Skip to content

Paper Submitted: Arctic Anthropology

Kinship, Family, and Exchange in a Labrador Inuit Community

Kirk Dombrowski (corresponding author)
Bilal Khan
Emily Channell
Joshua Moses
Kate McLean
Evan Misshula

Kinship, family and household have received considerable attention in Inuit studies; this paper takes a comparative, social networks approach to these issues. Here kinship connections are represented in network form as a composite of individual kinship dyads of descent, co-parentage, or siblingship. The composite kinship network is then used as a standard of measure for the pair-wise distances of exchange/dependency dyads appearing in other social networks within the community (including the country food distribution network, store-bought food sharing network, traditional knowledge network, alcohol co-use network, household wellness network, job referrals network, and the housing network). This analysis allows us to gauge the role that kinship (of various distances, including household and family) plays in structuring exchanges across these various network domains. The data used here was collected in Nain, Labrador in January – June, 2010. From 330 interviews we extracted more than 4900 exchanges and patterns of helping relationships among the 749 current adult residents of the community, and more than 10,000 kinship connections among a total of 1687 individuals directly linked by descent or marriage/co-parentage. The results of this analysis show that past emphasis on kin-oriented exchange in Inuit communities has mistakenly emphasized the nature of the exchange item (traditional versus store-bought/cash economy), missing important data on the nature of the exchange itself (reciprocal or one-way).

Keywords: Inuit, Labrador, Social Network Analysis, Kinship, Subsistence, Exchange