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Ancestors and Relatives: Genealogy, Identity, and Community 1st Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199773954
ISBN-10: 0199773955
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"An erudite treatise about how culture drives human cognition about near and remote relations, Ancestors and Relatives offers lay and academic audiences alike a great read."
-Marta Tienda, Science


"Making the world seem strange is the first step to understanding it anew. Eviatar Zerubavel is a genius at doing this. Here he takes on kinship and shows us the profound, politically fraught, sometimes frightening, and often funny ways in which we take the biological fact that life creates life and fashion genealogy from it. This is a brilliant, witty, effortlessly well-informed book that anyone with ancestors or anyone who worries about ethnicity, race, and nationalism will read with pleasure and surprise." -Thomas Laqueur, University of California, Berkeley


"While ancestors and relatives are genetically given, the genetics give us no clue how we should measure their relative importance to us. In this lively and well-written book, Eviatar Zerubavel avoids the aridity of technical kinship analysis and uses a personal perspective to show how humans fabricate, in the literal sense, their relatives, by a creative process of elimination and selection in the generation of rules. It is easily the most engaging introduction to kinship for the general reader that I have read, and a contribution in its own right to a wider understanding of our place in evolution."-Robin Fox, author of Kinship and Marriage and The Tribal Imagination


"Kinship is a perennial staple-necessary but ordinarily dry as dust-of anthropology, sociology, and demography. In Ancestors and Relatives, Eviatar Zerubavel makes the topic new, bringing to it an encyclopedic knowledge and a powerful sociological imagination that brings to life the deeply social and cultural ways in which we talk about, imagine, and understand our ancestors and relations. Never has kinship been more interesting and never has it been as much fun."-Paul DiMaggio, Princeton University


"Widely-researched and absorbing ... This book could not be more timely. As Zerubavel points out we need only to look at the popularity of television shows such as Who Do You Think You Are? and the shelves of newsagents and bookstores generously stocked with magazines and books on how to research your family tree to see that there is a tremendous interest in genealogy ... [this is] an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable book." --Turi King, London School of Economics (June 2012)


"Ancestors is a significant contribution to its author's ongoing project, highly original, wonderfully imaginative, overflowing with insight, to develop a distinctive cognitive sociology. And for that, we should be deeply grateful. I, for one, happily await his next book in a long line that grows more venerable with each addition." --ontemporary Sociology


About the Author


Eviatar Zerubavel is Board of Governors Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University. He is the author of The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life, The Fine Line: Making Distinctions in Everyday Life, The Seven-Day Circle: The History and Meaning of the Week, Social Mindscapes: An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology, and Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199773955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199773954
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,575,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Penny L. Bloodhart on April 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First may I suggest that anybody who wants to read this book to get it in paperback or hardcover. The Kindle books is more than sixty percent footnote and reference material, and somewhat challenging to read in that format due to problems with text editing. I was annoyed that the book cost so much---and was mostly references. I think that the material was of some interest, but did small service to genetics, genealogy and the sociological problems of defining ourselves. We humans are looking for meaning, and finding out who our genetic ancestors were has become a satisfying hobby for some, a religious practice for many, and a health issue for an increasing number of human beings. This book suggests that seeking our ancestors is muddled by past and current race bias, community identities and a lot of misinformation, which is probably true to a certain extent. Modern genetics is increasing our ability to remove those issues from subjective interpretation. I found the material rather dry, and felt that the material in it has been explored in many other books. Sorry---wanted to like it after reading a review in Science...but just couldn't.
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Format: Hardcover
In contrast to some reviewers, I very much enjoyed the first part of this book.... until it got too deeply into evolutionary theory, which I can read in more engaging ways from other sources.

What I found so interesting were Zerubavel's reflections on what it means as humans that we pick and choose our ancestors, and what value genealogy has for people in the modern world, as well as in historical times. If you're just looking for a genealogy how-to or inspiring ideas on family, there are better books.

But for some sustained scientific/cultural reflections on what it means to be a relative or in a lineage, this is a great book. It is brief, so if you have access to a public lib or uni lib, that would be a great way to get access.
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Format: Hardcover
Admirably clear writing, witty, trenchant and deftly illustrated with erudition and an eye for the telling detail. This book offers a superb overview of kinship and why the question of belonging matters deeply to our species, refreshingly free of jargon and the sterile theorizing all too common in both anthropological and sociological treatments of the subject.
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Format: Hardcover
Bear in mind that this review is written from the perspective of a genetic genealogist (I'm co-author with Megan Smolenyak of "Trace Your Roots with DNA"). Zerubavel is a sociologist, so the book is not aimed at this target audience in spite of the word "genealogy" in the subtitle. In fact, it doesn't characterize it very well: many of us are keen to learn more about all of our ancestral lines, not just the famous ones but also the ones who struggled just to survive and are equally responsible for our very existence. The book also points out the limitations of Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA testing, which follow only two of our ancestral lines, as if we weren't aware of them. They just happened to be the only tools available in the early days of genetic genealogy for biological reasons. The recent advent of autosomal DNA testing has changed the landscape considerably, but to be fair, Zerubavel was probably writing much of his book before this transpired.

The book does have a number of interesting observations, with extensive citations. In fact, pages 133 to 226 are comprised of footnotes, bibliography, and index.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been truly impressed with this book. From beginning to end, this book continues to drive logical, important, and needed information to the reader.
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