Complex interrelations with kin have been a subject of lore and literature since time immemorial.
National folklore, classical mythology, and literary works are full of enthralling stories of familial lineage. Kinship became a subject of intense anthropological research in 1870, when Lewis Henry Morgan, in his Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity, defined kinship as the "links between people established on the basis of descent, marriage, or adoption."
A century later the study of kinship was thoroughly revamped, having rendered some of Morgan's definitions obsolete. Nowadays kinship is considered a "disputed territory," studied in sociology, medicine, genetics, and even political economy (Goody, De Jorio). Additionally, according to Edward Wilson, the idea of kin selection plays a very important role in evolutionary biology, helping to explain problems ranging from sibling rivalry to the virulence in disease-causing microbes.
Modern studies of kinship do not limit it to humans, thus our exhibit invites you to look at kinship in the kindred kingdoms of nature, placing man in relation to flora and fauna. Sometimes these juxtapositions cross the boundaries between the kingdoms and show striking similarities among plants, animals, and people. In fiction, such relationships even result in the transformation of people into animals and plants, such as mythic Daphne turning into a laurel tree (her Greek name says as much), Arachne into a spider in Ovid's Metamorphoses or Gregor Samsa into a giant insect in Kafka's Metamorphosis.
We use this opportunity to show treasures from our collections, as well as to explore what makes us human.
About the Exhibit
This exhibit was curated in 2013 in conjunction with the Bond Life Sciences Center's annual Life Sciences and Society Program.