By Caroline H. Bledsoe
Most ladies within the West use contraceptives so that it will stay away from having youngsters. yet in rural Gambia and different elements of sub-Saharan Africa, many ladies use contraceptives for the other reason—to have as many young children as possible.Using ethnographic and demographic information from a three-year examine in rural Gambia, Contingent Lives explains this probably counterintuitive truth by means of juxtaposing very diverse understandings of the lifestyles direction: one is a linear, Western version that equates getting older and the power 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 background, in particular obstetric trauma. Viewing each one of those versions from the point of view of the opposite, Caroline Bledsoe produces clean understandings of the classical anthropological matters of copy, time, and getting older as culturally formed inside of women's conjugal lives. Her insights can be welcomed by way of students of anthropology and demography in addition to via these operating in public future health, improvement reports, gerontology, and the historical past 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)
For a woman, this person may be her younger sister or her co-wife—someone who pounds millet for her, brings her water and ﬁrewood, looks after her young children, and tends her when she is sick. A man’s next-to person is often a younger brother or an older son; when his sons or their mothers are at odds with one another, it may be a young man who came into his household as a fostered child. The next-to person knows much about you: what foods you should and should not eat, what your habits are, who you do not like (and, conversely, who does not like you), what secret wrongs you may have committed, and so on.
We apply the frame of time as nature (or the bodily clock) as much to reproductive capacity as to aging. Much as Emily Martin (1987) observed that medical texts often construe the female body as a machine, it is also the case that we think of female reproductive capacity in the metaphor of a clock. We plot reproductive capacity, which we equate with the ability to conceive, along a pathway that converges closely with aging. Our belief in a time-based end of reproductivity is so pervasive that, as is true for common sense in general, it almost goes without saying.
I eventually came to realize that I was not really ﬂip-ﬂopping. I was just experiencing different aspects of the mind. The longer I lived in Samoa, the more I was able to use the Samoans’ cultural resources to reconstruct my own mental models” (6). Introduction 31 must have withdrawn support from her. In truth, therefore, these two facets of experience, linearity and contingency, are not mutually exclusive but rather elements of the same framework. One cannot be understood without presuming the existence of the other.