The Afterlife Is Where We Come From
When a new baby arrives among the Beng people of West Africa, they see it not as being born, but as being reincarnated after a rich life in a previous world. Far from being a tabula rasa, a Beng infant is thought to begin its life filled with spiritual knowledge. How do these beliefs affect the way the Beng rear their children?
In this unique and engaging ethnography of babies, Alma Gottlieb explores how religious ideology affects every aspect of Beng childrearing practices—from bathing infants to protecting them from disease to teaching them how to crawl and walk—and how widespread poverty limits these practices. A mother of two, Gottlieb includes moving discussions of how her experiences among the Beng changed the way she saw her own parenting. Throughout the book she also draws telling comparisons between Beng and Euro-American parenting, bringing home just how deeply culture matters to the way we all rear our children.
All parents and anyone interested in the place of culture in the lives of infants, and vice versa, will enjoy The Afterlife Is Where We Come From.
"This wonderfully reflective text should provide the impetus for formulating research possibilities about infancy and toddlerhood for this century." — Caren J. Frost, Medical Anthropology Quarterly “Alma Gottlieb’s careful and thought-provoking account of infancy sheds spectacular light upon a much neglected topic. . . . [It] makes a strong case for the central place of babies in anthropological accounts of religion. Gottlieb’s remarkably rich account, delivered after a long and reflective period of gestation, deserves a wide audience across a range of disciplines.”—Anthony Simpson, Critique of Anthropology
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Abidjan afterlife Afwe Ajua Alma Amenan anthropology baby-sitter baby’s bath beads Beng adults Beng babies Beng infants Beng mothers Beng parents Beng villages Beng women Bengland biological birth Boussou breast milk breast-feed breast-feeding caretakers chapter child classiﬁed co-sleeping Coˆte d’Ivoire considered cord courtyard cowry cultural daughter deﬁned developmental developmental psychologists difﬁcult dirt disease diviner Earth enema especially example fewa ﬁelds ﬁeldwork ﬁgure ﬁnd ﬁrst ﬁve girl Gottlieb herbal human ideology inﬂuence Ivoirian jewelry kola kola nut Kouakou Kouassi ku˜li language lives medicines middle-class Euro-American months Nathaniel neighbors newborn night nursing observed offer person perspective Philip Philip Graham poverty practices Press recent reﬂected relatives ritual sacriﬁce Sassandra sick signiﬁcant signiﬁcantly sleep social society son’s speciﬁc spirits strangers taboo Tahan teeth tetanus tiniŋ toddlers University vulnerable walk wash wean West Africa Western wet nursing woman wrugbe young children