Contingent Lives: Fertility, Time, and Aging in West Africa by Caroline H. Bledsoe

By Caroline H. Bledsoe

Most ladies within the West use contraceptives with a purpose to stay away from having teenagers. yet in rural Gambia and different components of sub-Saharan Africa, many girls use contraceptives for the other reason—to have as many young children as possible.Using ethnographic and demographic facts from a three-year research in rural Gambia, Contingent Lives explains this probably counterintuitive truth by way of juxtaposing very assorted understandings of the existence direction: one is a linear, Western version that equates getting older and the facility to breed with the passage of time, the opposite a Gambian version that perspectives getting older as contingent at the cumulative actual, social, and non secular hardships of non-public heritage, specifically obstetric trauma. Viewing every one of those versions from the point of view of the opposite, Caroline Bledsoe produces clean understandings of the classical anthropological topics of replica, time, and getting older as culturally formed inside of women's conjugal lives. Her insights might be welcomed through students of anthropology and demography in addition to by way of these operating in public well-being, improvement experiences, gerontology, and the heritage of drugs.

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Extra info for Contingent Lives: Fertility, Time, and Aging in West Africa (Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture Series, Volume 1999)

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Among the most mind-bending paradoxes are the plays of time among African immigrant women as they consider their reproductive lives in Africa and in the United States (chapter 7). Equally absorbing 22. In her repeated trips to Niger over a number of years, the anthropologist Susan Rasmussen implies that she seemed to become an aberrant linear measure against which Tuareg women measured their own normal contingent decline (1997, 88). 28 Chapter 1 is the life course logic of Gambian men (chapters 6, 7, and 8) which, because men do not bear children, is said to manifest a far more linear pattern of decline than does that of women.

13 In doing so, we have overlooked very 13. Along different lines, see Martin’s (1998) critique of biological research that maintains a mechanistic, linear vision of the body. In contrast, Martin argues, many nonscientists see change as nonlinear. The body is depicted in their models as a complex interacting system embedded in other complex systems, and all in constant change. Thus, small initial perturbations can lead to massive alterations in results. 12 Chapter 1 different understandings of both physical experience and of the social life that may be constituted around it.

Thus, the possibility that reproduction is in some empirical sense a lever for aging means that a woman is said to be able to guide the pace and character of her aging in culturally specific ways by managing her birth events. Her primary motive in doing so, however, is not a cosmetic effort to preserve youth. Nor does she seek to alter the overall process. She seeks instead to smooth the roughest edges of risk. Taking all this a step further yields an even more provocative implication: a woman can seek moral gain from the way she ages.

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