Project

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Kinship, Reproduction, and Homosexuality: A Perspective on Jewish Israeli Society

Applicant Conte Édouard
Number 132350
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Sozialanthropologie Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Ethnology
Start/End 01.03.2011 - 28.02.2014
Approved amount 178'182.00
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Keywords (6)

Kinship; Social reproduction; Same-sex parenthood; Reproduction; Homosexuality; Jewish-Israeli society

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
The present research projects is embedded in anthropological debate; it seeks to establish whether reproductive technologies change the way kinship is perceived and constructed in society. This question is of special importance in the light of A. Weiner's argument that pre-existing kinship relationships give a newborn child its identity as a member of society (1978).The specific reproductive situation of same-sex couples in Jewish Israeli society offers a heuristic prism for studying the gendered dynamics of kinship and reproduction at the interface between religious precepts and political processes. These shall be analyzed by considering the application of reproductive rights of same-sex couples as well as the controversies surrounding them. Although same-sex couples have secured a wide range of family rights through court verdicts since the mid-90s, the situation of parents and children is not unproblematic. The hegemony of religious authorities over marriage and divorce remains untouched, and the status of same-sex families not fully recognized. We examine the scope of recognition, and ask to what extent it transforms the semantics and structure of kinship. What constraints do prevailing gender constructs create for lesbian and gay same-sex families? Furthermore, we ask how this process might modify the relationship between civil and rabbinical law. With this research, we aim to show that principles of kinship and underlying gender dynamics are instrumental for the formation, reproduction, and transmission of collective identities, even in (post)modern states. In order to situate same-sex couples with children within societal processes, the project examines conjointly: 1) Jewish concepts of kinship and reproduction; 2) the application of reproductive technologies and adoption by same-sex couples; 3) legal possibilities for same-sex couples' access to reproduction; and their political implications 4) the praxis of reproductive institutions such as adoption agencies and sperm-banks. Material will be collected through the study of written sources, and in-depth qualitative interviews complemented by the genealogical method as well as life and family histories.Through the combination of queer studies and anthropology of kinship, this project will contribute to a better understanding of how societies are (re)produced and contested, and how collective identities intermesh with political agendas concerning individual reproductive practice, fertility policy, and citizenship.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Conceiving Judaism: The Challenges of Same-Sex Parenthood
Lustenberger Sibylle (2013), Conceiving Judaism: The Challenges of Same-Sex Parenthood, in Israel Studies Review, 28(2), 140-156.
Questions of Belonging: Same-Sex Parenthood and Judaism in Transformation
Lustenberger Sibylle, Questions of Belonging: Same-Sex Parenthood and Judaism in Transformation, in Sexualities.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Ontologies of Procreation. Formations and Transformations Talk given at a conference Conflicting Ontologies ? Rabbinic Kinship Concepts and the Formation of Same-­‐Sex Parenthood in Israel 13.12.2013 Bern, Switzerland Lustenberger Sibylle;
Fertility and Family in Switzerland. Local Processes of Reproduction and Kinship in Transnational Contexts of Biomedical Technologies Talk given at a conference Tel Aviv-Mumbai-Tel Aviv: same-sex couples seeking parenthood in India 05.09.2013 Zürich, Switzerland Lustenberger Sibylle;
Seminar of the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern Individual talk Reproduction and Homosexuality: A perspective on Jewish Israeli society 30.05.2012 Bern, Switzerland Lustenberger Sibylle;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Thematische Kaffeepause SNF 18.12.2013 Bern, Switzerland


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Richtig eintauchen NZZ am Sonntag German-speaking Switzerland 2014
Media relations: print media, online media Wer darf Vater, wer Mutter sein? Horizonte Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2013

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
116415 The practice of Islamic Family Law in Palestine and Israel: Text and Context 01.11.2007 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

The development of reproductive technologies in recent decades has stimulated debate about family structures, the nature of motherhood and fatherhood, the connection between parents and children, and morals and law. Social scientists, policy makers, activists, and theologians are confronted with rapid technological developments and their implications for society. Anthropologists, in particular, ask whether these technologies change the way kinship is perceived and constructed in society. This question is of special importance in the light of A. Weiner’s argument that pre-existing kinship relationships give a newborn child its identity as a member of society. Kinship as a process enables the reproduction of collective identities and social relations.While the number of works dealing with the study of kinship and reproduction is growing, the situation of same-sex couples is often overlooked. The present project addresses this lacuna. The specific reproductive situation of same-sex couples in Jewish Israeli society offers a valuable case for studying the gendered dynamics of kinship and reproduction at the interface of religious precepts and political processes. We consider that their situation offers a heuristic prism for analysing broader notions of normative reproduction as well as underlying gender dynamics. These shall be analyzed by studying the application of reproductive rights of same-sex couples as well as the controversies surrounding them. Reproductive technologies are highly valued in Jewish Israeli society. Their development is legally unhindered and supported by both political and religious authorities. Furthermore, same-sex couples have secured a wide range of family rights through court verdicts since the mid-90s. This specific, liberal situation in Israel must be understood in light of the high value attributed to procreation and family in both Judaism and Zionism. Notwithstanding, the situation of same-sex parents and their children is not unproblematic. The constitutional hegemony of religious authorities over marriage and divorce remains untouched, and the status of same-sex family unions not jurally recognized. Court decisions guaranteeing family rights to same-sex couples are regularly the object of political controversies referring to the disputed position of Judaism and Jewish law in the State of Israel. They concern the interpretation and application of religious law, the position of Orthodox Judaism in Israel, and the perception of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.From this perspective, it is of essence to tackle the theoretical debate regarding the influence of reproductive technologies on key principles of kinship such as descent, alliance, and siblingship. Although Jewish-Israeli kinship thinking facilitates the access of same-sex couples to reproductive technologies, prevailing gender constructs create specific constraints for lesbian and gay same-sex families. These can only fully be understood by stressing the diachronic dimension of kinship and social reproduction. We aim to show that principles of kinship and underlying gender dynamics are fundamental for the formation, reproduction, and transmission of collective identities, even in (post)modern states. We ask to what extent the increased recognition of same-sex relationships couples with children is transforming the semantics and structure of kinship. And how might this process modify the relationship between civil and rabbinical law? The project aims to develop a better understanding of the interconnected yet conflicting contentions here at stake, as manifest in the tension between alternative families’ claims for civil rights and the role of religious authorities in matters of personal status.In order to situate same-sex couples with children within societal processes, the project must combine macro- and micro-perspectives. The research will examine conjointly 1) Jewish concepts of kinship and reproduction, 2) the application of reproductive technologies and adoption by same-sex couples, 3) legal possibilities determining same-sex couples’ access to reproduction, and their political implications, and 4) the praxis of reproductive institutions such as adoption agencies and sperm-banks. Data will be collected through the study of written sources, including archival materials, legal texts, and media reports as well as in-depth qualitative interviews complemented by genealogical enquiries as well as the elaboration of life and family histories.Through the combination of queer studies and the anthropology of kinship, this project will contribute to a better understanding of how societies are (re)produced and contested, and how collective identities intermesh with political agendas concerning individual reproductive practice, fertility policy, and citizenship. Its originality lies in the integrated analysis of the specific situation of gays and lesbians and societal processes.
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