Kinship Universals and Variation (KUV)

Brief Project Description | The Scope of Kinship | KNQ2 Interview Software | Learning to Use the KUV Approach | Communication and Conferences | Projects | Publications


Senior Researchers
Patrick Heady (Coordinator) | Günther Schlee | Alexander Pashos | Martine Guichard | Aksana Ismailbekova | Christoph Korb

PhD Students
Louise Bechtold | Verena La Mela | Zarina Mukanova | Barbara Pieta 

KNQ2 Programming Team at the Chinese Academy ofr Social Sciences, Bejing
Kong Jing (leader) | Zhao Fangfang | Ma Shuang | Zhou Jianguo

Brief Project Description

The new project on Kinship Universals and Variation (KUV) aims to build on this interest and experience in a distinctive way – namely by returning to Radcliffe-Brown’s vision of kinship studies as the centre-piece of a natural science of society. more

The Scope of Kinship - Concepts, Methods and Sources of Data

Authors: Patrick Heady with Martine Guichard and Alexander Pashos

Kinship provides individuals in all societies with a basic part of their identity - and typically does so at several levels.

  • Domestically, it provides people with homes, practical and emotional support and the corresponding obligations, and access to a short-range web of bilateral ties.
  • Politically and legally, it provides people with claims to citizenship and to ethnic and lineage identities – as well as clusters of rights and duties associated with property and inheritance.
  • In many societies it is ritually elaborated in the form of godparenthood, milk kinship, and so on.

For all these reasons it is central to the focus of the Department ‘Integration and Conflict’ on the themes of identity and cohesion.

The Kinship Universals and Variation project returns to Radcliffe-Brown’s vision of kinship studies as the centre-piece of a natural science of society. Consistently with this, our emphasis is on explicitly formulated, testable theory from wherever it may come (social anthropology, economics, sociobiology, history or cognitive theory).

But is this a realistic ambition? There are reasons for thinking that it might not be. You do not have to spend much time scanning through journals such as HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI), American Anthropologist or Current Anthropology to realise that experts disagree – sometimes implicitly and quietly, but often overtly and passionately – both about what kinship is, and about how it should be studied. The disagreements are of several kinds – and the differences which attract most attention are not necessarily the ones with the most significant implications for research. There are two which appear to raise fundamental difficulties. more


KNQ2 - Computerised Kinship Network Questionaire
One of our main approaches is to combine ethnography with formal network interviews – applying a version of Rivers’ genealogical method and collecting detailed information about mutual assistance and other interactions among family network members.
Our tool for conducting network interviews is the newly developed Kinship Network Questionnaire (KNQ2) – a software program for laptop computers. more

Learning to Use the KUV Approach

KUV - Learning to Use the KUV Approach
Once the first prototype version of KNQ2 was nearing completion – towards the middle of 2015 – it was time to recruit PhD students who would work with it in their research projects. In fact the software was not the only thing that needed to be ready: there was also the ‘liveware’ – ourselves. Naturally the priority was to provide the PhD students with training that they needed; but, in one respect or other, the combination of theories and methods that we have been trying to deploy has required all of us, including the older members of the team, to acquire new knowledge and skills. more

Conferences and Communications

The search for a more comprehensive theoretical framework was the underlying theme of two conferences on kinship topics held at our institute. In April 2015 Mikołaj Szołtysek and Patrick Heady organised a workshop more

Research Projects

Genealogical Relations and Kinship Practice in a Village in Kyrgyzstan
Louise Bechtold’s research describes and analyses the role of women in the Kyrgyz kinship system, which implies patrilocal residence and patrilineal descent. more
Kin Relationships, Trade and Social Change among Uighurs in Southeastern Kazakhstan
Verena La Mela’s research focuses on kin relationships, trade and social
change in southeastern Kazakhstan. more
Kinship and Social Identification in Southeastern Kazakhstan: the relevance of patrilineal descent in economic and social life
Zarina Mukanova is conducting research in a small village in southeastern Kazakhstan where more
Kinship Network in Late-Life Transitions
Barbara Pieta investigates how in Bassano del Grappa, an industrial town in Northeast Italy, the threshold between old-age self-sufficiency and nonself- sufficiency is negotiated at the individual, family and community level. She also examines what economic, demographic, social and cultural processes have provided frames within which the today’s negotiations take place. more
Cross-Cultural Research on Asymmetric Kin Invenstment
Alexander Pashos works on kinship from the perspective of the evolution of human
social behaviour. more
Between Disintegration and Integration: Fulbe refugees from the Central African Republic in Cameroon
This research project deals with Fulbe people who have fled violence from bandits and rebel groups in the Central African Republic and relocated to Cameroon from 2003 onwards. Martine Guichard is particularly interested in the strategies based on changes in social networks that these refugees use in order to maximize their success in gaining a livelihood in Cameroon. more
Kinship and Political Systems
Günther Schlee is investigating the interaction between political and kinship structures – and the deep history of their combined development. more
Spatial Concentration of Relatives by Macro-Region and Area Type
Over the last few years Patrick Heady has continued to work with issues arising from the KASS findings set out in Figure 1 and Table 1 above. The existence of differences between European regions is confirmed by many sociological and demographic studies, and extends to other areas of behaviour that border on kinship, including gender relations and fertility levels. more


A list of publications on kinship by the team members since KUV started in 2013. more
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