Get access

The Shared History: Unknotting Fictive Kinship and Legal Process


  • I am grateful to all my informants for their time and generosity. Because of the sensitivity of the issues discussed in this article, I cannot thank them personally here. For thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this article, I thank Annelise Riles, Michael Lynch, Martha Fineman, Leticia Barrera, Eyal Ben-Ari, Rosie Harding, Tsachi Keren-Paz, Ann Kelly, Shai Lavi, Amy Levine, Julie McCandless, Zvi Triger, and the four LSR anonymous reviewers. I also thank the editor of LSR, Carroll Seron, for her astute guidance, as well as Danielle McClellan and Evelyn Rubak from LSR. The research reported in this article has received approvals from offices of protection of human subjects in Israel and the United States. For financial support I thank the Lady Davis Fellowship Trust, the Gender, Sexuality and the Family Fund at Cornell University and Emory University, and Cornell Law School.

Please address correspondence to Marie-Andrée Jacob, Keele University School of Law, Staffordshire, United Kingdom; e-mail:


This article looks in detail at a form of kinship that is contingently crafted and mobilized to achieve specific purposes. On the basis of ethnographic material collected among local actors within bodies that regulate kidney transplants in Israel, the objective of this article is to expand the sociolegal definition of fictive kinship. I use transplant relatedness to refer to the set of formal and informal norms that grow out of social and medico-legal practices in the field of kidney donations and sales; however, the form of fictive kinship that appears in this specific field tells us something broader about kinship as it is constructed and performed in legal processes more generally. The configuration of fictive kinship that is examined is the shared history (historia meshoutefet). I argue that in the present case, the shared history alters social and legal deep-seated understandings of kinship and ultimately makes the distinctions between allegedly real and pseudo-kinship collapse.