Chapter

Discovering Our Habitus: Contingency and Linearity in Western Obstetric Observations

in Contingent Lives

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2002 | ISBN: 9780226058511
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226058504 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226058504.003.0009
Discovering Our Habitus: Contingency and Linearity in Western Obstetric Observations

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A woman's body changes irreversibly as a result of cumulative reproductive experience. This chapter attempts to keep the time-based and the cumulative visions of fertility and aging within comparative reach of one another. It shows incongruities from Western scholarship. One was the social science critiques of contraceptive distribution in the developing world on the grounds that using contraceptives must suppress total child numbers by reducing reproductive time. It suggests that contingency rather than linearity may have been the dominant model of the female life course even in the past. The ordeals of childbearing could inflict problems of magnitude that several of the guild writers, despite their increased age, expressed relief at reaching the point in their lives at which they could finish childbearing or create lengthy spaces between births. The cases examined in this chapter have gone back in time, examining populations that were at far greater risk of malnutrition, disease, and injury than is true of today's world.

Keywords: woman; age; reproductive time; female life; childbearing

Chapter.  15062 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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