It’s true that I often get excited by anthropological theory, but it’s rare that I am this excited and impressed. If you haven’t yet come across ‘Gens: A Feminist Manifesto for the Study of Capitalism’ by Laura Bear, Karen Ho, Anna Tsing and Sylvia Yanagisako, then I highly recommend it.
Gens here refers to ‘a collective with feminist ancestry for the study of capitalist inequality.’ The manifesto is published in Cultural Anthropology as part of their Generating Capitalism series. The manifesto begins as per below:
‘1. What is Gens?
Our title signals a major redefinition of the multilayered historical meanings of the term gens. Gens began as the Roman concept of a family unit descended from a common male ancestor and was scaled up to social distinctions like aristocratic lineage. It was transformed by Lewis Henry Morgan to found the anthropological study of kinship and reveal the “original” matriarchal origins of community (Trautmann 1992; Feeley-Harnik 2002). Friedrich Engels then drew on Morgan to argue that the patriarchal form of gens led to the end of matriarchal systems. Gens is also, of course, the etymological root of gender, genus, genre, generations, and generate. We find this term broadly helpful because it carries a long history of the appropriation of human and non-human life-forces by social forms. Its varied usage inspires reflection on the depictions of these life-forces that in turn contribute to forms of social inequality. Moreover, it specifically refers to a history of contradictions between male authority and female kinship ties that signals the mix of capture and generativity that characterizes all social power. Finally, by adopting this term, we play with the irony that a patriarchal unit provides the root for the word gender even as we found our approach to capitalism on a more liberating (but hidden) ancestry of feminist analyses of gender, kinship, and race, as well as other forms of epistemological insights garnered from the margins.
Gens is a capacious, flexible term that references our interest in the generative powers of capitalism and the inequalities these powers create. In this sense, we are particularly focused on the generative aspect of the term that is centrally concerned with the means and mechanisms—the very processes of generation—through which systems and socialities are made.’
You can read the manifesto, in full, online.