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Friendship, Anthropology of

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Friendship has frequently been juxtaposed to the relationships that constitute the ‘structuring structures’ of social life, be they the kin and descent relations of small-scale societies or the institutionalized forms of modernity. But interest in friendship and related concepts (mutuality, trust, intimacy, love) has increased dramatically in recent decades. The processes of globalization and postclassical trends in social theory are equally implicated in the increasing relevance of friendship to both ethnographic inquiry and theoretical concerns. Nevertheless, for anthropologists, friendship and kinship remain connected in ethnographically, theoretically, and conceptually unsettling ways.
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From Beer, B., Gardner, D., 2015. Friendship, Anthropology of. In: James D. Wright
(editor-in-chief), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences,
2nd edition, Vol 9. Oxford: Elsevier. pp. 425–431.
ISBN: 9780080970868
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.
Author's personal copy
Friendship, Anthropology of
Bettina Beer, Universität Luzern, Switzerland
Don Gardner, Universität Luzern, Switzerland; and CASS, Australian National University, ACT, Australia
Ó2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Friendship has frequently been juxtaposed to the relationships that constitute the structuring structuresof social life, be they
the kin and descent relations of small-scale societies or the institutionalized forms of modernity. But interest in friendship
and related concepts (mutuality, trust, intimacy, love) has increased dramatically in recent decades. The processes of glob-
alization and postclassical trends in social theory are equally implicated in the increasing relevance of friendship to both
ethnographic inquiry and theoretical concerns. Nevertheless, for anthropologists, friendship and kinship remain connected
in ethnographically, theoretically, and conceptually unsettling ways.
It seems obvious that the signicance of friendship to general
social life varies across time and space. However, the classi-
cation of the empirical characteristics of friendship has not
been simple, even for scholars of Western society (Pahl, 2000);
anthropologists, who consider friendship in a comparative
perspective in which empirical and conceptual issues
intersect, also note the refractory nature of the topic (Paine,
1974;Firth, 1999;Coleman, 2010).
The anthropology of any topic must avoid the twin dangers
of a specicity that inhibits generalization or comparison and
an analytically useless generality, but there are additional factors
that make the anthropology of friendship an exacting area of
inquiry. First, the philosophical roots of the social sciences
include inuential treatises on friendship by (among others)
Aristotle, whose writings on the topic continue to inform many
discussions, notwithstanding the conict between his orienta-
tion and the dominant traditions in social theory, which have
found the constitutive role of biographical particularity in
friendship hard to integrate. More conspicuously, the very
concept of friendship implicates one or more ethically rich,
affect-laden notions (such as love, intimacy, trust, loyalty,
sincerity, and equality) as do certain more experience-distant
counterparts of those notions (social capital,’‘ontological
security,for example). Moreover, anthropologists interested in
friendship have worried that the very identication of a friend-
ship involves the observer in the inner motivational states of
social agents. So, while friends may be crucial to the agents lived
experience, scholars of social structure appear to have reason
to ignore friendship, despite its empirical entanglement with
signicant politico-economic phenomena (exchange and alli-
ance). Accordingly, complex issues can arise in ethnographic
investigations of friendship no less than in cross-cultural
comparisons or consideration of its relations to cognate
phenomena (kinship, bond friendship, blood brotherhood,
compadrazgo, and other patronclient relations).
Additionally, friendship has remained a shadowy region
of the theoretical landscape because of the light shed by
anthropologists on kinship and familial relations the
classical structuring structuresof so many ways of life. More
recently, however, the conceptualization of friendship has been
complicated by three interconnected factors: rst, the globaliza-
tion of cultural elements of Western modernity, in association
with the consolidation of capitalisms global economic power,
has produced complex hybrid localities whose ethnographic
descriptions are difcult and theoretically contested; second,
these same currents have increased the tendency of Western
subjects to understand themselves as post-traditional, self-fash-
ioning beings, sensitized to the work of gender, class, and racial
stereotypes; third, the last 40 years have seen the confrontation/
complication of structural approaches through an emphasis on
agency and its specicities with respect to power, gender, and
historical process (including factors that are contingent with
respect to all preexisting local characteristics).
These trends do not, however, imply that there are great
discontinuities in scholarly approaches to friendship. It must
still be dened by contrast with other relations in a multidi-
mensional space that sets up the possibilities for the various
dyadic and polyadic links between ego and others, including
those that form the developmental context of persons. The axes
that best dene the personal and institutional possibilities of
that space are, in truth, essentially contested aspects of social
theory; but key features of friendship (its private nature,
voluntarismand individualism) mean that it has in large part
been constituted by its juxtaposition with, on the one hand, the
affective but obligatoryrelations of the kin domain, and, on
the other, those impersonal relations that constitute the
broader institutional order of modernity.
A remark concerning the scope of this contribution: recent
work in the broad area of the anthropology of friendship has
come from two quite different directions: evolutionary theory,
most conspicuously in Hruschkas (2010) large-scale compar-
ative investigation of friendship (augmented by test data
and a broad sampling of ethnographic literature); and from
a sociocultural anthropology enlivened, to various degrees, by
the advent of new kinship studiesand the anthropology of
personhood, as well as by the challenge of dealing analytically
with the entanglement of local sociocultural settings and
global ows. While these two strands of scholarship are
inspired by very different commitments, there is much about
friendship upon which they agree: the ubiquity and variability
of friendship; its signicance in organizing important
socioeconomic relationships within and between culturally
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dened networks; the role of positive affect in paradigm cases
of friendship, even those that are organized with respect to
explicit norms or are referable to instrumental values; the
centrality to paradigm friendships of generalized reciprocity
(sharing or mutuality) rather than balanced reciprocity. These
two streams also converge because conceptual issues concern-
ing altruism, egoism, and what is involved in several different
senses in a persons doing something for the sake of another,
arise in evolutionary and social theory alike. This entry must
nevertheless concern itself with the recongured interest in
friendship in sociocultural anthropology.
