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Cambridge Reproduction


“Humans and chimps share a surprising 98.8 percent of their DNA”. “We all pretty much share 50% of DNA with our brothers and sisters”.

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These are some of the bewildering answers one can receive on genetic kinship from a superficial search on the Internet. Kinship, both in its genealogical and phylogenetic meanings, is operationalized in multiple ways in the natural and social sciences, depending on research questions, methodologies and critical agendas. At the same time, there are long-standing traditions that consider kinship as a foundational relation that gives rise to similarities and structures within and among populations, species, societies, cultures or languages. But relations of kinship – whether parentage, consanguinity, affinity, ancestry or descent – belong themselves to the features that are replicated, obscured or disrupted by reproductive processes. They are as much products as drivers of evolutionary change. Kinship therefore remains a multi-layered, entangled and perplexing phenomenon which escapes any simplistic and reductive definition. It is thicker than blood, even.


This Forum brings together researchers from different disciplines – plant systematics, evolution and ecology, human evolutionary genomics, family research, and comparative linguistics – to present their perspectives on how kinship is measured, analyzed and understood, what problems and paradoxes it presents, and whether there is a unitary perspective from which its multiplicity can be grasped.

Planned programme

14:00     Welcome and Introduction (Staffan Mueller-Wille, HPS)

14:20     Aylwyn Scally (Human Genetics)

14:40     Marieke Meelen (Linguistics)

15:00     Susan Golombok (Centre for Family Research)

15:20     Ian Henderson (Plant Sciences)

15:40     Coffee Break

16:20     General Discussion (Chair: Sarah Franklin, Reproductive Sociology)

17:00     End of academic programme, Reception

Registration Open

Tuesday, 5 March, 2024 - 14:00 to 17:00
Event location: 
Location: Pitt Building, CB2 1RP