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My family and other animals : pets as kin

By Nickie Charles and Charlotte Aull Davies


The title of this paper gives a family-like character to animals and an animal-like character to the idea of family. It emphasises the close, family and friend-like relationships that can exist between human beings and the animals who share their domestic space. This type of relationship between humans and their pets emerged during a study of families and kinship and in this paper we draw on 193 in-depth interviews conducted in four contrasting areas of a South Wales city. Although our interview schedules did not explicitly ask about animals, a significant proportion of our interviewees spontaneously included their pets as part of their kinship networks. There were two points during the interview when the significance of pets became apparent: when interviewees were asked who counted as family and when they were asked to complete a network diagram. In studies of kinship it has been said that pets are substitutes for children, providing emotional satisfaction. Here we explore some of the other ways in which animals are constructed as kin and discuss whether such constructions confound the (socially constructed) boundary between nature and culture

Topics: HM
Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.
Year: 2009
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