After nature is a timely account of fundamental constructs in English kinship at a moment when developments in reproductive technology are raising questions about the natural basis of kin relations. Kinship in this anthropological study is viewed in the context of contemporary cultural change, and the book is also a unique commentary on late-twentieth-century English culture. This essay on middle-class English kinship challenges the traditional separation of western kinship studies from the study of the wider society. If contemporary society appears diverse, changing and fragmented, these same features also apply to people's ideas about kinship. Ideas of relatedness, nature and the biological constitution of persons are viewed in their cultural context, and the work offers new insight into late-twentieth-century values of individualism and consumerism. Central as kinship has been to the development of British social anthropology, this is the first attempt by an anthropologist to offer a cultural account of English kinship. Marilyn Strathern looks back at mid-century writings, both within anthropology and outside, and demonstrates continuities between middle-class folk models of kinship and anthropological kinship theory. She also shows how conceptualisations of change have enabled that past world to produce the present one. The values placed upon individual choice, as well as the vanishing of 'society' as a self-evident point of reference, are part of an evolving cultural explicitness about kinship and the naturalness of connections between persons. Thus the new reproductive technologies are seen to both indicate ways in which the natural base of kinship relations is being challengedand endorse the centrality of biology to late-twentieth-century views of procreation.
' ... her social critique, her commitment to environmental issues, and above all, her readiness to tackle all-encompassing and provocative themes, makes her book very stimulating reading.' Times Literary Supplement 'This is an innovatory work - a cultural account of kinship in England has not previously been attempted. Undoubtedly a tour de force ...' Sociology of Health and Illness