Finally, we can only mention in passing the extensive
literature on friendship in sociology, psychology, and gender
studies. It must sufce for us to stress that the conguration of
empirical, theoretical, and conceptual issues that characterizes
anthropological discussions of friendship are quite general
(Adams and Allan, 1998;Pahl, 2002).
The word friendshipneeds some preliminary attention: it can
refer either to the relationship between persons (Their
friendship is of long standing), or to the inclinations, dispo-
sitions, and actions of a single person (She assured him of her
friendship), in which case it is roughly synonymous with
friendliness; of course, these are intimately connected, but we
focus on the relationship between friends, for friendly senti-
ments can be unreciprocated, while a friendship necessarily
involves mutuality.
Although anthropologists can rarely ignore issues of trans-
lation, their usual concerns about lexical and conceptual
equivalents across languages are, in the case of friendship,
compounded by the continuing inuence of classical sources
most notably, Aristotle, in whose treatises on ethics much of
the academic discussion on the subject still nds its source. The
Greek term (philia) usually translated as friendshipapproxi-
mates the English notion of (nonerotic) love and encompasses
family members. Indeed, the term frienditself derives from an
old Germanic verb meaning to love,and the nouns cognates
in certain northern European languages continue to designate
kin rather than friends. Yet the semantics of contemporary
English, at least, offer no impediment to a description of, say,
a sibling as a mortal enemy; similarly, ones jailer or bank
manager may be counted a friend. In many small-scale settings,
by contrast, social life is such that egos total social eld and
egos kindred are isomorphic, so that those an English speaker
would count as egosfriendsnecessarily represent a subset of
his or her relatives.
The general point here is not just that attention to linguistic
or conceptual detail is advisable, but also that difference and
change with respect to congurations of friendship involve
ethical, linguistic, and social norms and the relationships
between them. For example, a principal issue in the analysis of
friendship (and its cognates) has always been the extent to
which relations that involve very different congurations of
affect, degrees of utilitarianmotivation or choiceand power
differentials, or which subsist in highly contrasting social
formations, can be brought under a single, analytically signif-
icant category. The conceptual issues here seem tailor-made for
a scholar like Derrida (1997), with his nose for undecidability
and aporetic structures; as he evidently appreciates, these
issues are connected to taxing issues in other areas of
anthropology (like the gift).
These issues notwithstanding, we follow Aristotles line in
taking paradigmatic friends to be those who enjoy one
anothers goodwill, trust, and affection; they share these things
and crucially each not only knows this of the relationship,
but also knows that the other knows it; this suite of inter-
connected characteristics means that friends can count on or
trust one another, which thereby becomes relevant to their
actions and strategies. Friendship, then, is sensitive to time and
the interpersonal experiences of those involved, which helps to
explain the organic images and metaphors often used to
characterize it.
Friendship and Anthropology
Many discussions of this topic begin by pointing out that
friendship has not loomed large within anthropology. In
a discipline that grew to maturity through its engagement with
the different ways in which kin relations permeated, organized,
or regulated social structures, friendship has been easy to
overlook, even if its universal presence and general signicance
has been acknowledged (Leyton, 1974;Firth, 1999). More
recently, anthropologists (and sociologists) have grown more
interested in the specicities of friendship; but by the time its
claims to attention became less residual, the emphasis on
personhood and its cultural construction that had come to
dominate post-Schneiderian kinship theory ensured that
friendship once again had to accommodate itself to an envi-
ronment already occupied. Accordingly, Colemans view that
classical anthropological studies of friendship are few and far
between(Coleman, 2010: p. 197) is apt.
Yet, a picture of general neglect is a distortion: certain
topics and the organization of certain classical small-scale
societies necessitated a consideration of interpersonal rela-
tions forged, and often formally recognized, between friendly
individuals unrelated by primary identities (for example,
Evans-Pritchard, 1933;Firth, 1936). Moreover, students of
peasant communities, proletarian urban networks, and other
politically encompassed social settings made sure that
friendship and other informal, private social relationships
were given analytic space (for example, Whyte, 1943;Mintz
and Wolf, 1950;Hart, 1973). In addition, for much of their
history, anthropology and sociology shared sources of
inspiration, research agendas, and range of theoretical
orientations. Accordingly, a background awareness that the
signicance of friendship in social networks was an
empirical cultural variable was common among anthro-
pologists too; indeed, it was sometimes stressed by those
interested in developing transactionalist alternatives to
structuralism, or in rening functionalism (Eisenstadt, 1956;
Paine, 1969;Boissevain, 1974).
When friendship was considered in a comparative
perspective, it was usually in an institutionalized, often ritual-
ized, form, or as it shaded into patronclient and comparable
inegalitarian relations. This is not very surprising, given
the predominant twentieth century views on interpersonal
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relations and social order. General theoretical commitments,
which stressed the externality and coercive power of social facts,
could hardly avoid marginalizing informal, personal relation-
ships. So, while friendship was never ignored, it was often
considered to constitute a residual category, comprising
phenomena seen as peripheral or interstitial, especially with
respect to kinship and descent and other institutional orders.
Friendship, it seemed, challenged even the most muscular of
social theories: neither the invocation of rules or custom nor
the elucidation of useful effects sufced to account for actual
behavior between friends (Paine, 1969, 1974;Pitt-Rivers,
1968). On the other hand, many scholars underlined the
always alreadycultural nature of human agents, and stressed
the social homophily of friendship (with respect to class,
gender, age, and other aspects of identity).
Studies of friendship were no less affected by interests in
agency and by feminist theory and critique than other aspects
of the social sciences. Students of friendship, in fact, may
have been especially susceptible to feminist critique, for
gendered stereotypes about the capacity for making friends,
commitment to domestic spaces and to familial values were an
important part of many cultures, including that of most social
scientists. In anthropology, this predicament was compounded
by the prevalence of the Mediterranean and Latin America in
the ethnography of friendship, regions where gender stereo-
types are conspicuously relevant to relationship patterns
(Uhl, 1991).
