Ancestors and Relatives: Genealogy, Identity, and Community by Eviatar Zerubavel

By Eviatar Zerubavel

Family tree has lengthy been one among humanity's maximum obsessions. yet with the increase of genetics, and extending media awareness to it via courses like Who Do you think that You Are? and Faces of America, we're now instructed that genetic markers can definitively let us know who we're and the place we got here from.

The challenge, writes Eviatar Zerubavel, is that biology doesn't offer us with the complete photograph. in any case, he asks, why can we contemplate Barack Obama black although his mom used to be white? Why did the Nazis think that unions of Germans and Jews might produce Jews instead of Germans? during this provocative publication, he deals a clean realizing of relatedness, displaying that its social common sense occasionally overrides the organic fact it supposedly displays. actually, instead of simply organic evidence, social traditions of remembering and classifying form the way in which we hint our ancestors, determine our relations, and delineate households, ethnic teams, countries, and species. additionally, genealogies are greater than mere documents of heritage. Drawing on a variety of proof, Zerubavel introduces such innovations as braiding, clipping, pasting, lumping, splitting, stretching, and pruning to make clear how we manage genealogies to house own and collective agendas of inclusion and exclusion. instead of easily discover who our ancestors have been and establish our family members, we really build the genealogical narratives that cause them to our ancestors and relatives.

An eye-opening re-assessment of our very thought of relatedness, Ancestors and Relatives deals a brand new method of knowing family members, ethnicity, nationhood, race, and humanity.

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9 The perceived unity of the lineage also explains the tremendous pressure often experienced by its members to preserve the memory of their ancestors as well as to produce future descendants, on the 19 A N C E S T O R S A N D R E L AT I V E S combined existence of which this entire “continuum of descent” ultimately depends. After all, every single one of one’s ancestors was effectively indispensable to one’s own existence, since one would not have even been born without each and every one of them: The absence of any one of the millions of ancestors a man has had would have broken the completeness of the succession and rendered his individual existence impossible.

In short, the individual alive now is the manifestation of his whole Continuum of Descent. His existence as an individual is . . 9 The perceived unity of the lineage also explains the tremendous pressure often experienced by its members to preserve the memory of their ancestors as well as to produce future descendants, on the 19 A N C E S T O R S A N D R E L AT I V E S combined existence of which this entire “continuum of descent” ultimately depends. After all, every single one of one’s ancestors was effectively indispensable to one’s own existence, since one would not have even been born without each and every one of them: The absence of any one of the millions of ancestors a man has had would have broken the completeness of the succession and rendered his individual existence impossible.

What replaced it was an ethnological time that extended human 28 ANCESTRY AND DESCENT history indefinitely backward, for tens or hundreds of thousands of years, or more. 64 But before we could do that, another major intellectual paradigm shift had to occur first, namely the realization that we are actually genealogically connected not only to thousands of generations of earlier human beings, but also to millions of generations of even earlier nonhuman organisms! Although scholars had long accepted the philosophical principles of plenitude, continuity, and linear gradation implied in the neoPlatonist concept of “the Great Chain of Being,”65 only two centuries ago did they first envision our connectedness to nonhuman organisms in the form of an actual historical66 (and therefore also genealogical) sequence.

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