The Introduction sets out the epistemology of studying kinship in the Middle Ages. It proposes that investigations of medieval kinship have been frustrated because researchers have assumed that kinship is a human universal which can be retroactively and safely applied to the analysis of different times and places. It sketches David Schneider’s anthropological critique that kinship studies have been based on biogenetic and genealogical assumptions of the modern West that are fundamentally alien to the societies they seek to understand. It puts forth an alternative approach by proposing a method for identifying indigenous conceptions of kinship which can help illuminate the place of kinship within the societal cosmologies of early medieval Europe.
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