Volumes dedicated to friendship that have been published
recently (Bell and Coleman, 1999;Schmitt et al., 2007;Desai
and Killick, 2010), and several theoretically motivated articles
(e.g., Killick, 2009;Fausto, 2012) seek to bring friendship
closer to the center stage of anthropology. They take account
of the scope of global cultural ows as well as the trans-
formation of social theory, and show how, once questions
about the effects of globalization on local patterns of sociality
became an explicit research topic, the question of friendship
became salient. Interestingly, in such settings, both kinship
and friendship contrast with the impersonal relations that
constitute state and international institutions: although they
are personal, relatively private aspects of social life, they are
nevertheless crucial to the networks that dene local political
economies (including those that are part of diasporic
networks). If kinship and friendship are similar in these
respects, the constructionist and performativeorientations
inspiring the new kinship studies,also weakens the contrast
between them. However, this has been subject to considerable
discussion and controversy.
Friendship also evokes those Maussian lessons on the role of
exchange in forging links between individuals and groups that
were central to twentieth-century anthropologys understanding
of social relations. Sahlinsoft-repeated chiasmus generalizes the
point: If friends make gifts, gifts make friends.These Maussian
insights have been challenged by more recent anthropological
models of relatedness as radically generalized: if relationships
are performed in accord with local constructions of
personhood, practices predicated of interactions between folks
related as kin and those related as friends become less
important. This trend nds clear expression in a recent
exposition from Sahlins, which endorses Aristotle on the friend
as another self,but as part of a wide-ranging case for seeing
kin as persons who are members of one another, who
participate intrinsically in each others existence(Sahlins,
2011a: p. 2). This is not so remarkable, since Aristotle saw
relations between close kin as paradigms of the love (philia)
that characterized true friendship. Yet Sahlinsconation, while
consistent with currently dominant views on relatedness in
the anthropology of kinship, does raise concerns about the
advisability of eliding distinctions between kinds of
relatedness, and not only because such distinction are often
crucial to those we study; after all, these differences are, prima
facie, of existential no less than sociological importance. Recent
objections by specialists to the annexation of friendship to an
expanded notion of relatedness(discussed below) raise the
problem explicitly, but these relate to matters that have been
crucial to the theoretical characterization of relationships since
the advent of the social sciences.
Friendship, Kinship, and Difference in Cultures
of Relatedness
At least since the rst book-length study of friendship in
modern anthropology(Leyton, 1974), scholars have spoken
of the need to maintain an open, exploratoryorientation to
the topic. This need arose because of the crosscutting
articulation of psychologicaland social situationallevels on
which friendship operated. In Paines terms ([1970]1974:
p. 1), the stark juxtaposition friendship made apparent
between the moral utilitarian and the social functional
approaches to social relations tended to raise doubts about
how comprehensive the latter could be as social theory.
Paines use of categories that evoke Talcott Parsonstheoretical
edice (in particular, its pattern variables) is typical of the
theoretical currents of the times; Paine (1974: p. 12) deemed
functionalist theory appropriate to particularistic, solidary
groups classically studied by anthropologists, but wondered
whether, in contemporary society, the prevalence of
universalisticrelations and values meant that Simmel and
Goffman would be better sources of understanding. The basic
issue here is the difference between friendship and kinship as
the latter was depicted in the structural-functionalist readings
of traditional societies,especially those to which descent
theory had been applied so extensively and apparently fruitfully.
Space precludes a comprehensive genealogy of anthropo-
logical conceptions of kinship as these are relevant to friend-
ship, but it would entail a consideration of, on the one hand,
the characterization of those socio-political structures whose
reproduction underpins the transgenerational identity of
culturally dened populations (the political-juralrealm, as
Fortes (1969) famously designated it) and, on the other, the
affective, morally charged arena of primary interpersonal
relations within which ego, as a cultural being, acquires
specicity, which again, according to Fortes is governed
by the axiom of prescriptive altruism.We can, though,
sketch the interconnections here with a brief look at a text
that has been much referred to (not always fairly), even in
the most recent anthropological discussions of friendship:
Pitt-Rivers(1973) The Kith and the Kin,written for The
Character of Kinship,afestschrift for Meyer Fortes. This and
other works by Pitt-Rivers engage Fortes on kinship and its
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fundamental character, but from the perspective of an
Andalusian community, in which friendship is both socially
fundamental and existentially problematic.
Pitt-Rivers paper begins by remarking the oddness of Fortes
having chosen amity,derived from the French term for
friendship,to designate the axiom of prescriptive altruism,
which Fortes claimed as central to kinship. It seemed that Fortes
had chosen to dene the essence of kinship by appealing to
the very concept of what it is not(1973: p. 90). For, Pitt-Rivers
continues, most scholars oppose kinship, as inexible,
involuntary, immutable, established by birth and subject to
the pressures of the political-jural domain.[to] friendship,
.which is its contrary in each of these respects(p. 90). He
delicately analyses his teachers Aristotelian inclination to see
amity as intrinsic to the childs experience of familial
relations, as having their own moral values (beyond self-
interest and egoistic calculation), while retaining the
structural-functionalists commitment to the prescriptions of
the social order that bind behavior and sentiment. Pitt-Rivers
seems to suggest (but not state) that Fortesrefusal to deal
with the tension that his bifurcation of kinship (into a realm
governed by primordial altruistic sentiments and a broader
politicaljural order grounded in rules) is unsustainable. For
his own purposes, though, Pitt-Rivers is clear that friendship
should be assimilated to the primordial/familial order of kin
relations: as both involve the submersion of self-interest for
the sake of someone else(p. 90; his italics), and both are
dimensions of the realm of sentiment (he says several times
that the heartmust rule in these relationships), truly moral
values, and of the extension of the self(p. 91).
