American Kinship is the first attempt to deal systematically with kinship as a system of symbols and meanings, and not simply as a network of functionally interrelated familial roles. Schneider argues that the study of a highly differentiated society such as our own may be more revealing of the nature of kinship than the study of anthropologically more familiar, but less differentiated societies. He goes to the heart of the ideology of relations among relatives in America by locating the underlying features of the definition of kinship—nature vs. law, substance vs. code. One of the most significant features of American Kinship, then, is the explicit development of a theory of culture on which the analysis is based, a theory that has since proved valuable in the analysis of other cultures. For this Phoenix edition, Schneider has written a substantial new chapter, responding to his critics and recounting the charges in his thought since the book was first published in 1968.
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David M. Schneider is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Chicago and at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
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