- Engelstein, S. The sibling in modern epistemology.28 January, 2017. 49-68 pp.
(last updated on 2019/06/25)
© 2017 V & R unipress GmbH, Gottingen. The long nineteenth century turned to genealogy as an organising principle for knowledge across fields as diverse as evolutionary theory, linguistics, race theory and comparative religion. In a genealogical system, the sibling - neither quite the same, nor quite other - is a boundary figure that enables, but also undermines, the delineation of neighbouring terms, whether within systems of species, languages, races, religions or subjects. However, the sibling was never gender-neutral. The evolutionary, racial, linguistic and familial genealogical trees of the nineteenth century attest to the desires of Europeans both to control the contours of kinship and to naturalise - and hence legitimate - systems of classification and knowledge. Repeatedly, the sexuality of sisters is implicated in establishing affiliation. The parthenogentically imagined lineages of language development could turn the sister language into a pure arbiter of identity, in contrast to the category race, which, susceptible to the mingling of kinships, subjected female sexuality to policing. A family affect fostered between siblings in the nursery grounded both gender differentiation and the financial allegiance at the heart of emerging capitalism. However, this education left traces that challenged rather than reinforced both the innateness of gender and the integrity of the subject. Hence, the sibling became the privileged figure for negotiating identity in literature, while sibling incest haunted the cultural imaginary.