Most women in the West use contraceptives in order to avoid having children. But in rural Gambia and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, many women use contraceptives for the opposite reason—to have as many children as possible.
Using ethnographic and demographic data from a three-year study in rural Gambia, Contingent Lives explains this seemingly counterintuitive fact by juxtaposing two very different understandings of the life course: one is a linear, Western model that equates aging and the ability to reproduce with the passage of time, the other a Gambian model that views aging as contingent on the cumulative physical, social, and spiritual hardships of personal history, especially obstetric trauma. Viewing each of these two models from the perspective of the other, Caroline Bledsoe produces fresh understandings of the classical anthropological subjects of reproduction, time, and aging as culturally shaped within women's conjugal lives. Her insights will be welcomed by scholars of anthropology and demography as well as by those working in public health, development studies, gerontology, and the history of medicine.
Could the length of your fingers indicate a predisposition to breast cancer? Or musical genius? Or homosexuality? In Digit Ratio, John T. Manning posits that relative lengths of the second and fourth digits in humans (2D:4D ratio) does provide such a window into hormone- and sex-related traits.
It has been known for more than a century that men and women tend to differ in the relative lengths of their index (2D) and ring (4D) fingers, which upon casual observation seem fairly symmetrical. Men on average have fourth digits longer than their second digits, while women typically have the opposite. Digit ratios are unique in that they are fixed before birth, while other sexually dimorphic variables are fixed after puberty, and the same genes that control for finger length also control the development of the sex organs. The 2D:4D ratio is the only prenatal sexually dimorphic trait that measurably explains conditions linking testosterone, estrogen, and human development; the study of the ratio broadens our view of human ability, talent, behavior, disposition, health, and fertility. In this book, Manning presents evidence for how 2D:4D correlates with traits ranging from sperm counts, family size, musical genius, and sporting prowess, to autism, depression, homosexuality, heart attacks, and breast cancer, traits that are all linked with early exposure to sex hormones.
In the Red Sea Hills of eastern Sudan, where poverty, famines, and conflict loom large, women struggle to gain the status of responsible motherhood through bearing and raising healthy children, especially sons. But biological fate can be capricious in impoverished settings. Amidst struggle for survival and expectations of heroic mothering, women face realities that challenge their ability to fulfill their prescribed roles. Even as the effects of modernity and development, global inequities, and exclusionary government policies challenge traditional ways of life in eastern Sudan and throughout many parts of Africa, reproductive traumas—infertility, miscarriage, children’s illnesses, and mortality—disrupt women’s reproductive health and impede their efforts to achieve the status that comes with fertility and motherhood.
In Embodying Honor Amal Hassan Fadlalla finds that the female body is the locus of anxieties about foreign dangers and diseases, threats perceived to be disruptive to morality, feminine identities, and social well-being. As a “northern Sudanese” viewed as an outsider in this region of her native country, Fadlalla presents an intimate portrait and thorough analysis that offers an intriguing commentary on the very notion of what constitutes the “foreign.” Fadlalla shows how Muslim Hadendowa women manage health and reproductive suffering in their quest to become “responsible” mothers and valued members of their communities. Her historically grounded ethnography delves into women’s reproductive histories, personal narratives, and ritual logics to reveal the ways in which women challenge cultural understandings of gender, honor, and reproduction.
This book presents, from the perspective of feminist jurisprudence and feminist and liberal bioethics, a complete study of Jewish law (halakhah) on contemporary reproductive issues such as birth control, abortion, and assisted fertility. Irshai examines these issues to probe gender-based values that underlie the interpretations and determinations reached by modern practitioners of halakhah. Her primary goal is to tell, through common halakhic tools, a different halakhic story, one that takes account of the female narrative and its missing perspective.
Fertility and Other Stories
Vsevolod Ivanov Northwestern University Press, 1998 Library of Congress PG3476.I9A23 1998 | Dewey Decimal 891.7342
Vsevolod Ivanov's personal experiences in Siberia and Central Asia during the Revolution and Civil War, set against a childhood and youth wandering that vast expanse, infuse his writing. Combining traditional elements with the fantastic and the surreal, Ivanov's stories address not only the themes of the Revolution--the dehumanizing effects of famine; the ferment, energy, and uncertainty of the tempestuous times--but also the quotidian: the quiet world of man and nature, and the elemental bond that tied peasants to their native land. Fertility and Other Stories makes available for the first time in English some of the best stories of one of the most talented twentieth-century Russian writers.
After decades of tremendous growth, Kinshasa-capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo-is now the second-largest urban area in sub-Saharan Africa. And as the city has grown-from around 300,000 people in the mid-1950s to more than five million today-it has experienced seismic social, economic, and demographic changes.
In this book, David Shapiro and B. Oleko Tambashe trace the impact of these changes on the lives of women, and their findings add dramatically to the field's limited knowledge of African demographic trends. They find that fertility has declined significantly in Kinshasa since the 1970s, and that women's increasing access to secondary education has played a key role in this decline. Better access to education has also given women greater access to employment opportunities. And by examining the impact of such factors as economic well-being and household demographic composition on the schooling of children, Shapiro and Tambashe reveal how one generation's fertility affects the next generation's education.
This book will be a valuable guide for anyone who wants to understand the complex and ongoing social, demographic, economic, and developmental changes in contemporary sub-Saharan Africa.
With close to one million members, the Church of the Nazarites (ibandla lamaNazaretha) is one of the most popular indigenous religious communities in South Africa. Founded in 1910 by Isaiah Shembe, it offers South Africans—particularly disadvantaged black women and girls—a way to remake and reconnect to ancient sacred traditions disrupted by colonialism and apartheid. Ethnomusicologist Carol Muller explores the everyday lives of Nazarite women through their religious songs and dances, dream narratives, and fertility rituals, which come to life both musically and visually on CD-ROM.
Against the backdrop of South Africa's turbulent history, Muller shows how Shembe's ideas of female ritual purity developed as a response to a regime and culture that pushed all things associated with women, cultural expression, and Africanness to the margins.
Carol Muller breaks new ground in the study of this changing region and along the way includes fascinating details of her own poignant journey, as a young, white South African woman, to the "other" side of a divided society.