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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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Rethinking Fertility, Time, and Aging

Rethinking Fertility, Time, and Aging

(p.321) Chapter 10 Rethinking Fertility, Time, and Aging
Contingent Lives
University of Chicago Press

This chapter uses ethnographic and demographic data from rural Gambia and presents a number of propositions about reproduction, aging, and social life that span disciplines in the social sciences, medical sciences, and humanities. It scrutinizes a broad range of numerical and narrative data from rural Gambia on how women and men manage their conjugal and reproductive lives. Investing broadly and deeply in social relations is the cornerstone of the contingency scheme. Predominant in women's descriptions of husbanding their bodily resources are metaphors of economy: in wealth and bodily endowment (of muscles, strength, or an endowed number of child potentials) and in the saving and expenditure of moral capital. The most notable is that women in rural Gambia are using high-technology contraceptives to construct through careful cultural strategies what appear, in statistical analysis, to be birth spacing patterns created by “nature,” producing what demographic analyses term “natural fertility.”

Keywords:   time, aging, fertility, social life, reproductive lives, economy

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