On Kinship

Vol 3 issue 2

Letter from the editors

8 April 2019

We are very pleased to welcome new and returning readers to this issue of Process, On Kinship. When our editorial board sent out the call for papers on this theme, we were excited by the prospect of seeing the ways that authors would engage with the idea of kinship. How might we understand kinship’s intersections with concepts of identity, family, community, and history? What connections would emerge across disparate submissions? How might considering kinship might be generative across academic disciplines and in our day-to-day lives? The submissions we received did not disappoint. The work featured in this issue reflects a diversity of approaches to concepts of kinship and the variety of ways it informs our thinking and actions. Ranging from ethnography to literary analysis to video interviews, these projects explore notions of kinship within various disciplines, cultures, and age groups. Although they differ in subject matter, field, and form, certain relationships emerge: the bonds between generations and the complex ways they are severed or sustained; the ties between kinship, identity, and place; the desire to understand one’s history.

Europa Shanahan’s “Kinship and Generational Differences: Navigating LGBT and Filipino-American Identities” responds to the sparseness of research into the experience of queer Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Combining individual interviews with an analysis of social media habits, Shanahan explores the relationships between parents and children, the power of religious and cultural backgrounds, and negotiating the complex decisions of coming out or staying silent. While the focus of Camille Crichlow’s “Black Motherhood In the Wake: Reading Christina Sharpe and Saidiya Hartman in Toni Morrison’s Beloved” is on the afterlives and continuing impacts of the Atlantic slave trade, Crichlow likewise centers the connections and silences across generations. Finally, Wing Yun Au turns her personal conflict over whether to adopt an English name into a larger exploration of the ways that East Asian students negotiate their connections to their families and cultures and the desire to fit in through choosing, or not choosing, new names.

The conversation that emerges from these three pieces suggests that understandings of kinship both overtly and invisibly shape our lives and imaginations. Shanahan, Crichlow, and Au, in different ways, all demonstrate that kinship is not a stable or universal concept, but one that is formed by particular histories and cultures, with profound consequences. They also provide compelling evidence for the need to continue conversations and research into the powerful role of kinship in scholarly discourse.   

We hope you enjoy the work featured in this issue, and that these pieces prompt further discussions, reflections, and research into the idea of kinship. We also invite readers to read the call for papers for our next issue, On the Future, and we look forward to seeing your submissions!


Emily George & Kathleen Reeves



Black Motherhood In the Wake: Reading Christina Sharpe and Saidiya Hartman in Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Camille Crichlow

No issue of “On Kinship” would be complete without an exploration of Toni Morrison’s seminal and prolific novel: Beloved. Morrison invites her readers to meditate on the psychic weight of the transatlantic slave trade and its lingering effects on black motherhood and kinship. Crichlow argues that Beloved anticipates the work of contemporary black feminist theorists Saidiya Hartman and Christina Sharpe and that their contributions to scholarly discussions of black motherhood are enriched through analysis of Morrison’s characters and themes. Focusing on black motherhood as an articulation of dispossession, haunting, and loss, Crichlow’s reading of the novel emphasizes the ever-present atmosphere of US state-sponsored violence as a threat against black mothers, black families, and black kinship.



Stories of why East Asians Change Their names

Wing Yun An

Many East Asian Students must make a major decision when they enter English-speaking education systems: do I keep my name? Wing Yun Au’s video project explores the reasons why East Asian students sometimes feel pressured to adopt “assimilated” names, on the one hand, and to maintain strong cultural ties by keeping their native names, on the other. Drawing from student interviews, the narrative follows Au’s deliberation over adopting an “assimilated” name while studying at the University of Washington. Her project interrogates the various ways that the act of self-naming for East Asian students creates or impedes institutional access, community building, and identity formation.



Kinship and Generational Differences: Navigating LGBT and Filipino-American Identities

Shanahan Europa

Europa’s work contributes to the field of sociological study by focusing on an often-underrepresented target population: LGBT communities of color, and more specifically, LGBT Filipino Americans. Europa argues that Filipino national identity, defined in part for its devout Catholicism and the Filipino sensibility of utang na loob (‘debt of gratitude’), emphasizes conservative values, family as community, and, by extension, hetero-centric standards for relationships. As such, many LGBT Filipino American youths may struggle to square their inherited cultural values with their sexual identities. Europa’s research, conducted at UCLA, weaves together one-on-one interviews, social media observations, and scholarly perspectives exploring how kinship and generational differences shape LGBT Filipino American expressions of identity within heteronormative Filipino-American family structures.