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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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Reaping the Rewards of Reproduction: Morality, Retirement, and Repletion

Reaping the Rewards of Reproduction: Morality, Retirement, and Repletion

(p.250) Chapter 8 Reaping the Rewards of Reproduction: Morality, Retirement, and Repletion
Contingent Lives
University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes some of the most fascinating implications of the contingency view of fertility: those that lie in the junctures between health and social morality. Turning to the social relations underlying reproduction, it shows that a woman tries to expend her bodily resources for her husband's family in the expectation that its members will in turn begin to support her as she moves into elderhood. This effort rests on a set of tensions that are expressed in the language of struggle, sacrifice, obligations, and blessings. This chapter also discusses efforts to convert bodily expenditure through sacrifice into social and moral capital, and the culmination of this process in retirement from childbearing. It compares a standard fertility questionnaire to the one that a Gambian woman might create, one that graphically depicts the convergence of physical expenditure and social significance in the temporalities of married life.

Keywords:   reproduction, woman, social capital, health, morality

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