Kinship 2023

Community, relationality and belonging in a world of islands

As our relational interdependencies are thrown into ever-greater relief as a result of the global ‘metacrisis’, the metaphor ‘world as archipelago’ offers us an intriguing way to look at our interconnected amphibious existence. Expanding on (and challenging) the notion of the ‘global village’, an archipelagic outlook acknowledges both our connections and separations as foundational to our relationships, all the while inviting our oft-forgotten ocean kin into our awareness.

Curated by Hannah Close

Course preview

Course modules

We begin our journey exploring time, place, and interconnectedness. In her talk, 'An Islander Adrift on a Continent' Leny discusses longing for home and the disconnection to place caused by colonisation. In Andreas' session, the concept of islands is used as a metaphor to highlight the interconnectedness of living beings and the ongoing process of self-creation. This module emphasises the relationship between separation and connection, inviting us to consider our place in the world and our shared existence.

In module two, we explore interconnectedness, hidden histories, and the transformative power of poetry. Anna Arabindan-Kesson examines the global plantation within the British Empire, delving into its entanglements and visual cultures. David Whyte discusses how poetry allows us to uncover and express our hidden selves, empowering us to engage with the world and take meaningful action. In the third session, Maureen Penjueli reflects on the "other" through the exploration of bacteria and viruses, offering lessons in kinship and the interplay between foreignness and shared humanity.

Iain McGilchrist and Himali Singh Soin explore perception, cultural synthesis, and the celebration of difference. In the first session, Iain discusses the balance between sameness and difference in perception, drawing on his research into hemisphere differences in the brain. Next, Himali shares a mythopoetic memo about the space between the shore and the tide, illegibility, and translucency as an erotic way back into our new-natural.

In module four, we consider relationships with the more-than-human and the significance of kinship. Bathsheba Demuth describes the changing dynamics of human-whale relationships, from Indigenous hunters to commercial whaling ships, and Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq discusses the importance of unity and acceptance in a world that has become divided. He highlights the need for harmonious living and calls upon young people to learn how to build relationships and relate to one another.

This module explores archipelagos, islands, and local cultures. Craig Santos Perez focuses on the significance of archipelagos in Pacific Islander literature, highlighting kinship, traditional knowledge, and decolonisation. David Gange examines the interconnectedness of island spaces through small family boats, emphasising alternative ways of being beyond growth-based economics.

To close our journey, Alastair McIntosh reflects on the interconnectedness and interdependence of living on the island of Lewis, highlighting the value of nurturing the soul and creating positive change. Kailea Frederick emphasises the importance of bridging worlds and identities in a divided society, using storytelling and writing prompts to encourage self-reflection and understanding.

Course information

We inhabit a world of islands…Our pale blue dot; a constellation of archipelagos buoyed amidst an even greater cosmos of celestial atolls. Like the billowing ocean tides, our terraqueous isle undulates toward the sun, moon and stars, impelling the transformation of matter at each turn, our planetary tidewrack visible in the fallen leaves and glacial floes.

Despite our separations, cosmic and interpersonal, we are all intimately connected. The poet John Donne famously said ‘no man is an island’, and while the biotic world relies on the creative expression of our individuality, our own ‘islandness’, in order to manifest itself, beneath the surface we discover, like islands, that we are inextricably joined.

We are joined at the oceanic root, at the depths of the seabed, and by the salt-stippled space between us. The seas of relation that meditate our entanglements are, in the same breath, domains of impasse traversed only through building arks and yielding to the winds that carry our words and wares in sensuous exchange, or by diving courageously into the unbroken fathoms between and among us.

Rally together as crew as we explore our earthly relations and the liquescent spaces that connect us. Each module, we will navigate towards a unique island of inquiry, mapping counter-cartographies of relationship along the way. Through tentacular engagement with self, other, and the more-than-human, we'll challenge colonial and essentialist notions of relationship so that we might orient ourselves towards healthier ways of being together, ways that honor our profound entanglements with our elemental home.

