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TOTW: Kin & Kinlessness

How do anarchists define family? How big is your family? Has it grown or shrunk across the years? Who took care of you when you were growing up? Who takes care of you when you become ill? Are you currently taking care of an old family member or friend? Who will take care of you when you’re old? We’re all born from someone, but kinlessness refers to the experience of being apart from your would-be relatives. Various demographic trends make it so that there’s a good chance you will end up living to be old all by yourself.

In the modern world, the notion of the nuclear family is tied to domesticity and tenancy of the housing unit, in contrast to the traditional extended family, clan or tribe associated with a particular place, a niche in what’s now known as bioregion. How does this set the (family) table (over stolen land) for discussion (on Thanksgiving)? What notions of kinship are being erased? Nowadays people commonly claim they can’t leave social media because it’s the only convenient way to stay in touch with family, and online friends are often the flimsy substitute for kin and community. Do you keep in touch with your family? If so, how? How much is enough quality time? Does a text or videocall count?

The state and capitalism shape families in countless ways: by acting on them as reproductive and consumer units; ICE, cops and social service workers separating children from their parents; banning things like polygamy, despite the recent inroads towards the normalization of so-called “non-traditional households”. Anarchists have developed critiques against nuclear family and against coupling. Is the alternative a notion of extended family, a friendly close-knit neighborhood, an integrated community, an intentional community, a commune, flatmates, random people coming in and out of a squat or occupation? What is the difference between friends and kin? Is one better or more important, more flimsy or robust than the other? Obviously it’s all relative, there are many different ways to relate to one another.

Anarchists value freedom of association and seek to bond with those akin to them. Affinity over consanguinity, contrary to notions of “blood and soil”. Do anarchists choose their family as well as their friends or is it mostly a crapshoot of fate? Many anarchists yearn to form an affinity group with which conspire, yet often we see people complaining online that it's hard to find someone and build trust. Anarchists also appreciate that it's better to be alone, than in bad company. Enjoying solitude is an important part of living freely and autonomously. How did you permanently, or regularly escape the claustrophobic family drama in the confines of domesticity? Do you have stories to tell of literal or symbolic acts of patricide/matricide/fratricide/infanticide or of worship of elders?

Holiday season is associated with group and family gatherings, save for the Scrooges and Grinches who spend it alone due to kinlessness, their own unkindness or that of others. This year the pandemic might have flipped the script, leading people to skip the gatherings as a show of kindness. As the weather becomes colder in the northern hemisphere, and the second peak of covid makes people shut-in more again, who did you choose to spend this holiday season with, or who are you stuck with, if anyone at all?