Anthony Wright on the Materialization of American Families

The Anthropological Inquiry working group will be having a meeting on Friday, April 8 from 3pm-5pm to discuss Anthony Wright's field statement on the Materialization of American Families. Nadia Gaber will serve as discussant, focusing in particular on the section entitled: "The Materialization of American Families: Race, Political Affiliation, and Bipolarism." Please RSVP to Julia Sizek ( or Max Waterman ( to receive a copy of the paper. 
This field statement is an attempt to develop an anthropological approach to the study of the family in the contemporary Americas, which necessitates attention to the violent consolidation of cartographic, demographic, and personal boundaries through discourses and practices of patriarchy, colonialism, nationalism, slavery, segregation, and mass incarceration. I begin by reviewing anthropological approaches to kinship and the family, starting with Malinowski’s functionalism and moving toward Strathern’s critique of constructivism. In an attempt to move beyond the limits of constructivism, I draw on Butler’s concepts of materialization and regulatory apparatus. In doing so, I hope to show how discourses of family and kinship function as regulatory apparatuses that compel the ascription and assumption of identity. Furthermore, I want to draw attention to various modes of essentialization and reduction that historically have been encoded into such apparatuses. Drawing on Bruno Latour and Cori Hayden, I suggest a principle of irreducibility be applied to the study of familial essentialization and reduction, which function as modes of materialization. I then attempt to perform this kind of analysis through an exploration of the materializing effects of familial reduction and essentialization in the United States. I conclude with a reflection on the possibility of an anthropology of the family that refuses all guarantees while nevertheless acknowledging the pervasiveness of the family as an idealized source of guarantee.   


Event details
Friday, April 8, 2016 - 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Faculty Lounge, 2nd Floor, Kroeber Hall