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Toward an Anthropology of Ingratitude: Notes from Andean Kinship

  • Jessaca B. Leinaweaver (a1)

In this article I examine gratitude and ingratitude as valuable analytical tools for determining how social inequalities inform kinship practices. Accusing one's kin of ingratitude reveals the edges and fault lines of kinship, as well as closely related expectations about what should be given, how it should be given, and how it should be received. As such, this essay follows in an esteemed anthropological tradition of unifying analyses of the gift and of kinship. It argues that expressions of and talk about gratitude and ingratitude closely index dimensions of social relations such as gender, generation, and social class, and simultaneously reveal tensions within kinship relations where duty and obligation are contested. Ethnographic examples are drawn from fieldwork in Ayacucho, a small city in the Peruvian Andes, where informal fostering and the fraught relations between grown children and their aging parents provide two related arenas for expressions of ideas about gratitude and ingratitude. Analyzing these two examples, I argue for gratitude and ingratitude as analytical heuristics, useful to identify and focus upon dimensions of relations understood to fall within the domain of kinship, and potentially useful in other settings as well.

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