Kinship as gift and theft: Acts of succession in Mayotte and Israel

by Michael Lambek

When kinship is viewed through the lens of succession rather than reproduction, conflict between siblings becomes salient and the gift of kinship can be experienced as theft. Developing an approach to kinship as ethically constituted through acts, I draw on the biblical story of Jacob and Esau to frame an account of succession in Mayotte that transpires in the register of spirit possession. This account follows the lives of two sisters I first described in this journal in 1988.