New Essay by Dr. Riché Barnes on Cultural Anthropology website

October 9, 2017

Dr. Barnes’ essay “The Village” was recently published as part of a series on “The Household” where she and five other cultural anthropologists shed light on the issues of household, kinship, and family. Each long-held as important frameworks for anthropological inquiry and theory. The series takes as it’s point of departure, how and to what effect the scale of the household is formed through finance, law, and policy, systems that rely not only on the notion of the abstract individual but also on the nuclear family, familial obligations, and the domestic realm. Barnes, drawing from her book (2016) and her continued ethnographic work among black families, households, and communities, focuses on her concept “Black strategic mothering,” which articulates the importance of the village as a unit of analysis by drawing from elements of the imagined community as well as the community of practice.  Centralizing the role of the village as opposed to and in conversation with family and community, Barnes suggests the village, like the household, has long been considered a unit of analysis in its geographical and spatial form; particularly for African Americans, it is both an idea and a practice. While the village shares similarities with the concepts of kinship and family, it also draws attention to geographical and spatial dimensions of locality that are often missing from understandings of the household. The village for African Americans is also organized around ideas based on common understandings of practice, trust, and norms. These ideas are not necessarily correlated with physical proximity, thereby stretching the village across geographical, household, kinship and family units. Finally, Barnes suggests we continue to ponder the household, particularly as it has been applied to African Americans, clear that is has limitations and arbitrary boundaries defined by the state; while the village, encompassing households and families is and has been self-defined.

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