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Family and Kinship to be Discussed at MU Conference

The 9th annual MU Life Sciences and Society Symposium “Claiming Kin” will take place in March

March 6th, 2013

Story Contact: Timothy Wall, 573-882-3346,

By Jerett Rion

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Kinship has been studied by researchers in fields as diverse as genetics and gender studies. Modern reproductive technology, blended families, same-sex marriages, and shifting gender roles have changed the way in which we view kinship.  While historians investigate the way understandings of family have changed across cultures and over time, some anthropologists and primatologists are struck by continuities that link humans across populations, and even across species, suggesting that we inherited some aspects of our kin relationships from our primate kin. These topics and more will be discussed at the 9th annual Life Sciences & Society Symposium, “Claiming Kin,” at the University of Missouri on March 15-17.

Experts in family studies, anthropology, genetics, English, race studies, women’s and gender studies, science and technology studies, and primatology will gather on the MU campus to discuss kinship, both as an institution affected by the changing roles and norms in society across different cultures, and in terms of evolutionary inheritance. The symposium is free and open to the public.

“Kinship is one of the most fundamental relationships, not just to humans, but to all life,” said Stefani Engelstein, director of the Life Sciences & Society Program. “Our goal for this year’s symposium was to bring together researchers who look at kinships from many different viewpoints. From the stories of kinship written in the DNA code to the tales told in fiction, the presenters at the symposium will illuminate how kinship affects a wide range of topics.”

Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College and an award-winning author, will deliver the keynote address. Coontz has written award-winning books such as “Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage” and has been published in magazines and newspapers such as the New York TimesWall Street JournalNewsweek and LIFE.  She has also appeared on the Colbert Report, Oprah Winfrey and PBS News Hour, and has testified about families before Congress.  She will present “It’s me or the in-laws!: The Rocky Relationship between Couples and Kin” at 7 p.m., March 15 in Jesse Auditorium on the MU campus. Presentations will continue on Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m..

Mizzou Advantage has been instrumental in creating opportunities to network with the most prominent scholars around the world during conferences. The Life Sciences & Society Program has worked closely with Mizzou Advantage and many other sponsors and partners in organizing the annual symposium series. Through conferences such as this, MU brings internationally renowned researchers to campus and promotes collaboration and productive exchanges with MU faculty.

Events affiliated with “Claiming Kin” take place throughout March. A full schedule, as well as registration information, is available at