Pitt-Rivers remains equivocal (or excessively delicate) about
revising his teachers perspective. He sometimes seems to
endorse Fortessuggestion that it is the behavior that matters,
not whether it is motivated by nonjural sentiments rather than
jural norms; for example, he suggests by contrast to his stress
elsewhere on the heart and its uncoerced inclinations that
amity can result from moral obligation. He underlines the
difculties caused by the fact that the state of the heart .
cannot be known for sure(p. 98). At other times, by
contrast, he stresses the antithesis between the notions of
jural and moral relations(p. 96), and the requirement that
amity remain purely moral .untrammelled by the jural
domain .(p. 102; his emphasis).
Yet the careful analysis that Pitt-Rivers offers in this rumi-
nation on Forteswork gently but denitely underlines
the tensions in Fortesconception of kin relations and
their relation to altruism. Indeed, the reader is sometimes struck
by the thought that Pitt-Rivers aims to suggest that his esteemed
teachers key concept of prescriptive altruismembodies
a contradiction: an act that is performed because it is required
by a social rule is not altruistic, since the hearts inclinations
are trumped by jural requirements no matter what.
Pitt-Rivers (1954), in his earlier ethnographic analysis of an
Andalusian village (for which Evans-Pritchard wrote the
foreword), had already had occasion to ponder the epistemic
difculties of friendship of telling when it truly sprang from
the heart. He worried that the criterion that distinguished
true from false friendship ees from the anthropologist into
the realms of motive(p. 139). Interestingly, Paine cites this
passage in each of his three pieces on friendship.
The stresses generated by the question of the role of moti-
vations in intimate social relations have appeared elsewhere:
Marshall (1977), worrying along similar lines to Pitt-Rivers, but
under provocation from David Schneiders writings on kinship,
also concluded that motivations, in the form of commitments
(to kin and friends) to share and thereby maintain what he calls
intensive interpersonal relationships,had to be counted as
central to the relations sustaining Trukese society.
Paine, like Pitt-Rivers, underlines the trust and affectivity that
friendship involves, and the dangers of miscalculation or
betrayal that these entail in many social settings. But, for the
Western middle class, friendship choices are rendered less
hazardous on the whole by their interstitial nature relative
to market and bureaucratic relationships; friendships carry less
political and economic weight than other relationships, so
that friends are free to explore the possibility of attaining
idealrelations (1969). His later essay (1999) moderates this
picture somewhat: the ideal values associated with modern
friendship presuppose relations between persons, each of
whom has veriable self; but this makes for vulnerability
too, either through the friends intent to deceive or because of
the friends self-deception. Here, Paine seems to return to
Aristotles view about that personal virtues of friends
determines the degree of perfection of the relationship
between them (Pakaluk, 1998); but it is evident that he still
sees these personal virtues as somehow tangential to the
rights and obligations that are developmentally prior to .
friendship and are conceived as indispensable to the proper
functioning of the society(1969: p. 508). Paines later
reections offer a picture of Western friendship similar to that
which he gave 30 years earlier: a kind of institutionalized
non-institution(1969: p. 514) the understanding of which
depended upon blending the structuralists concern with rules
with the Goffmanesque transactionalistsdiscernment of
ploys or strategies(1974: p. 13).
Reference to Paine and Pitt-Riverss work readily evokes the
inuential Allan Silver (1989,1990,1997,2003) and his careful,
historically informed work on models of friendship in various
strands of social science theory. Silver endorses Paines(1969)
observations about the specicity of contemporary friend-
ship and draws many threads together to demonstrate how
historically specic were the nineteenth-century oppositions to
which most later social theory was heir. Although, he argues,
the juxtaposition of personal, private, moral, and intimate
modes of sociality to impersonal, public, commercial, and
formal modes runs together different and independent
sociological parameters, it ts with certain orientations to
nineteenth-century Europes past, common to radicals no less
than conservatives. This dichotomous picture came to represent
the historical (and teleological) transition to modernity, thereby
(and in addition) serving as the basis for societal typologies.
On this view, friendships under modernity are stereotypically
voluntary, unspecialized, informal and private .grounded in
open-ended commitments without explicit provision for their
termination(1989: p. 274). As such, friendship is exemplary
of the private domain of personal life(1997: p. 46) and
diametrically opposed to the contractual, public, and
impersonal foundations of modernitys diacritical institutions.
But, Silver argues, with a wealth of evidence from literature,
that this domain of the private, however suffused with
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historical imagery, is less a historical survival than a distinctive
creation of the impersonal order central to modern economies
and polities(1997: p. 44). Indeed, the leading gures of the
eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment (Smith, Hume,
Ferguson) confound the presentism of later social theorists in
espousing a liberalism that celebrates commercial societys
ability to partition self-interested relations from those
grounded in moral sentiments (1990); commerce actually
made room for purer, more sincere, friendships.
In turn, James Carriers (1999) provocative essay on
friendship and personhood, in Bell & Colemans important
volume, extends Silvers line of argument: he begins by
contrasting contemporary Western views about friendship, as
based on spontaneous and unconstrained sentiment(1999:
p. 21), with relations grounded in the demands or
expectations placed upon them by the ties of kinship, trade,
propinquity, interest or the like(pp. 22, 23). This notion of
friendship entails a distinct conception of what people are
like, of the self(p. 23). Then, through an account of the
history of that conception of self, and a contrast between it and
the Melanesian self as discussed in seminal anthropological
accounts, Carrier suggests that the terms by which Westerners
distinguish friendship from other sorts of relationshipsare
not available to Melanesians who sort relations by reference to
kinship and to social situatedness (p. 31). Finally, Carrier
draws attention to a point repeatedly underlined by
sociologists of friendship (Adams and Allan, 1998;Pahl,
2000), that Westernerspretheoretical intuitions about
friendship, its moral qualities, and what it entails or permits in
the way of behavior, is very much a function of time and place
(p. 36), even controlling for such factors as class or age. In the
context of the debates occasioned by the juxtaposition of
Melanesian dividuality and Western individuality, which has
been prominent in discussions of the relationship between
kinship and personhood for two decades, Carriers analysis
seems to have implications that he forbears to state: that
Melanesian views of the person contrast with those of some
Westerners much more than with others. He discusses
sociological research showing that commitment to indi-
vidualism in the West varies in important ways with gender
(pp. 31, 32), class (pp. 3234), and other aspects of the
broader social, political and economic context(p. 36).
