The chess of kinship and the kinship of chess (Preface by Tony Crook and Justin Shaffner, Roy Wagner’s “The chess of kinship”: an opening gambit)

Roy Wagner


The real comparison between the anthropological study of kinship and the game of chess is not immediately apparent from their formal properties, and only becomes relevant when they are viewed as strategies, or patterns of events occurring in time. The single "proportion" that both share in common is a kind of cross-comparison between dualistic variables called a chiasmus, illustrated in kinship by the classic cross-cousin relationship, and in chess by the asymmetric double-proportion between the king and queen, the only gendered pieces on the board, and the moves and tokens of the other pieces in the game. The difference may be summed up in the word "mating." Chess may be described as the "kinship" of kinship. Failure to understand the chiasmatic, or double- proportional essence of both has resulted in many dysfunctional models of cross-cousin marriage, and many very quick games of chess.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau1.1.006