We'll reflect on the thresholds, boundaries and borders that mediate our belonging, seeking to unflatten the map through 'tidalectic' perspectives that offer welcome anchorage in a world adrift.

Course includes

6 Modules
25 Sessions
13 Speakers
Curated readings, resources and activities
Community discussion area
Video and audio available


Leny Strobel

Leny Strobel is a Kapampangan from Central Luzon in the Philippines.

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Dr Andreas Weber

Andreas is a Berlin based author & independent scholar. He has degrees in Marine Biology & Cultural Studies, having collaborated with theoretical biologist Francisco Varela in Paris.

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Anna Arabindan-Kesson

Anna is an Associate Professor of Black Diasporic art at Princeton University.

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David Whyte

David is an internationally renowned poet and author. Behind these talents lies a very physical attempt to give voice to the wellsprings of human identity, human striving and, most difficult of all, the possibilities for human happiness. He makes his home in the Pacific Northwest, where rain and changeable skies remind him of the other, more distant homes from which he comes: Yorkshire, Wales and Ireland. He speaks to the suffering and joy that accompany revelation, and the necessity of belonging to families, people and places.

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Maureen Penjueli

Maureen was born on the island of Rotuma but spent most of her schooling life in Lautoka, Fiji.

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Dr Iain McGilchrist

Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist and writer. He is committed to the idea that the mind and brain can be understood only by seeing them in the broadest possible context, that of the whole of our physical and spiritual existence, and of the wider human culture in which they arise – the culture which helps to mould, and in turn is moulded by, our minds and brains. Iain is interested in a wide range of psychiatric conditions, including depression, psychosis, personality disorders (especially borderline personality disorder), anxiety disorders, chronic low self-esteem, phobias, alcohol and drug abuse, as well as neuropsychiatry.

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Himali Singh Soin

Himali is a writer and artist based between London and Delhi.

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Bathsheba Demuth

Bathsheba is writer and environmental historian specialising in the lands and seas of the Russian and North American Arctic.

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Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq

Angaangaq is a shaman, traditional healer, storyteller and carrier of the Qilaut (wind drum).

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Craig Santos Perez

Craig is an indigenous Chamoru (Chamorro) from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam). He is a poet, scholar, editor, publisher, essayist, critic, book reviewer, artist, environmentalist, and political activist.

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David Gange

David is a writer and Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Birmingham.

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Alastair McIntosh

Alastair is one of the world’s leading environmental campaigners, distinguished in his ability to join together the outer and inner life. His book Spiritual Activism explores such paths of reconnection of the inner and outer worlds, which he argues is nothing less than learning how to sustain the flow of life. If we don’t do this, he states, “then our work will fall on stony ground, we’ll burn out or we’ll sell out.”

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Kailea Frederick

Kailea (she/her) is a mother of Tahltan, Kaska and Black American lineage.

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What our students say

I recently took the 6 week "Kinship" course and found it to be a very informative, thought provoking and inspiring opportunity to examine how humans (and other beings) relate to their bodies, their identity of "Self" in connection to others, as well as the deep web that binds us together here on this Earth. I find myself pondering the course materials and discussions throughout my day, and am seeking out books and other materials that are helping me to expand upon the rich knowledge that was shared in this course. I am honoured to have been part of this and look forward to attending more in the future <3

by Katherine van der Veen

Learning outcomes

  • Deepen your understanding of the role of relationships in creating healthier ways of being (both individually and collectively)
  • Discover what kinship means in your own life & rediscover your sense of place/rootedness in the world (and self)
  • Expand knowledge of different ways of relating to self, human, and more-than-human beings
  • Re-evaluate the notion of the "other" through intersectional and "multi-perspectival" lenses
  • Cultivate deeper awareness of nuance, complexity, and the value of a "both/and" perspective
  • Gather tools and practices for deepening a multitude of relationships in your own life
  • Shift your perception of kinship towards more expansive, unorthodox and/or radical possibilities relevant to the issues and contexts we find ourselves entangled in today
  • Expand knowledge of useful terms and concepts, and be part of questioning what a new ecologically intregrous language might look like (or a language towards flourishing for all)