Carriers article poses clearly the sort of questions anthro-
pologists have felt constrained to ask about using a term like
friendshipin settings that contrast fundamentally with the
contemporary West. His piece is challenging because it pushes
hard at a certain take on Silvers line, not only to suggest that
the anthropologist is always involved in a double herme-
neutic, so that interpretation of the practices and concepts of
ethnographic subjects always presuppose an analysis of the
practices and concepts of the ethnographic observers culture,
but also (polemically) that this sets up a boundary that
separates us and themwith respect to friendship, but which
cuts across the dividual/individual divide many have accepted
as distinguishing Melanesian and Western cultures.
Desai and Killick (2010) nd they have reason to critique
Carriers position. Indeed, they appeal to the pre-industrial
Aristotle in urging that the autonomous selfis not exclusively
a product of the capitalist West, but can be produced by other
histories (2010: p. 10). For example, the indigenous Mapuche
category of the person, as described in the volume by Course,
involves an autonomous individual self, together with the
capacity to make friends; and while sentiment and its
revelation is not as central to Mapuche friendship as it is to
contemporary Western conceptions of paradigmatic friend-
ship, it does entail the ontologicalindividual (2010: pp. 9,
10). Killicks research with the Asheninka of the Peruvian
Amazon likewise underlines the importance of self-
sufciency and of personal independence and autonomyin
the formation of crucial social relationships (2009: p. 705).
Although key terms in these characterizations evoke ancient
controversies in Western philosophy and the foundations of
the social sciences, Desai and Killicks aim is to moderate the
sort of point made by Paine, Silver, and Carrier, rather than to
oppose it entirely. They, andothers in their volume, arguethat it is
important to oppose the tendency of new kinship studies
to annex friendship, yet to conceptualize it exibly enough to
explore contemporary transformations of local elds of sociality
(Desai and Killick, 2010). For them, patronclient relations no
less than those between childhood playmates can count as
forms of friendship; they cite and endorse Firth (1999:xiv)on
the signicant cross-cultural variability in the intensityof
friendship. They do not repudiate constructionist notions of
personhood but worry that without attention to the specicities
of friendships forms we will miss how these articulate with
ideas about kinship and other key relationships, as well as with
ideas about being a person(2010: p. 15). They are concerned
that if the category of kinship is to engulf that of friendship, we
will lose the capacity to track and explain empirical variation in
the forms of each and in the relations between them. So while
they seek to make connections between different kinds of social
relations, they see it as important to retain the distinctions that
are present in the empirical material.
Colemans appreciative afterword to Desai and Killicks
volume endorses this line, but adds that being residualcan give
friendship its own powerand (in an allusion to Giddens on
modernitys concern with pure relationships) render it deeply
and satisfyingly impure(2010: p. 205). We need, he goes on, to
understand that there is voluntarism as well as constraint in the
formation of relationships(2010: p. 205) a point made by
many contributors to the earlier volume (Bell and Coleman,
1999). Much will depend upon the extent to which we can
avoid approaching voluntarismand constraintas though
they were independent variables in the generation of social
outcomes, which would precisely return us to mid-twentieth-
century social theory. The continued appeal to the distinction
between the ascribed (kin relations) and the achieved
(relations between friends) also suggests that such theory
remains inuential.
Killick observes that while various attempts have been
made to stabilize the category of friendship using ideas of
autonomy, sentiment, lack of ritual, and lack of instrumentality,
.a general consensus is still lacking.Whether we should
thereforeside-step the search fora nal denition and instead .
base analysis on the indigenous forms encountered(2009:
p. 702) is not entirely clear, for without a specication of the
open category indigenous formsKillickspleamightbe
thought to beg the question. Perhaps, as Aguilar (1999) seems
to claim, a commitment to the view that friendship as any
other social phenomenon is culturally constructed .[and] its
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manifestations are inuenced by localized ways of being human
and of being social(pp. 170171) will give as much basis for an
answer as we need, for it directs our attention to the local context
and the concepts and relations that constitute it. In this way,
studies of friendship will remain part of the broader dialogues
on personhood and ontology that have become topical
(especially in the South American and Melanesian literature).
However, both Killick (in the works discussed) and Coleman
(2010) seem to remain equivocal about constructionist
accounts of friendship (and kinship). This is not surprising:
what makes a vernacular construction of a relationship one that
we are justied in saying is a construction of friendship,as
opposed to some contrasting species of relationship, does not
seem to be a straightforward empirical issue.
As noted earlier, anthropology always faces questions of
translation and commensurability. Certainly, what Aristotle
wrote about philia, which most of his translators render as
friendship(its inclusion of primary kin relations notwith-
standing),does not make Aristotleparty to our interest in whether
different congurations of the relationship between history,
personhood, sentiment, and friendship [show] that comparable,
if not identical, ideas of friendship may occur in nonwestern
cultures(Killick, 2009: p. 702). And for those interested in
friendship in cross-cultural comparison, the question whether
the self or the autonomous individual,is constructed, more or
less, by this or that social formation, is anything but
straightforward. How, relative to a given set of issues and
questions, the theoretical picture is most fruitfully put together
remains a substantive question not least because it is all too
easy for the conceptual bump in the carpet simply to move as
we put pressure now on this notion (achievement), now on
that (voluntariness), or on another (privacy).
