard it in respect to hospital admittance and wills and “next of kin.” The idea that kin are people “who participate in each other’s lives…belong to one another…are parts of one another…partake of each other’s sufferings and joys and feel the effects of each other’s acts” is pretty dramatically different. I’ve never considered my BFF my “kin,” despite her being one of the most important people in my life, but by this definition we are. My mother, on the other hand, would no longer be my kin by virtue of the fact that we aren’t involved in each other’s lives. I never stopped thinking of her as my mother, despite years of estrangement, but by this definition, it sounds like we wouldn’t be kin at all, despite my being her closest living relative. Seems a step too far to me. Food for thought, I guess. Thanks for your post, Olivia.

    • whosedaughter says:

      Right, by this definition of “kin”, it would seem that it means the people (any people) who you feel closest too. That can change often. So “kin” is fluid, and can mean any kind of (temporary) close personal relation at the moment.

      • oliviasview says:

        I don’t think so. For me it means people whose ups and downs in life would have an important emotional impact on one’s own life. You need to be pretty close to people for this to happen. Unlikely to occur with relationships that are of a temporary nature.

        • whosedaughter says:

          I guess that would mean no one can really know who their kin is until they prove themselves worthy. And that requires time, lots and lots of time. Kin can only truly be known at the end of ones life experience. There is some truth in that. But for me, the DNA connection plays a vital role in that bonding process for many/most people.

        • Liz says:

          “I guess that would mean no one can really know who their kin is until they prove themselves worthy.”

          I think you’re misunderstanding Sahlin’s thesis. That’s not his argument.

          People become kindred in different ways, in different societies.

          • whosedaughter says:

            Human nature isn’t that different. Kin is both social and biological – what that means is up the each individual.

          • Liz says:

            “Human nature isn’t that different. Kin is both social and biological – what that means is up the each individual.”

            Sahlins does not agree with you.

            You misunderstand his thesis if you think he is saying that kinship is dependent on biology.

            His argument is that kinship is entirely cultural. He turns the significance of birth on its head — which is why his argument is so interesting.

            If you don’t want to engage his argument — fine. Although, that is the topic of this post.

            • whosedaughter says:

              Ah, yeah, Liz I have been engaging this this argument and I find many flaws in it. This person, doesn’t speak for all.

              • Liz says:

                Yeah – it’s his argument, his book, his thesis, his evidence, and his well-crafted sentences. He’s a distinguished professor emeritus at U of Chicago.

                He is speaking for himself, as a scholar of anthropology.

                • whosedaughter says:

                  There are lots of “distinguished” professors out there who not everyone agrees with. His thesis is interesting and worth consideration but it’s not beyond questioning. Universities thrive with challenging thoughts…just because it fit’s one particular agenda doesn’t mean it’s untouchable. I addressed some thoughts on where I see flaws. But I’m not a “distinguished” professor and this is just a blog discussion that doesn’t change anything.

                  • gsmwc02 says:

                    I understand disagreement with a position but there seems to be an unnecessary defensive attitude that takes these positions out of context. Ones position does not mean another’s opinion isn’t valid.

  8. TAO says:

    Olivia, there is a huge family reunion happening with a showing of wonderful family trees and pictures of your ancestors that you didn’t know existed. You have the means to attend, the day of the reunion you have nothing planned for. No one in your circular family (those you keep in touch with/get together with regularly) has said they are going to this family reunion. Do you go? Why or why not?

    I would guess that the majority of people would say that genealogical kinship ties are important. Non-biological/genealogical kinship ties are also important, one of which allows our species as a whole to not be genetically flawed due to in-family mating. Denying either is a waste of time. We as a species are social creatures who seek company, a need to have a social circle that provides a level of protection by having others to make sure we survive, we also feel to different degrees, the need to procreate which both starts the cycle all over again, and also provides caregivers to us in old age. If biological kinship wasn’t important, there would be a dearth of services to increase fertility, so that people could reproduce and know that their biological line continues on at least one more generation. If biological kinship didn’t matter, no one would blink an eye over telling their non-biologically related children that they didn’t share dna.

    • gsmwc02 says:

      Somewhere there has to be a balance and a healthy respect for both types of connections if we all put our biases aside.

      • whosedaughter says:

        YES! Greg, exactly. 🙂 But (in my opinion) the preconception intention bias is really what is at the root of the problem.

        • gsmwc02 says:

          That bias goes both ways Karen. What leads to the preconception intention is ignored and dismissed.

