Skin, Kin and Clan

Skin, Kin and Clan

The dynamics of social categories in Indigenous Australia

Edited by: Patrick McConvell, Piers Kelly, Sébastien Lacrampe

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Australia is unique in the world for its diverse and interlocking systems of Indigenous social organisation. On no other continent do we see such an array of complex and contrasting social arrangements, coordinated through a principle of ‘universal kinship’ whereby two strangers meeting for the first time can recognise one another as kin. For some time, Australian kinship studies suffered from poor theorisation and insufficient aggregation of data. The large-scale AustKin project sought to redress these problems through the careful compilation of kinship information. Arising from the project, this book presents recent original research by a range of authors in the field on the kinship and social category systems in Australia. A number of the contributions focus on reconstructing how these systems originated and developed over time. Others are concerned with the relationship between kinship and land, the semantics of kin terms and the dynamics of kin interactions.


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
Apr 2018
ANU Press
Social Sciences: Anthropology, Indigenous Studies

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  1. Introduction: Revisiting Aboriginal Social Organisation (PDF, 0.2MB)Patrick McConvell doi
  2. Evolving Perspectives on Aboriginal Social Organisation: From Mutual Misrecognition to the Kinship Renaissance (PDF, 0.2MB)Piers Kelly and Patrick McConvell doi

PART I People and Place

  1. Systems in Geography or Geography of Systems? Attempts to Represent Spatial Distributions of Australian Social Organisation (PDF, 1.4MB)Laurent Dousset doi
  2. The Sources of Confusion over Social and Territorial Organisation in Western Victoria (PDF, 0.2MB)Raymond Madden doi
  3. Disputation, Kinship and Land Tenure in Western Arnhem Land (PDF, 0.3MB)Mark Harvey doi

PART II Social Categories and Their History

  1. Moiety Names in South-Eastern Australia: Distribution and Reconstructed History (PDF, 0.8MB)Harold Koch, Luise Hercus and Piers Kelly doi
  2. Patriclan Subsets of the Ashburton River District in Western Australia (PDF, 0.4MB)Peter Sutton doi
  3. The Birds and the Bees: The Origins of Sections in Queensland (PDF, 1.0MB)Patrick McConvell doi
  4. Generic Terms for Subsections (‘Skins’) in Australia: Sources and Semantic Networks (PDF, 0.9MB) – Patrick McConvell and Maïa Ponsonnet doi
  5. The Development of Arandic Subsection Names in Time and Space (PDF, 0.4MB)Harold Koch doi

PART III Kinship Systems

  1. Close–Distant: An Essential Dichotomy in Australian Kinship (PDF, 0.2MB)Tony Jefferies doi
  2. Asymmetrical Distinctions in Waanyi Kinship Terminology (PDF, 0.6MB)Mary Laughren doi
  3. Genesis of the Trinity: The Convergent Evolution of Trirelational Kinterms (PDF, 0.8MB)Joe Blythe doi


‘This rich and varied volume adds very significantly to the anthropological and linguistic understanding of Aboriginal social categories.’
–Ian Keen, Anthropological Forum, 2019
Read the full article on Taylor & Francis Online.

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