Kin selection and culture
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Publication Type journal article
Creator Hawkes, Kristen
Title Kin selection and culture
Date 1983-01-01
Description This paper argues that while the discriminations organizing human action are cultural, and kinship in anthropology is not equivalent to genetic relatedness, the theory of kin selection developed in evolutionary biology can tell us a great deal about human social organization. Data on garden assistance, social kinship, and genetic connection among adults in Binumarien, a small Highland New Guinea community, are presented, exemplifying the pattern of the "whole of the ethnographic record" in which "the actual system of kinship and concepts of heredity in human societies, though they never conform to biological coefficients of relationship, are true models of and for social action" (Sahlins 1976a:25). But this does not make kin selection inapplicable to culture. I begin with a brief description of kin selection, then consider some objections to sociobiological perspectives on culture and discuss the application of kin selection theory. Introducing the ethnographic case, I show that it exemplifies the mismatch between "social" and "biological" kinship and the correspondence of habitual assistance with the former. It also supports the prediction about patterns of aid based on kin selection theory. The crucial matter of explaining the distinctive features of this particular case, using sociobiology to account for cultural differences, is then briefly considered. Finally, I report and discuss interactions among local groups in the Binumarien neighborhood. The conclusion indicated by this exploration is that the theory of kin selection explains the connection between social kinship and solidarity and holds promise to account for the variation in the organization of those things over time and from one culture to another.
Type InteractiveResource
Publisher American Anthropological Association
Journal Title American Ethnologist
Volume 10
Issue 2
First Page 345
Last Page 363
Language eng
Bibliographic Citation Hawkes, K. (1983). Kin selection and culture. American Ethnologist, 10(2), 345-63.
Rights Management (c)American Anthropological Association ; Authors manuscript from Hawkes, K. (1983). Kin selection and culture. American Ethnologist, 10(2), 345-63. URL:
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