Interestingly, the Western viewof friendship that Carrier
proposes (which is conjunctive, –“spontaneous and
unconstrained”–and features at least one gradable conjunct)
must underdetermine the question that Silvers work shows
to have been salient in strands of Western history, and which
also thematised Aristotles writings on the subject: how much
constraint (by circumstantial need or desire) on the part of
those so related is compatible with friendship? That this
question is a refraction of the practical, epistemic difculty
that besets agents dealing with trust, goodwill, and mutuality
in the course of life, as many ethnographic studies have
reported, and which was stressed by Pitt-Rivers, seems to
underline a constitutive dimension of friendship.
If this line is correct, it suggests that the anthropology of
friendship connectsdirectly to issues that go back to the founders
of the social sciences. It is not just that thinking about friendship
and values brings out theantinomies involved in the distinction
between the jural and non-jural (and its cognates), which was so
important to anthropological efforts to nd the functional
equivalent of Roman Law in small-scale polities (Roman Law
was, via Radcliffe-Brown, the source of the concept of the jural
that Fortes set in the foundations of his account of kinships
role in the social order (1969: p. 90)), something thought of as
asine qua non of social order itself. Rather, the vision of the
individual social being that classical theoretical formulations
presuppose, and which the problem of order was thought to
require for its solution, makes the non-substitutability of the
friend or beloved something incomprehensible.
After characterizing the obligatory and external source of
my duties as a brother, a husband or a citizenDurkheim
(1982) grounds sociology in the signicance of types of
behavior and thinking external to the individual, but [which]
are endowed with a compelling and coercive power by virtue
of which, whether he wishes it or not, they impose
themselves upon him(pp. 50, 52). This line hardened later:
Human beings as individuals are objects of study for physiologists
and psychologists. The human being as a person is a complex of
social relationships. He is a citizen of England, a husband and
a father, a brick-layer, a member of a particular Methodist
congregation, a voter in a certain constituency, a member of his
trade union, an adherent of the Labour Party, and so on. Note that
each of these descriptions refers to a social relationship, or to
a place in a social structure. Note also that a social personality is
something that changes during the course of the life of the person.
As a person, the human being is the object of study for the social
(Radcliffe-Brown, 1952: p. 194)
In Radcliffe-Browns formulation, becoming friends, (like
getting married or divorced), are aspects of the projects of indi-
viduals’–human beings, in actually existing social relations
with one another (1952: p. 192) not of the personsthat the
social anthropologist is concerned to theorize over, which are
complex relations the individual is compelled to enter into that
are dened by norms and organized into institutions.
It is not coincidental that the professions and other institu-
tionally dened aspects of Western modernity loom so large in
these attempts to dene place in a social structure.(In passing,
we might note that Durkheim, unlike some of his intellectual
descendants, avoided equating what it is for someone to be, for
example, a brother, and what it is to act in accordance with
whatever behavioral norms apply to brothers.) In the more
highly articulated forms of structural-functionalism developed
by Talcott Parsons, the forms peculiar to the twentieth-century
nation-state were even more conspicuous in accounts of social
structure. There too the friction evident in Fortes(1969)
efforts to differentiate between familial morality and the
kinship rules and conceptsthat determine citizenship in
the political community(p. 87) is generated again.
Without laboring the point with some of the more exotic
solutions to the empirically unavoidable problem of role
conictsthat this perspective projects upon folks, we note that
the difculties of this sort of approach became clear; but that
did not prevent their recurrence in alternative theoretical
visions. Today, there is more diversity within the social theory
than at any point in its history. Yet, the problem posed by the
anthropology of friendship remains: the separation of the
motivational bases of interaction and the behavioral evidence
available to an observer, in the context of empiricist assump-
tions that the latter sufces for the specication of action and
social norms. The diremption of the intentionality of agency
and the behavior of bodies (common to psychological
behaviorism and classical social theory and derived from
positivistic pictures of science) has proved fateful for social
science as a whole, not just in respect of friendship.
The conceptions of social facticity that attracted twentieth-
century social scientists is routinely seen as grounded in
Hobbesian visions of humans as psychological egoists; Spencer
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and Comte (the latter coined the word altruism) drew on this
vision in forging a sociology that understands human social life
to be predicated on the triumph of altruism over our inherent
egoism; Durkheim retained a perspective in which the dualism
of human natureis basic. Just what that dualism entails, and
what signicance it has for social theory, is still a fundamental
issue for several disciplines, but there is no doubt that Durkheim,
at different periods, and with different degrees of clarity, pre-
sented the human individual sometimes as that which sociali-
zation controls, and sometimes as that which socialization
produces, through a postpartum process that is no less crucial to
the product itself than genetic mechanisms and prepartum
epigenesis. On the rst view, social embeddedness constrains or
molds, and, on the second, it is a crucial part of what constitutes,
a human person/ego: on the rst view the ego is, so to speak,
motivationally stratied (and sometimes conicted), while on
the second, the ego is merely motivationally variegated (and
sometimes conicted). There are different possibilities, of course,
within this division: for example, on the rst perspective there is
room for deep differences on the nature of that upon which
socialization has its effects, from the ontotheological bearer of
freedomto the product of Pleistocene selection pressures. That
these visions were differentially taken up subsequently and that
they have different implications for the constitution of the
domainsor realmsofsocial life, is obvious. They also tend to be
more or less congenial to those who entertain the thought that
social science is relevant to cultural critique and hope that an
improvement in future prospects is possible. Finally, these
visions have somewhat different implications for ways of
thinking about the relationship between friendship and kinship
as analytical foci for anthropology.
The point of making these remarks is not simply to bring this
piece to closure through a gesturetoward its beginnings. We have
already cited Colemanssummary views so evocative of Parsons
about the combination of voluntarismand constraintat
work in the formation of social relationships. There is also
some contemporary interest in notions like doingfamily or
friendship, performingrelatedness or kinship, and kinningas
a social practice. Consideration of the anthropology of
friendship and its struggles suggests that such formulations
preempt long-standing puzzles, or presuppose, without stating,
contestable answers to some of the fundamental questions,
and reminds us of the possibility indeed, the standing
possibility of the presence of the theoretical past in the present.
