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Contingent LivesFertility, Time, and Aging in West Africa$
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Caroline H. Bledsoe

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226058511

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226058504.001.0001

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Reproductive Tolls and Temporalities in Studies of Reproduction

Reproductive Tolls and Temporalities in Studies of Reproduction

Chapter:
(p.35) Chapter 2 Reproductive Tolls and Temporalities in Studies of Reproduction
Source:
Contingent Lives
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226058504.003.0002

This chapter sheds light on what might seem to be a set of highly counterintuitive propositions about aging and reproduction for two reasons. One is the empirical weight of the Gambian findings, which depart sharply and consistently from current Western academic writings about fertility. The other is a disciplinary conviction that cultural frames are so powerful that they can “naturalize,” or assimilate to common sense, beliefs gained through scientific procedures as easily as they can the religious efficacy of amulets. The biological clock that controls the uterus's muscular tone outlasts the clock that controls the ability to conceive. The linear, geometrized logic of time that is used to describe and estimate population-level fertility is also applied to the individual level. Some of the most subtle reproductive temporalities in demographic formulations of fertility are the timing, pacing, and circumstances of birth intervals, or the spaces between births. Demographic analyses have placed particular emphasis on the birth interval as a determinant of levels of marital fertility in natural-fertility regimes, where desires for children are said to be unlimited.

Keywords:   reproduction temporalities, fertility, aging, biological clock, birth spaces

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