By Eviatar Zerubavel

ISBN-10: 0199773955

ISBN-13: 9780199773954

Family tree has lengthy been one in every of humanity's maximum obsessions. yet with the increase of genetics, and lengthening media awareness to it via courses like Who Do you think that You Are? and Faces of America, we're now advised that genetic markers can definitively let us know who we're and the place we got here from.

The challenge, writes Eviatar Zerubavel, is that biology doesn't offer us with the total photo. finally, he asks, why can we ponder Barack Obama black even supposing his mom was once white? Why did the Nazis think that unions of Germans and Jews might produce Jews instead of Germans? during this provocative e-book, he bargains a clean knowing of relatedness, displaying that its social common sense occasionally overrides the organic fact it supposedly displays. in truth, instead of simply organic proof, social traditions of remembering and classifying form the way in which we hint our ancestors, establish our kin, and delineate households, ethnic teams, countries, and species. in addition, genealogies are greater than mere files of heritage. Drawing on quite a lot of facts, Zerubavel introduces such thoughts as braiding, clipping, pasting, lumping, splitting, stretching, and pruning to make clear how we manage genealogies to house own and collective agendas of inclusion and exclusion. instead of easily discover who our ancestors have been and establish our kinfolk, we really build the genealogical narratives that cause them to our ancestors and relatives.

An eye-opening re-evaluation of our very suggestion of relatedness, Ancestors and Relatives bargains a brand new manner of knowing relations, ethnicity, nationhood, race, and humanity.

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Extra resources for Ancestors and Relatives: Genealogy, Identity, and Community

Example text

As [a] collection of dead people with no solid connection to me. . It was interesting enough to read about what “the Cro-Magnons” got up to all those years ago—but nothing much to do with me. 22 Such essentially genealogical experience of history presupposes our use of generations as standard units of measuring time. Thus, for example, we usually measure historical distances between members of a given lineage in terms of the number of “degrees of historical separation” (that is, generations) separating them from each other.

The unmistakably hierarchical organization of those identities, of course, reflects the fact that the genealogical split between Bengt Larsson’s and Gunnar Johansson’s ancestors occurred only after the one between Swedes’ and Syrians’ ancestors, which occurred only after the one between humans’ and horses’ ancestors, which occurred only after the one between mammals’ and insects’ ancestors. Yet it also implies that, like the identities they entail, genealogical communities vary in their degree of inclusiveness.

And I spent time with her, so that was a real link to the past. I mean, she was just a stone’s throw-away from slavery. Just this close—you know? ” But it wasn’t that far back. 27 By the same token, it is quite possible that my own great-grandmother, who was born in Russia in 1876 and with whom I talked many times, may have heard from her great-grandmother a firsthand account of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, thereby literally situating me historically just “two conversations away” from a contemporary of 22 ANCESTRY AND DESCENT Napoleon (as well as of Beethoven and John Adams, who were both still alive then).

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Ancestors and Relatives: Genealogy, Identity, and Community by Eviatar Zerubavel


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