See also: Altruism and Prosocial Behavior, Sociology of; Family
and Kinship, History of; Friendship During Adolescence and
Cultural Variations; Friendship During Infancy and Early
Childhood and Cultural Variations; Kinship in Anthropology;
Kinship, Evolution of; Trust, Sociology of.
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... Konstan, 1997, pp. 11ff;Beer & Gardner, 2015). characteristics means that friends can count on or trust one another, which thereby becomes relevant to their actions and strategies" (Beer & Gardner, 2015, p. 426). ...
... Friendship plays a central role in many people's lives across cultures (Beer and Gardner 2015). Yet until recently, anthropologists have paid little attention to friendship (Killick and Desai 2010;Pitt-Rivers [1983] 2016). ...
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Friendship and social connections generally improve quality oflife and well-being. However, research shows that people with intellectualdisabilities face challenges forming and maintaining friendships. Disabilitysupport workers play an indispensable yet under-recognized role indeveloping friendships with people with intellectual disabilities. Becausedisability support workers are disproportionately immigrant women, as theyfacilitate the inclusion of their clients, they too experience social isolation.After conducting in-depth interviews with disability support workers livingin Edmonton, Canada, for my master’s thesis project, I offer the followingobservations. First, staff and clients became friends with one another in partdue to weak family ties and limited social networks. Second, relationships thatfelt genuine helped staff better understand their clients and gave the staff adeeper sense of purpose in life. Third, the context, environment, and frequencyof meetings were essential for the development of friendships. Fourth,friendships among people both with and without disabilities were crucial forcommunity development. Overall, based on these interviews I suggest thatgenuine friendships between people with intellectual disabilities and careworkers can help foster a sense of belonging and are integral to community-building. My research also suggests that the meaning of friendship ought tobe expanded beyond current understandings.
... Since the 1970s and more recently, anthropologists have returned to the concept to show how such relationships can have other articulations and manifestations in globalised settings. The concept has been resurrected from its pre-1970s existence, re-contextualised, and re-theorised in nuanced ways (Beer and Gardner 2015;Greenfield 2014;Hicken 2011;Molina et al. 2017;Shore 2016).8 This trend was also seen amongst political scientists (Eisenstadt and Roniger 1980;Gordin 2002;Gudeman and Rivera 1990), who argued that patron-client relationships had adapted to contexts intensified by globalisation and social change, shifting political arrangements, and macro-economic forces. ...
Artykuł przedstawia społeczno-kulturową analizę miłości i intymności i dobierania się w pary w konkurencyjnej, samorealizującej się, samospełniającej się kulturze. W dyskusji socjologicznej pole teoretycznych oraz empirycznych analiz jest coraz bardziej rozległe, jeśli chodzi o refleksyjne scenariusze bliskich relacji. Rozpoznawalnym znakiem przemian społecznych w warunkach późnej nowoczesności jest indywidualizacja i związana z nią pluralizacja stylów życia. W porównaniu ze związkami tworzonymi kiedyś w oparciu o uwarunkowania prestiżowo-genealogiczno-ekonomiczne, przestrzeń akceptowanych dzisiaj kodów „bycia razem” wydaje się być chaosem. W wyniku prób wyemancypowania się jednostki spod władzy moralności i kontekstu społecznego, kategoria “my” staje się coraz bardziej abstrakcyjna, partnerzy negocjują „intymne pakiety tożsamościowe” w zależności od indywidualnych preferencji. Zakorzenione w kulturze, tradycyjne wzory biografii intymnych stają się indywidualnym „projektem” podlegającym optymalizacji, a zarazem kulturową praktyką regulowaną przez mechanizmy rynkowe, dyskursy naukowe i medialne oraz najnowsze technologie komunikacyjne. W artykule zaprezentowano projekt badawczy, którego wyniki miały na uwadze rozpoznanie tych obszarów funkcjonowania związków, które mają znaczenie w kontekście rozwoju bliskości. Przeprowadzone badania miały charakter eksploracyjny i mieściły się w strategii badań jakościowych. Analizowany materiał empiryczny stanowiły 42 indywidualne wywiady półstrukturalne. Jak pokazały wywiady, bliskość jest zjawiskiem o charakterze procesualnym, refleksyjnym, zindywidualizowanym, a zarazem zrytualizowanym.
Drawing on my accompanied returning‐home fieldwork in China with a dear friend, Yun, this paper critically reflects on the ideas of friendship in fieldwork and the enabling and enhancing role of friendship in managing safety concerns and negotiating data collection. The contribution is two‐fold. First, it advances current fieldwork scholarship in Humanities and Social Sciences that predominantly focuses on the researcher‐informant friendship formed in the field by engaging with the companionship of pre‐existing friends. This diversifies our understandings of fieldwork friendship in individually, socially, and culturally unsettling ways. Second, this study furthers ongoing conversations calling for greater visibility and support of different forms of accompanied fieldwork by focusing on the accompaniment of pre‐existing friends. Three potential directions are outlined to normalise the model of accompanied fieldwork in efforts to promote Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in Geography fieldwork.
Within the field of international migration, most studies focusing on home‐based migrant social networks tend to focus on family relations, whereas the role of the friends who stay behind is largely neglected. This study explores how friendships affect and are affected by, international migration. Via an ethnographic approach, we have analysed the experiences of 16 young adults who stayed behind in the sending region of Essaouira, Morocco. In contrast with the pressures experienced within family relations, friendships emerged as an important source of socio‐emotional support for migrants, thereby functioning as safe spaces. Building on the findings, we argue that for a more comprehensive understanding of the social embeddedness of migration, friendships should be considered along with family relations.