        • whosedaughter says:

          “preconception intention bias is really what is at the root of the problem”…..A problem that most likely will never/can never be fully resolved. Education, or as bioethicist, Margaret Somerville would say, ‘following the ethical wallaby’ is so needed. Which is why these are such healthy discussions to have. There is tremendous value in sharing stories/thoughts….So, thank you for that Olivia.

          • gsmwc02 says:

            The problem with “ethics” discussions is it ignores the child focussed society we live in that pushes out those who lack children. Those without children are not valued in our society. If they were we would have a Non Parents Day the way we have Mothers and Fathers Day.

            • whosedaughter says:

              Oh brother, I’m going there. This can be taken in too many directions. Endless. All I’m saying is both social and biological should be respected.

              • gsmwc02 says:

                You were the one who brought up preconception intention Karen. Social and Biological is respected I just don’t think you are seeing it.

                • whosedaughter says:

                  Preconception intention = Respect the dna bond prior to conception to strengthen the beyond dna social kin harmony. Everyone work together in harmony.

                  • gsmwc02 says:

                    Push out the non DNA so it’s not a factor. I got you.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      ???

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      What are you talking about with the DNA bond being respected? Where it’s a co parenting type situation and the non genetic adult is cuckolded as the inferior parent?

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Again, NO ONE IS SAYING THIS.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      Then what are you saying?

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Didn’t we agree that BOTH social and bio should be respected?

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      What do you mean by respect? Do you mean that the donor should be physically in the child’s life as an active parent or is it just recognition of the biological component.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Well, that is going to be different for everyone. For me, my father is my father (as in dna) and I was lucky enough to have many other male “kin” in my life. It would have been much better however to have had my father included in that social definition of kin, working in harmony with all my other kin. There isn’t a one size fits all solution but working in harmony with all is the best way forward.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      So you would have wanted your biological father as having a real in person relationship with you?

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Absolutely. Yes.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      The fact that you refer to your biology as father but the man who raised you as one of the many male kin speaks volumes about your “love” for the man who raised you. Or should I say lack of love.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      It’s clear you view only biology being worthy of having the title parent. Social relationships and connections are not worthy.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Alright. That’s enough. You’ve overstepped the line yet again Greg. Again and again you project all kinds of evils at me whenever you respond. I’m taking the high road and (yet again) choosing not to engage with you further.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      Just be honest rather than be politically correct.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Don’t be politically correct, okay here goes, fuck you Greg. I fucking love my dad and my step father and my father (as in bio) yes, rejection and all. They are ALL awesome men. How DARE YOU say that I don’t love my dad and step dad because I chose to care about and love my bio-father and the people connected to my children and I through him. I don’t know why you chose disharmony when you’ve been given more than ample ability to find harmony with what we are discussing.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      Whether you recognize it or not your children are connected to those “awesome” men. It’s a shame they won’t be taught such and will only value those blood connections.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      I don’t know where you are getting this from. You don’t know me and I’ve said over and over that non-bio-family is important. My children and I had and have very close relationships with all kinds of non-bio family (kin).

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      I doubt this based upon these dialogues and a consistent defense of the biological family and ignoring the one that lacks it.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Again, that is your bias and that is what you chose to hear. This is not what I’ve been saying.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      And you ignore your own bias from your pain .

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Obviously I’m biased. I’m open and proud about that. AND I have quite a bit of cognitive dissonance about that as well. There is no shame in what I know and believe to be true because I don’t think in just black and white terms. I can identify with many perspectives.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      At least you admin your bias towards bio families

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      No my bias is towards harmony between both bio and non-bio. But yes, I am biased against preconception intent to remove that potential. Very much so.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      If harmony means down playing the non bio family and their position then that’s wrong.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      And just getting a name at 18 (16) of some random stranger with unknown numbers of offspring (half siblings) doesn’t begin to cut it.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      I know you need to completely push out the non bio inferior parent from the beginning

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      So silly that I even feel the need to say this….Harmony means upholding and respecting both. It doesn’t mean downplaying non-bio OR bio.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      You have me fooled

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Somewhere there has to be a balance and a healthy respect for both types of connections if we all put our biases aside.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      Agreed, but we can’t do that if the goal is to elevate one over the other

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Ergugh. Go back and read everything we’ve covered.

              • Liz says:

                “I am biased against preconception intent to remove that potential. Very much so.”

                But you chose to have children.

                That’s what I cannot understand with this argument. Unless the logic for you is loosing 50% DNA connection is a-ok, but %25 percent is not.

                I don’t understand this logic or this ethical belief system.

                Why have biological children? If you believe your choice to have children means you are continuing an alienated kin-ship line — and it is not ethical to intentionally alienate those who will be begotten to a genetically alienated kinship line — why is it ethical to continue the alienation to the next generation? Intentionally?

