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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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Realizing a Reproductive Endowment in a Contingent Body

Realizing a Reproductive Endowment in a Contingent Body

Chapter:
(p.162) Chapter 6 Realizing a Reproductive Endowment in a Contingent Body
Source:
Contingent Lives
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226058504.003.0006

This chapter addresses how disparate forces of divine will, individual action, and a shaping social context function in combination. The vision of female reproductivity that rural Gambians describe identifies four key components: endowment, muscles, strength, and blood. They are set along several axes. Among the most important are fixity versus malleability, transparency versus impenetrability, permanence versus transience, and the degree to which the elements can be replenished. The three reproductive elements (muscles, strength, blood) operate in close synchrony during childbirth and its aftermath. This chapter shows an intricate mixture of propositions about God-given and socially controlled elements of reproduction, along with the principles governing the manner and pace of their decrement. The contingency view holds that all pregnancies are taxing if not dangerous for women. The cultural categorization of different kinds of miscarriages provides additional support for the contingency framework.

Keywords:   female reproductivity, Gambians, childbirth, contingent body, miscarriages

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