When 'blood speaks': naming the father and the mystics of kinship in Dominica, Eastern Caribbean

Philogene Heron, Adom. 2019. When 'blood speaks': naming the father and the mystics of kinship in Dominica, Eastern Caribbean. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 25(1), pp. 29-50. ISSN 1359-0987 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article explores the mystical implication of fathers in reproduction in Dominica, Eastern Caribbean. It traces naming acts that assign paternity at various points in the filial life course, each attempting to disambiguate paternity. Confronting a recurring anthropological problematic – the problem of paternity (paternity’s inherent putativity) – the article argues that Dominicans contest uncertain physical fatherhood through the proverb ‘blood speaks’. The article elaborates how relatedness reveals itself in the subtle bodies of kin at three moments: through a local version of the couvade (‘sympathetic pregnancy’); in elders’ post-partum ritual scrutiny of children’s bodies for familial resemblances; and during serendipitous encounters in later life. The article highlights how physical fatherhood is disclosed in fathers’ and children’s symptoms, appearances, and sensations, revealing their kinship in transpersonal terms. Therefore, blood ‘speaks’ to counter broad brushed narratives of Caribbean fatherly absence by revealing the physical and spiritual significance of fatherhood. Herein, the article revives classic anthropological debates on legitimacy, the couvade, and Caribbean kinship, whilst contributing to contemporary theorizations of blood and naming.

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Dominica, Fathers, Fatherhood, Paternity

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22 November 2018Accepted
18 December 2018Published Online
1 March 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

21 Dec 2018 09:36

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2021 13:05

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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