                I don’t get the logic or the ethical system. Yes, you did not choose the original alienation, but you are choosing to continue an alienated genetically-based kinship line.

                It doesn’t make logical sense to me. Is the argument that 50% alienation of a kinship line is ethically wrong, but 25% alienation of a kinship line is ethically good?

                Why didn’t your ethical system of logic lead you to adopt or remain childless, if alienation of genetic kinship lines is something you believe ought not occur?

                And do you believe adopted children, who cannot find their genetic ancestry, are ethically obligated to not procreate?

                They cannot transmit 50% of their genetic kinship line to their genetic child. Do you believe their choice to “intentionally” procreate is damaging to their child? Does this individual have an obligation to not procreate, so as to not continue a genetically-alienated kinship line?

                If not — why not?

                • whosedaughter says:

                  Simple answer is in your original question/statement: “you did not choose the original alienation”….it’s not about the alienation its all about the (preconception) intention. And after having children of my own, I found my father (I made that happen and it was not comfortable or easy) because it wasn’t until I had children that I found the strength and fully understood the wrong involved. All with good intentions – I fully forgive and understand. But I won’t stay quiet about the lesson learned.

                  • Liz says:

                    Do you believe it would have been more ethical if you had chosen not to bear genetic children?

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      I believe that those who had the choice to have children have no right to tell others who aren’t able to how to live their lives.

                  • Liz says:

                    oh , I see — you didn’t know you were donor conceived when you chose to have children. (or you changed your mind about the ethics after your children were born?)

                    Thank you for answering and I apologize for the personal questions.

                    I’ve wanted to ask this question for quite a while. I’ve been mystified by people who are donor conceived & are ethically against alienated kinship lines, but intentionally choose to have their own genetic children.

                    (If someone becomes pregnant by mistake — that is, without intention — this question obviously would not apply.)

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Liz, it’s simple, it’s deliberate inorganic intention that’s the problem. It’s not the organic disconnects that naturally extend from it.

                    • Liz says:

                      Do you see coitus as something that can be engaged in without intent?

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Oh sure. Rape. Beer goggle sex. Happens all the time.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      I would think that if intent is your concern then you would be all for addressing what is driving the intent. And telling those people to suck it up and deal with it is not addressing the issue.

                • Liz says:

                  Let me be very clear — I do not believe it is immoral for someone to procreate — via ART or via coitus — if they do not know their genetic ancestry.

                  I believe it is moral to procreate if one does not know their genetic background. I believe it is moral to procreate with donor gametes. I believe it is moral for the second generation to procreate. And I have never thought otherwise.

                  But I’ve long been very curious about the logic of this argument.

                  If intentionality of continuing an alienated kinship line is morally incorrect — why, in your view, is the intentional choice to continue the alienation to the next generation a moral choice?

                  Or do you condemn those who continue to produce alienated genetic kinship lines? And is there a point where it becomes moral again? 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th generation? At what point must the genetic line be known for reproduction to be moral?

                  And does it suffice for the line to be non-anonymous or does a relationship have to exist?

                  And does this relationship have to be healthy? Or could it be a toxic relationship?

                  Do we need, say, 3 generations of healthy, known relationships before the choice to reproduce is ethically acceptable?

                  • whosedaughter says:

                    Liz, it’s simple, it’s deliberate inorganic intention that’s the problem. It’s not the organic disconnects that naturally extend from it.

                    • Liz says:

                      Is part of this belief the idea that birth control is unethical? Because it presents intent into procreation?

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      No not at all, not in my opinion. Birth control is essential. But it does create it’s own unintended consequences. And the pill in particular can be toxic to many women and the environment. There are many birth control alternatives that are less harmful.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      Here we go with blaming women and the birth control they choose to take for their infertility.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Again, I don’t know where you get these assumptions you make about what I write. That’s completely off base.

                  • Liz says:

                    I don’t understand the logic of your ethical system.

                    A logical flaw exists, in that you see the intent of ART-driven genetic alienation as immoral, but you do not see intent-driven/ planned coitus (which perpetuates genetic alienation) as immoral.

                    I would understand your logic if you believed that all coitus should be engaged without intent to procreate. (ie – no birth control.) I would disagree with your ethical system, but I would see the logical coherence of the system.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      It’s the intentional creation of life with the intention to separate that new life from their biological kin to fit the desires of commissioning parties – and the institutionalized, commercialized industry that enables this. That is what I’m addressing and I think it’s a silly waste of time to argue that it’s justified because of all the many other problems/issues/ethcial issues involved with many other things.

    • Liz says:

      “If biological kinship wasn’t important, there would be a dearth of services to increase fertility, so that people could reproduce and know that their biological line continues on at least one more generation.”

