Family in Process

‘Familyhood’ is an infinite variety of life forms and practices based on relationships between human and nonhuman actors. It emerges wherever given persons and beings by choice, birth, or other events, take responsibility for one another, provide economic stability, and bestow attention and care. Relationships between family members need not be based on either romantic relationships or blood ties – coexistence is sufficient; not necessarily limited by unity of place and time. The basis of the family relationship is unconditional acceptance and support. Relationships between family members are based on equality, while recognising individual needs. Everyone and anyone has the opportunity to influence the shape of the family constellation, to take action, and, if possible, to make decisions about its functioning. The better-situated beings help the weaker ones. The family provides stability, fulfilment, refuge and growth, while remaining in dialogue with society and nature, shaping and being shaped by them.

This is more or less how I imagine a modifiable definition of familism. Thus it differs from the dogmas of patriarchal-capitalist society. In many countries, including Poland, only nuclear, heteronormative family forms can count on recognition and support; single parents, patchwork and polyamorous families – not to mention interspecies families – have difficult access to rights, or are deprived of them. Since the social democratic election, our western neighbours have raised the issue of legalising the so-called communities of responsibility [Verantwortungsgemeinschaften], whose members do not have to be related by blood or marriage to have the same rights as biological families and partnerships. In the country of Vistula river, undertaking the discussion about what a modern family could be results in accusations of an attack on tradition and Polishness in general. Meanwhile, the historical analysis of family forms shows much more diversity than the sanctified form of a pair marriage, it includes polygamy, and within its framework polygyny and polyandry; in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884) Friedrich Engels writes about group marriages and the Punalua family — which excludes immediate relatives from sexual practices — as practiced in Hawaii. He also argues that Western forms of family, from feudal times through capitalism, have been linked with economic interests, i.e. protection of material goods and accumulation of capital – hence the imposed monogamy and depriving women of succession rights. At the turn of the century, feminist scholars and activists deconstructed the myth of the patriarchal family and pointed to the abuses and structural violence underlying it. They demanded the appreciation of reproductive labour connected with care (Federici 1975), gender equality (Haslander 2000) and strengthening the position of the child in the family (Shanley 2001), outlined in this issue of RTV Magazine by Anna Krawczak in the text Where the heart of Poland beats [Tam, gdzie bije serce Polski] illustrated with drawings by Weronika Bet.

Contemporary reproductive technologies including in vitro, artificial insemination, and surrogacy, among others, add to the spectrum of familiality the multiple identities associated with being a parent. Thus, they raise questions about the role of biology and medicine at each stage of reproduction: in the process of conception, pregnancy, and its termination in the form of birth or lack thereof (miscarriage, abortion). Reproductive technologies, by proposing methods of dealing with infertility (biological and social), at the same time raise questions of an ethical, identity, and political nature — related to access to expensive methods. Ignoring these phenomena or demonising them reduces social reality, and contributes to the emergence of a commercial market for reproductive services, with its characteristic exploitation of the poorer (usually women) by the more privileged (future parents). At the other end of the parental spectrum is anti-natalism, that is, the refusal to reproduce, for ethical reasons, for example, related to overpopulation and climate change, or existential reasons — to reduce suffering. The feminist biologist and philosopher Donna Haraway adds to climate anti-natalism the proposal to establish kinship relations with nonhuman animals, because our collective planetary well-being depends on them, something we have forgotten in the life-destroying era of the Capitalocene.

An excellent analysis of Polish forms of family life is offered by Agata Stanisz in her book titled Family made in Poland. Anthropology of Kinship and Family Life [Rodzina made in Poland. Antropologia pokrewieństwa i życia rodzinnego]. In this issue of RTV, we publish an excerpt from the introduction to the publication entitled Kinship in Process [Pokrewieństwo w procesie] with drawings by Małgorzata Mycek. Małgorzata Myślińska deals with the erasure of class in the family imaginarium, taking her readers on a journey to photographic workshops where backgrounds and accessories say more about the portrayed people than they themselves would like to admit. The theme of care and invisibility of a woman-mother in the field of art is raised by Weronika Morawiec, who analyses her own and collective experience of parenthood. Ada Rączka introduces non-binary issues to the topic of home and family through three video works and poetry. In Art Channel [Kanał Sztuki] Karolina Balcer presents her long-term project Happy Family, in which she confronts the invisibility of mental illness and related with that, the crisis of homelessness; Tomasz Partyka uses a series of photographs from the SUMMER/SUMMER series inspired by conversations with his grandmother Leonia to work through his inherited fears; Eliza Proszczuk searches for sisterly bonds in the community of weavers, and Barbara Gryka confronts the uneasy love for her home country, which not only doesn’t reciprocate her feelings, but violently denies her the right to self-determination. At the end, activist and therapist Pixie Frączek in her interview The Problem is Poland talks about rainbow families, and the changes in parents’ attitudes towards their non-normative children, additionally postulating the removal of class exclusions from the therapist profession, and giving specific tips on how to do it.

We wish you an engaging read!


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