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Family and Kinship in the United States

Cultural Perspectives on Familial Belonging

Edited By 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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In recent years notions of family have come under intense scrutiny from a number of perspectives that are informed by various political, economic, social and cultural agendas both in academic discourse and public debates in Western societies in general and the United States in particular. One of the key reasons for this keen interest in the family derives from the specific functions that it has taken in the formation of the social constitution in Western societies.

At the backdrop of industrialization and the emergence of capitalist states in the 19th century, the family has been elevated to the status of a social institution that not only defines the structural grounding of society as a whole in terms of socio-political, economic and cultural as well as legal organization but that also was to represent a shared value system that serves as an ideological norm for individual orientation. Such a status that postulated both its social and individual significance helped to construct narratives of the family that emphasized its universalist nature and disguised its intricable links to hegemonic norms. Thus narratives of family have been frequently inscribed with specific interests of maintaining the status quo of respective societies disregarding the factual social and economic inequalities that families are embedded in.

In the United States this universalist and normative notion of family has been particularly influenced by constructions of the nuclear family in the media and popular culture in the 1950s that consists of married (heterosexual) parents...

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