      I don’t agree with the assertion that fertility treatments would dry up if women couldn’t give birth to embryos created by their own gametes. Women conceive with double-donor cycles and donated embryos. The demand for donated embryos is large and people are overjoyed with conception and birth.

      The following is what Sahlin argues. It’s from a review by Dwight Read of UCLA and was published in _American Anthropologist_, Vol 116, No.1, March 2014.

      “…birth is the vessel, as it were, for contents expressing how a child becomes situated in a field of social relations.The vessel—the biological process of reproduction—does not engender kinship, and if we strip it away, we are left with the contents, namely kinship…The distinction being made is similar to what Jane Goodale (1994) reports for the Tiwi in her book, Tiwi Wives. She writes that while the Tiwi recognize coitus as being necessary for the birth of a human, it is not sufficient (and not even important) for the birth of a Tiwi child; the latter cannot occur without the father’s dreaming, for it is only through the dreaming that the child’s social identity is determined. We can paraphrase this as saying that creating a member of Homo sapiens is a biological act with sociological prerequisites; creating “one of us” is a social act with biological prerequisites. The bio-logical process by which the former takes place is not the culturally constituted process by which the latter takes place,and it is this difference, rather than its biological underpinnings, that Sahlins says is critical for understanding what kinship is.”

  9. Liz says:

    Marshall Sahlins is not “biased” about donor conception. Unless we want to accuse cultural anthropologists of being “biased” towards culture as the critical mechanism that forms human social relationships.

    Sahlins is a well-known anthropologist who argues that that kinship is formed by cultural, not biological, relationships.

    He does not see biological connection as constituent of kinship. In fact, Sahlins asserts that all kinship is formed through cultural means.

  10. Liz says:

    “If biological kinship didn’t matter, no one would blink an eye over telling their non-biologically related children that they didn’t share dna.”

    My guess: Sahlins would discuss any difference in the “telling” as cultural or social.

  11. whosedaughter says:

    Responding further to Greg who wrote “You have to start with the cause first.”
    The cause is wanting. Everyone has a choice. You can chose to either fill that want in a way that doesn’t pass on (or reduces the loss) or in a way that passes on the loss or even increases the loss. Everyone has a choice. This is where spirituality comes in handy.

    • gsmwc02 says:

      If the desire is to parent and the ability to become a parent isn’t there? How do you fill that desire when you want to eliminate all other currently recognized forms of becoming a parent?

    • Liz says:

      Your spiritual beliefs are your spiritual beliefs.

      Other individuals are permitted to have different religious beliefs.

      Other cultures are permitted to have different spiritual beliefs.

      Anthropological research shows that people and societies are not only allowed, but possess, different ways of organizing and recognizing kin relationships.

      If societies were all organized according to one universal truth, the field of anthropology would not exist. No need to do any research or write any books.

      Anthropology as a field would not be able to exist, because all social relationships would be organized in identical ways in all cultures, in all places.

      • whosedaughter says:

        You are stating the obvious.

        • Liz says:

          This comment seems to contradicts your earlier statements.

          You do not seem to recognize that many people, societies, and cultures do not conform to your spiritual beliefs, or to your definition of kinship.

          You berate others for reading Sahlins, and discussing his thesis on a blog. You disagree with Sahlins — and that’s fine. But it’s not offensive for others to read a well-known anthropologist and discuss his theories.

          People who agree with Sahlins are not spiritually inferior to you.

          You can present your own thesis with your own evidence and analysis. There is no need to accuse others of bias, or spiritual poverty.

          • whosedaughter says:

            Everyone has bias and I never accused others of “spiritual poverty”. I certainly realize that no culture is the same, I was discussing this theory of what kin means.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        Religion is not the end all be all to solve problems yet those who are feel the need to push it on others to solve the world’s problems.

        • whosedaughter says:

          No one is pushing anything. And I didn’t say religion, I said spirituality, that can mean many different things including coping strategies and means of support.

          • gsmwc02 says:

            You can’t pretend something that doesn’t exist.

            • whosedaughter says:

              No idea what that meant.

              • gsmwc02 says:

                That the void can be filled by praying

                • whosedaughter says:

                  I didn’t say “praying” Greg. Spirituality was a wide open general term. Personally, I use the terms positive energies and karma as an alternative to “praying”. But that’s just me.

                  • gsmwc02 says:

                    So you pretend positive energy is there when it doesn’t exist?

