Love and its (‘dangerous’) liaisons
The manifestation of a sentiment/instinct of “love/sex” presupposes the existence, at least on a metaphorical level, of some type of relationship paradigm between the person expressing it and the individual receiving it. The implications of such paradigms vary widely, ranging from the reflexive and self-referential, to extend, potentially, to encompass the entire imaginable spectrum of what is real and what is fiction, without any limits of time or space and, consequently, no requirement that the sentiment be reciprocated.
The configurations of these relationships can therefore presuppose the existence of extremely heterogeneous codes of expression, heavily conditioned by the features and personalities of their recipients (whether man, woman, adult, child, divinity, ancestor, prostitute, historical figure, fictitious or idealised, animal, simulacrum, amulet, work of art, place, building, etc.) and the recipient’s relationship, if any, with the ‘sender’ (parent, lover, husband, child, friend, client, colleague, memory, ideal, paradigm, object of desire, etc.).
In light of the above, this third subtheme represents a complement to the previous one, shifting the focus of the interpreter from the concrete sphere of physical actions, signs and expressions – which can serve as tangible manifestations of a feeling of love – to those relationship mechanisms and channels of contact (poetry/song/artistic expression, gifts, declarations, offerings, veneration, condolences, consecration, bequests, etc.) that love may require as prerequisites in order that communication take place and its message be in some way made manifest and/or reach its destination.
When relationship mechanisms involving emotion are continuously codified in a specific system, it can produce that heterogeneous (to some degree) and multifaceted social construct that we conventionally define “family”. It can be arranged in various ways and take on diverse forms in different cultures, based on the manner in which the perception of “kinship” and all the complex rules and dynamics that accompany it have evolved. However, these rules and dynamics must always be viewed within the broader cultural and ideological context to which they belong, which may, in some cases, deeply alter individuals’ sentimental conditioning, subjugating emotion to economic or political motivations – as has been recently highlighted by approaches of a transactionalist nature, intended to call into question the Eurocentric schemata that have often been simplistically and excessively applied when studying and reconstructing kinship systems.
It is therefore no coincidence that these subjects are, as a whole, traditionally dear to the heart of anthropological researchers – who have always, since the earliest days of their discipline, attempted to explore the ways in which communities socially and culturally govern themselves. They base their investigations on an analysis of the limitations and prohibitions that govern the architecture of a given system of kinship relationships (from the taboo of incest to residence obligations or rules of inheritance, usually established upon an elementary binary opposition of a gender-related nature: uxorilocality/virilocality or matrilineality/patrilineality), in the knowledge that communities act on considerations related to reproduction, in ways that are, to varying degrees, consistent with purely biological factors. The patterns thus created give rise to behaviours and groupings which archaeology (for instance, when studying protohistoric societies) can often only discern based on extremely weak and controversial evidence, such as the internal or external organisation of the dwellings in a village, the basic mechanics of production and sustenance, the dynamics of property inheritance, and, most importantly, the arrangements of graves in burial spaces. This final element has only in recent years begun to be integrated with scientific investigations of a palaeobiological and genetic nature – which are, however, not without their own numerous complicated implications.