Since DNA has replaced blood as the medium through which we establish kinship, how do we determine with whom we are kin? Who counts among those we care for? The distinction between these categories is constantly in flux. How do we come to decide those we may kiss and those we may kill? Focusing on narratives of kinship as they are defined in contemporary film, literature, and news media, Frances Bartkowski discusses the impact of "stories of origin" on our regard for nonhuman species. She locates the role of "totems and taboos" in forming and re-forming kinship categories-groupings that enable us to tie the personal to the social-and explores the bestiary, among the oldest of literary forms. The bestiary is the realm in which we allegorize the place of humans and other species, a menagerie encompassing animals we know as well as human-animal chimeras and other beings that challenge the "natural" order of the world. Yet advances in reproductive technologies, the mapping of genomes, and the study of primates continually destabilize these categories and recast the dynamic between the natural and the cultural.
Bartkowski highlights the arbitrariness of traditional kinship arrangements and asks us to rethink our notions of empathy and ethics. She shows how current dialogues concerning ethics and desire determine contemporary attitudes toward issues of care, and suggests a new framework for negotiating connection and conflict.
Frances Bartkowski is associate professor of English and women's studies at Rutgers University. She is the author of Feminist Utopias and Travelers and Immigrants, Inmates: Essays in Estrangement, and the coeditor of Feminist Theory: A Reader.
AcknowledgmentsPrologue: Remember the 2000-Year-Old Man?Part I 1. Kissing Cousins2. Forget the Alamo...3. The Newly Born Century4. Sisters of the BonePart II 5. Apes 'r Us6. When Apes Rule7. Again, by a Declaration of Rights8. From Cage to Caves9. Trees of Origin10. Bonobos in Our MidstPart III 11. Kintimacy: Blood Brothers12. Of Pigs and Men13. Mendel's Nephew14. Of Love and LawEpilogue: Here Come the CavemenWorks CitedWorks ConsultedIndex
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