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      OMG. Love Greg. Love is all we need. Right? Love makes as family and all that? I’m trying to be positive. I am at peace with Truth (the negative and positive/yin yang/balance). It is what it is. Love to you.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      Love doesn’t replace things that doesn’t exist. Love doesn’t replace the years you didn’t know the truth. Love doesn’t replace the empty bedrooms in my house or the friends who have moved on. But whatever helps you sleep at night.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      No, love doesn’t replace any of those things. You are right. But without loss we can’t really know what we have. All those years of not knowing the Truth, in contrast to my fuller life experience, allowed me to understand. You can’t have Yin without Yang and vice versa. I feel the most sorry for people who have had it easy for most of their lives. My own children, for example, have said to me that they want to experience loss to feel more alive. This was completely unsolicited. I fully understand what they mean…but I won’t intentionally create that for them, that will inevitably come with time (as it does for everyone eventually).. We gain empathy and understanding through pain. It’s all quite beautiful really, but it can only really be known and understood through experience and perspective. It’s a gift. Embrace it.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      Who knows maybe they’ll be infertile. That would be karma given your positions. It may not be viewed by you and others as a loss but they would fully understand the life they’ll miss out and not be a part of. But they could always just embrace it and live lonely and isolated.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Maybe they will and there is a very good possibility that that will happen…and I will say the same thing to them, it’s not about the loss it’s the way you chose to handle the loss. It can be learned from and embraced as a gift or it can (let it) destroy you. The choice isn’t mine.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      You’re right. They can embrace the lonely holidays, not having a legacy, losing friends cause they don’t relate to them anymore and feeling inadequate. They can embrace the depression that comes with it as well. All good stuff.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      That’s one way of looking at it. Here’s another way, “Having It All Without Having Children” http://time.com/241/having-it-all-without-having-children/ It’s all the way you look at things.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      There’s a big difference between making the choice to live without children and having that choice taken away from you because your body doesn’t function properly. The former is easy the latter can lead to depression and feelings of inadequacy. So please don’t insult my intelligence.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      It’s all the way you chose to handle it. No insult intended. Just truth.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      No, you’re missing the point that one is a choice and the other is a loss. They are not relevant. It’s dismissive. No different than you crying how Olivia dismisses the biological connection.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Newsflash, it wasn’t my choice to be intentionally disconnected from my father, half siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, ancestry, roots. It get it. I can chose to fall into deep depression, wallow in misery or learn from and grow from it. The difference, one was intentional and the other wasn’t. No one caused you to be infertile the loss is organic. However the choices that arise from intentional disconnects are inorganic and cause losses for many. Do I fall into a deep dark depression or do I rise above it and make lemonade out of lemons. I chose latter. I think I have more to complain about than you do but It’s a choice. We all have to deal with some crappy cards in life. How you chose to play it?

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      Way to dismiss my loss and make it like its no big deal. You have more to complain about? Waaaaaah cry me a river Karen. Be grateful you had a family when there are kids in this world that don’t. Just because the sperm donor wasn’t in your life it really isn’t the worst thing in the world.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      And BTW, my infertility is a loss for not just me and my wife. It’s a loss for my parents, my wife’s parents who will never become grandparents. It’s a loss for our brothers who won’t be Uncles. It’s a loss for all of our relatives. So don’t think this loss is just for me and my wife.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Back at you Greg. But it’s not the same. The intentionality of it all has had grotesque consequences via the industrialization/commodification process and the normalization (and celebration) of apathy towards all the injustices and imbalances and the messing with organics of human psychology/nature/dignity that are required to justify this monster of a practice. All as a cure for ‘the want’. It’s really obscene.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      Blame people with children and the child filled society that drive it. Which you are a part of and contribute to. Start supporting the childless more and valuing them rather than dismissing them.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      You’re right it’s not the same. You had dads in your life that raised you. There will be no children in my life that my wife and I would have had the privilege of raising.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      There is absolutely no one to blame for your situation Greg. Not society not culture not your mother, father….it just is what it is. How are you playing your cards? Your choice.

                    • gsmwc02 says:

                      I’m not blaming anyone for my infertility. But I do blame you and others driving our childfilled culture that outcasts the childless that drives the commodification of children. It’s time you and others started valuing the childless more rather than treating them like second class citizens.

                    • whosedaughter says:

                      Yea, um, this isn’t productive to continue. This post is past 100 comments and it’s difficult to follow anyway. Good night And love you Greg.

  12. whosedaughter says:

    Greg wrote: “What are you talking about with the DNA bond being respected? Where it’s a co parenting type situation and the non genetic adult is cuckolded as the inferior parent?”

    Again, NO ONE IS SAYING THIS.

  13. oliviasview says:

    I am delighted that my post have given everyone food for thought but PLEASE let us now end it there. No more posts on this thread.

Comments are closed.