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Family and Kinship in the United States

Cultural Perspectives on Familial Belonging

Karolina Golimowska, Reinhard Isensee and David Rose

The volume takes a close look at the forms and functions of family and kinship in cultural narratives in the United States. It analyzes social and cultural contexts of kinship and family membership, relations of family and nation on a metaphorical level, and the political discourses that regulate sexuality and reproduction. Representations of family and kinship inform all aspects of American life, which is prominently noticeable in politics, legislation, art, and the media. Family discourses are employed to communicate and negotiate constellations of power and they can serve to investigate differences, struggles, alliances, strategic endeavors, and innovative conceptualizations of kinship. The essays collected in this volume provide readings of texts across various genres that highlight the role of cultural production in reconfiguring paradigms of family and kinship in the US.
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The Dignity of Dead Tissue: Education, Oppression, and Family in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go


Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go (2006; whenever quoted, abbreviated as NG) is a dystopian novel with a disturbing premise. In an alternative United Kingdom of the late 1990s, human clones are raised in secluded orphanages and boarding schools to be the “carers” of “donors” and eventually to be “donors” themselves. As the novel unfolds, the meaning of these terms gradually becomes clear: all clones are destined to be harvested for vital organs on behalf of the needs of the “normal” society which is sheltered from them. The novel’s narrator, Kathy H., is a clone who looks back on her thirty-one-year-long life shortly before she herself will become a donor. As she tells her story, she has spent more than eleven years as a carer. Having outlived most of the clones she grew up with, she is now content to follow her “siblings” into death (NG 4). The plot itself tells the retrospect story of how Kathy finds out what she is, and how the political climate of “normal society” makes her death inevitable.

Unlike other narratives with a similar setting – such as the 2005 film The Island, for example – Kathy’s reaction to her own identity as a clone and her function to be harvested for organs does not result in flight or violent resistance. Instead, Kathy makes peace with her life and death as it is. Critics have frequently highlighted this aspect as the most challenging dimension of the novel. The narrator’s acceptance of...

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