By Caroline H. Bledsoe
Most girls within the West use contraceptives so as to keep away from having young children. yet in rural Gambia and different components of sub-Saharan Africa, many girls use contraceptives for the other reason—to have as many youngsters as possible.Using ethnographic and demographic information from a three-year examine in rural Gambia, Contingent Lives explains this likely counterintuitive truth by means of juxtaposing very diverse understandings of the existence 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, particularly 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 matters of replica, time, and getting older as culturally formed inside of women's conjugal lives. Her insights can be welcomed by means of students of anthropology and demography in addition to via these operating in public overall healthiness, improvement reports, gerontology, and the historical past of medication.
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Extra info for Contingent Lives: Fertility, Time, and Aging in West Africa (Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture Series, Volume 1999)
And whereas menopause is drawing unprecedented attention in the United States among educated baby boomers who have postponed parenthood, it is hardly discussed at all in The Gambia. The mystery, in sum, is why people who so intensely desire high fertility should display such profound indifference toward the passage of time. It is only when confronted with a jarring case like that of Kaddy Seesay—someone with such a pathetic reproductive history who appears to be blocking off signiﬁcant portions of her fast-shrinking fecund life—that we realize that the entire picture makes no sense.
This English phrase, found most prominently in the vocabulary of disaster planning or military operations, implies taking action to forestall deleterious outcomes. One does not simply sit back and wait for the unknown to occur. Rather, one tries to calibrate a trajectory by assessing the present and reﬂecting on past experience, then laying plans by anticipating the most likely outcomes. Instances of contingency strategies like these appear in chapter 4, in the descriptions of women’s contraceptive decisions.
While women try to ﬁt in as many births as time allows, population planners try to “protect” as much of this same reproductive time as possible through (for example) campaigns to raise the legal age at marriage or by supporting contraceptive programs to persuade women to delay, space, or stop childbearing. As for rural Gambia, with its high fertility level, regular sequence of birth intervals, and meager numbers of current contraceptives users, it is tempting to concur with this depiction: women let biology and traditional norms run their course until time puts an end to their reproductive capacity.