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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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(p.1) Chapter 1 Introduction
Contingent Lives
University of Chicago Press

This chapter shows high-technology Western contraceptive use out of place: to use far from where they were manufactured, in a country whose uneducated rural inhabitants appear to have ideas about reproduction radically different from those in the West. It also shows contraceptive use out of time: used at a point in time and for a duration in which efforts to space children safely can hardly characterize the motive. It reveals contraceptive use in an unlikely social context, one in which a woman's future conjugal life seems to hang in the balance on the basis of her ability to produce children. These findings on contraception following a reproductive mishap, with little apparent regard for its temporal penalties for fertility, fly in the face of every demographic theory that has been advanced to explain fertility behaviors in places such as Africa. They seem to reflect efforts to reduce or “control” numbers of children under circumstances in which the economic gains of fertility vastly outweigh their costs and where a target family size can hardly have been reached.

Keywords:   contraceptive, Africa, reproduction, fertility, control numbers

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