The Afterlife Is Where We Come From
The Afterlife Is Where We Come From
In this unique and engaging ethnography of babies, Alma Gottlieb explores how religious ideology affects every aspect of Beng childrearing practices—from bathing infants to protecting them from disease to teaching them how to crawl and walk—and how widespread poverty limits these practices. A mother of two, Gottlieb includes moving discussions of how her experiences among the Beng changed the way she saw her own parenting. Throughout the book she also draws telling comparisons between Beng and Euro-American parenting, bringing home just how deeply culture matters to the way we all rear our children.
All parents and anyone interested in the place of culture in the lives of infants, and vice versa, will enjoy The Afterlife Is Where We Come From.
"This wonderfully reflective text should provide the impetus for formulating research possibilities about infancy and toddlerhood for this century." — Caren J. Frost, Medical Anthropology Quarterly
427 pages | 53 halftones, 2 line drawings, 2 maps, 6 figures | 6 x 9 | © 2004
Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology
Sociology: Sociology--Marriage and Family
"The Afterlife Is Where We Come From is filled with richly layered (and often moving) material on the daily lives of Beng people, especially on what they say about babies and how what they say informs their day-to-day practice in caring for infants. . . . The breadth of [Gottlieb’s] knowledge is admirable and the book is engagingly written and bound to be widely read by the public at large as well as by anthropologists."
Christina Toren | Anthropological Quarterly
"The Afterlife Is Where We Come From is a sophisticated, insightful and compelling analysis of infants, infant care, and Beng Religious ideology. . . . Gottlieb’s approach to the study of infants is systematic, comprehensive, and satisfying. The resulting analysis is beautifully organized and provides a model for all of us seeking to explicate complexity without reductionism. . . . This book will be a welcome addition to the growing number of courses on the anthropology of children and youth, as well, as to anthropologists teaching or researching the life cycle, family, African ethnology, and religion. It has the added attraction of being highly readable by both scholar and undergraduate."
Lisa Mitchell | The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology
"This text would be extremely informative for undergraduate and graduate students. . . . This wonderfully reflective text should provide the impetus for formulating research possibilities about infancy and toddlerhood for this century." -- Caren J. Frost, Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Caren J. Frost | Medical Anthropology
“Alma Gottlieb’s careful and thought-provoking account of infancy sheds spectacular light upon a much neglected topic. . . . [It] makes a strong case for the central place of babies in anthropological accounts of religion. Gottlieb’s remarkably rich account, delivered after a long and reflective period of gestation, deserves a wide audience across a range of disciplines.”
Anthony Stimpson | Critique of Anthropology
"[Afterlife] contributes to the field of anthropological research on children at many levels, revealing above all that children can be imagined by adults in ways that differ markedly from Western popular, religious, and scientific models alike."
Nicolas Argenti | Current Anthropology
NAMED ONE OF 'THE 25 BEST BOOKS OF ALL TIME FOR HEALTH PROMOTION PROFESSIONALS' (2021)
American Journal of Health Promotion
Table of Contents
A Note on Pronunciation
Part One: Studying Babies, Studying the Beng
1. Working with Infants: The Anthropologist as Fieldworker, the Anthropologist as Mother
2. Do Babies Have Culture? Explorations in the Anthropology of Infancy
3. The Beng World
Part Two: Days in the Lives of Beng Babies
4. Spiritual Beng Babies: Reflections on Cowry Shells, Coins, and Colic
5. Soiled Beng Babies: Morning Bath, Evening Bath, and Cosmic Dirt
6. Sociable Beng Babies: Mothers, Other Caretakers, and "Strangers" in a Moral Universe
7. Sleepy Beng Babies: Short Naps, Bumpy Naps, Nursing Nights
8. Hungry Beng Babies: Breast Water /Ordinary Water/Sacred Water and the Desire to Breast-feed
9. Developing Beng Babies: Speaking, Teething, Crawling, and Walking on (a Beng) Schedule
10. Sick Beng Babies: Spirits, Witches, and Poverty
11. From Wrugbe to Poverty: Situating Beng Babies in the World at Large