Re: Modifying the Body

Robert Snower (rs222@WORLDNET.ATT.NET)
Wed, 17 Jul 1996 15:00:44 GMT

At 06:39 AM 7/17/96 +0000, Dwight W. Read wrote:
>Snower comments (in part):
>> For example, a tattoo does not in fact
>>establish kinship. Nor did the totem communal feast in fact establish
>>kinship. The tattoo establishes a symbolic or imaginary kinship, as does
>>eating the totem animal.
>This brings up the question: What is kinship? If it is a cultural construct
>(as I argue) then a tattoo may very well establish kinship, in the same way
>that marriage establishes kinship. That is, if tattooing is part and parcel
>of how such and such a group conceptualizes kinship, then tattooing
>establishes kinship. To whom is kinship "imaginary"?

Kinship in biology, and biological evolution, is defined as "similar genes."
Kinship in culture has its basis in out heads. That is why I called it
imaginary and magical. It has no biological efficacity to it. Marriage,
via biological reproduction, does indeed involve the genes, and their
transmission from one generation to the next.

The big question is, is cultural (imaginary) kinship transmitted only by a
conscious learning process, or is there some machinery we do not know about?
How is the fascination with tattoo transmitted from the pre-historic to the
Anerican prisoner, college girl, etc? I think it is more than learning.
But I refuse to make concessions to Lamarck.

All socialization is built on kinship. We are the only animal that has its
society built on an imaginary kinship, and we thereby transcend family and
band, or insect colony, to generate, first the totem based tribe, and
ultimately the modern nation. But there is very much a dark side to this
process: the ethnic connection as violent and threatening.

Best wishes. R. Snower