Kinship and Neighbourhood: Two Rival and Mutually Enhancing Categories of Social Organisation in Lithuania

Auksuolė Čepaitienė (Lithuanian Institute of History)

Kinship and neighbourhood are two distinct categories of social organisation referring to different ways and principles of relating, and different social arrangements. This is often reflected in the specific contrast between rural and urban, in distinctions between community and society, tradition and modernity, and, even, between the disciplinary approaches of anthropology and sociology. However ethnographies and contemporary intellectual insights show that human worlds are complex. People and individuals are linked and connected in multiple ways that intersect and coincide. They stay inside and outside of groupings with boundaries that are not so rigid and fixed, and reproduce the social worlds moving across and beyond group formations.

In my paper I will discuss the ways in which Lithuanian people imagine and practice the relationships of kinship and neighbourhood, the ways in which they negotiate their meanings, and shape their contexts, prioritise one relationship instead of the other, and transfer one relationship into another. I will show that according to folk understanding kinship and neighbourhood are seen as two different and rival categories with different meanings and practises. But  the structural patterns of social life, and systems of kinship and inheritance under which kinship becomes part of neighbourhood and otherwise, turn them into interchangeable, overlapping and mutually enhancing taxonomic ideas that are embodied in daily matters, close proximity and distance, or in the great mystery of ‘blood relation’. In Lithuanian kinship and neighbourhood are important principles of social organization that bring people together.

The paper deals with contemporary and traditional rural contexts of Lithuania. It is based on my ethnographic research done in Lithuania since 1998 on the theme of kinship and social and cultural interaction as well as on previous ethnographic materials from the Archive of Department of Ethnology, Lithuanian Institute of History.

Keyword: Cepaitiene

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