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The pandemic’s rupture in people’s lives was felt in a particular way among foreign-born middle-class women in Trondheim. In the situation of unexpected (im)mobility and anxieties related to the pandemic, the lack of close relationships in the local context, was significantly felt. Despite digital acceleration, that was witnessed with pandemic, it highlighted the centrality of local presence and physicality of relations. The pandemic created a situation in which women realised the importance of having friends in the local community to cope with the restrictions and triggered a necessity for the otherwise highly mobile individuals to establish new relationships and explore the local environment. In this article, I discuss the formation of such relationships and the role of social media platforms, more specifically the role of a local social media-based initiative for mobile women with diverse cultural backgrounds. I argue that ‘affective time’ of pandemic created temporalities for forming a community for sharing sufferings, security, and joyful distractions from the crisis. This article considers meaning and experiences of friendship under condition of uncertainty and how relationship-making shape migrant’s woman engagement with the present. I follow a methodology of friendship, developed by Tillmann-Healy (2003), as a useful tool to research friendship-making practices and specifically in times of crisis.
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The present work aims to analyse the meaning of the concept of friendship through the study of the work of the doctor and philosopher Pedro Laín Entralgo. The initial hypothesis of the study is that the concept of friendship has been used instrumentally by social media networks, and that these do not offer the conditions necessary to fully experience true friendship. To verify this, we focused on the study of the psychological dimensions of friendship proposed by the author, identifying a series of variables and conducting an analysis by means of a survey of university students who are active users of the platform. With these results the descriptive statistics were extracted and a nonparametric analysis was performed of the variables to determine if Facebook does in fact offer the conditions necessary for to experience true friendship in its psychological dimensions. As the results show, to experience true friendship on social networks is difficult, given that the nature of the interactions between users of the platform are not appropriate for this experience. In calling this different type of relationship friendship Facebook benefits from an attractive hook which leads users to generate contacts as a form of currency which benefits the business model of the social media platform. The concept of true friendship is altered, deformed and displaced in favour of other types of relationships.
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In the city of Mocoa in the Colombian Amazon, indigenous leaders capture desired resources for their communities using skilful navigation and engagement in the diverse institutional landscape of this bureaucratic centre of the Putumayo region. Interactions between these leaders and multiple political actors are locally known as gestión. In this article, we explore this ethnographic category by analysing the ways in which gestión interweaves kinship, politics and temporality. Describing gestión in the lives of two cousins, two Inga women who are both experienced leaders, we argue that it entails generating and fostering friendships and alliances by means of kinship networks and practices, which are central to capturing resources and maintaining relationships among ethnic leaders and communities, where mistrust is part of political dynamics and family life. We also show how leaders incorporate the temporalities of gestión into their lives through kinship notions to become powerful political agents in Mocoa.
‘You do not know what it means to me, to be at this kind of party, to talk to these kinds of people’, my research assistant Rodrigo told me after a soirée in the elite South Zone of Rio. ‘É uma viagem’, it’s a journey. Rodrigo, who had already worked with three anthropologists by the time I came to be his employer, thrived with the affordances of friendship, in the face of the volatility of his favela life. He relished ‘mixing groups up’, and this fetish was fed by the overflow of journalists and researchers who in 2015 were covering mega events, favela removals, and policing programs. As the year elapsed, violence in favelas escalated, ‘visiting others’ came and went, and so did Rodrigo’s appetite to befriend the ‘other’. While research on the enabling aspects of friendship’s lack of fixity have been extensive, by exploring our relationship, I seek to address how problematic fluidity and dynamism can be for those who engage in friendship. I will argue that demanding fixity and setting up boundaries can be understood as an enabling process, particularly in the post-colonial, globalized and gravely unequal context of contemporary favelas.
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Friendship is an essential part of human experience, involving ideas of love and morality as well as material and pragmatic concerns. Making and having friends is a central aspect of everyday life in all human societies. Yet friendship is often considered of secondary significance in comparison to domains such as kinship, economics and politics. How important are friends in different cultural contexts? What would a study of society viewed through the lens of friendship look like? Does friendship affect the shape of society as much as society moulds friendship? Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Europe, this volume offers answers to these questions and examines the ideology and practice of friendship as it is embedded in wider social contexts and transformations.
Friends-they are generous and cooperative with each other in ways that appear to defy standard evolutionary expectations, frequently sacrificing for one another without concern for past behaviors or future consequences. In this fascinating multidisciplinary study, Daniel J. Hruschka synthesizes an array of cross-cultural, experimental, and ethnographic data to understand the broad meaning of friendship, how it develops, how it interfaces with kinship and romantic relationships, and how it differs from place to place. Hruschka argues that friendship is a special form of reciprocal altruism based not on tit-for-tat accounting or forward-looking rationality, but rather on mutual goodwill that is built up along the way in human relationships.
The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
Here I investigate a special relationship existing among the Tupi‐speaking Parakanã of Amazonia, usually translated as ‘friendship’, and implying expectations of hospitality. Its field of application spans from the closest other (the cross‐cousin) to the most distant (the enemy). I show that this kind of relationship is internally structured around an unstable prey‐predator polarity, meaning that the most intimate other is also the prey closest to hand. This ambivalence in the friendship relation counteracts the possibility of a space of sovereignty at the levels of the person and of collectivities, but it does not imply a ‘hospitality of visitation’ as envisaged by Derrida. Résumé L'auteur étudie ici une relation particulière entre les Parakanã, un peuple amazonien locuteur du tupi, que l'on traduit habituellement par « amitié » et qui implique des attentes d'hospitalité. Le domaine d'application de cette notion va de l'autre le plus proche (le cousin croisé) au plus éloigné (l'ennemi). L'article montre que ce type de relation est intrinsèquement structuré autour d'une polarité proie‐prédateur instable, dans laquelle l'autre le plus intime est aussi la proie la plus à portée de main. Cette ambivalence de la relation d'amitié s'oppose à la possibilité d'un espace de souveraineté au niveau de la personne et des collectivités, mais elle n'implique pas une « hospitalité de visitation » telle que l'envisageait Derrida.