Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Anthropology of Babies in the News

What a joy to see cross-cultural babies in The Huffington Post, and even more joy to see that the column is written by Alma Gottlieb, anthropologist extraordinaire who studies Being babies of The Ivory Coast.

Foto by Alma Gottlieb
 via The Huffington Pos
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Although there are several anthropologists who have studied infants, Gottlieb is my personal favorite because of her in-depth, deeply moving, and life-changing ethnography of Being infants. She brings those babies and parents to life for the reader, and her comparisons between Western culture and the Being is the kind of enlightenment that opens up Western minds to the ways of other.

In fact, I use her book every year for my course The Anthropology of Parenting (and I believe it has significantly helped changed the values and belief systems of hundreds of future parents), and when I give a lecture about parents and babies in evolutionary and cross-cultural perspective, I start with her work.

Alma Gottlieb
 via The Huffington Pos
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Oh yes I do. After a detailed description of how Beng adults view babies, I say, "Gottlieb's point is that babies are not considered the same way in all cultures. For the Beng, babies lived a full and spiritually rich existence with other parents before they started the long journey into this world, and they must be respected for this. In the West we think of infants as helpless, unknowable beings that make us rush to pediatricians and advice books."

In the last year, audiences in Brno and Prague, The Czech Republic, as well as Barcelona, Spain, have heard about those Being babies.

And now, Gottlieb is doing us all (especially our babies) a great service by bringing her information and perspective to mass media.  In doing so, she also makes a mark for anthropology and how cross-cultural information can make us think out of the cultural box and try other ways. And those thoughts and changes will surely make us better parents with happier babies.


2 comments:

Marie-Eve Boudreault said...

Thanks for your insights and recommendations, as a sociologist and mom of twins I learn a lot on continuum parenting, to use the concept of Jean Liedloff, on your blog. And I now work with ease in the garden not forcing my back. ;-)

LittleOwlCrunchyMomma said...

Thanks for sharing the article and the book. Excited to read the book. I had never heard of it before. How wonderful that these ideas are becoming "main stream" but how said that they need to be "new" to us at the same time.