Northwestern University

Apr
16
Mon 4:30 PM

A Life in Debt to the Dead: Learning Kinship in a Setting of Pervasive Death

When: Monday, April 16, 2018
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM  

Where: University Hall, Hastrum 201, 1897 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: FREE

Contact: Janet Hundrieser   847.491.3525

Group: Science in Human Culture Program - Klopsteg Lecture Series

Category: Lectures & Meetings

Description:

How do children come to learn kinship in a setting of pervasive death? How do children come to inherit the dead within a web of kinship? What is it to be “in debt to the dead”, as seen through the eyes of the child? In this talk, I draw on ethnographic research in a low-income neighborhood under police occupation in Santiago, Chile. In particular, I focus on an extended case study of a young man who was killed by police during a drug raid in the neighborhood. At the time of his death, he and his girlfriend were expecting their first child, a daughter. This ethnography brings into soft focus the ways in which the extended kinship network and neighbors brought this child into a web of kinship and how the child is coming to learn who her father is and what a father is. Much anthropological literature has explored how the debts to the dead are given form through commemoration. This paper takes a different angle on the debt to the dead – not in terms of how the dead are remembered or forgotten in commemorative practices, but rather how the dead are intimately made alive to us in everyday life. Through exploring the ways in which the child was seen to inherit gestures and expressions from her father, the father’s visits to the child and her relatives in dreams, and the child’s efforts to touch and hear her father, this talk considers how the dead are woven into kinship and how kinship is marked by a complex interplay of death and life, absence and presence in this neighborhood.

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