Introduction: Friendship

Eva van Roekel, Tessa Diphoorn

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Social relations lie at the core of the anthropological discipline and emphasize the intrinsic intersubjective character of how lives are made and remade. Friendship, in its multiple shapes and patterns, can be identified in almost every social realm across the globe and across time, yet is often an overlooked social relation. In many ways, friendship is both an ambiguous social relation and social institution (Desai and E. Killick 2013; McCall et al. 1970). Friendships differ cross-culturally and can vary greatly in intensity, from simple well-wishers to familiar, close, dear, intimate, bosom, boon-companion friends, each with its own subtle quality (Firth 1999: xiv).
In this upcoming issue of Etnofoor, we want to further develop our anthropological understanding of friendship. We invite scholars to analyse the various meanings that friendships carry and the numerous ways in which friendships are constructed, experienced, and maintained. How can we compare friendship to other social relations, such as kinship, collegiality or romantic relations, and how do concepts of reciprocity and sharing relate to friendship? What are the functions of friendships and how do they differ across localities? One perspective is to look at the ways in which the explosion of social media has shaped friendships; how do these ‘virtual friends’ on various digital platforms inform our understanding of friendship? Another perspective is to look at the ways in which new technologies shape friendships not only between humans, but also between species; how do these ‘non-human’ friends change our understanding of what friendship entails? Furthermore, how are friendships instrumentalised and politicised to achieve certain goals and how does this influence power structures and dynamics? Referring back to Pitt-Rivers’ (1954) analysis of patronage as a form of ‘lopsided friendship’, how can friendships morph into, or act as masks for nepotism and favouritism? Another crucial avenue is to explore in what ways friendships influence the practice of doing ethnography. How do ethnographers create and maintain friendships and how does this help and/or disadvantage our means of data collection? Furthermore, how do friendships between anthropologists and across institutions create certain ‘social cliques’ within the discipline and thereby perhaps maintain certain modes of knowledge production and (un)intentionally reproduce structures of inequality and exclusion?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-10
Number of pages4
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Friendship
  • kinship
  • morality


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