Monday, December 20, 2010

Book: An Introduction to Childhood

Heather Montgomery. 2009. An Introduction to Childhood. Wiley-Blackwell.

This book-length survey of the anthropological literature on children was fascinating from start to finish. The writing is functional but the content does what good anthropology should do: illustrate that there are multiple possible equilibria, all of which seem quite as reasonable and natural to the people who inhabit them as the equilibrium that we ourselves experience. Of particular interest to me was the wide variety of equilibria related to discipline, raising of children by individuals outside the nuclear family, and initiation rituals.

And you just do not get sentences like this in economics-land:
Gilbert Herdt, who has written extensively about induced nose-bleeding among the Sambia of Papua New Guinea, places it in a much broader context of gender antagonisms, the symbolic meaning of bodily fluids, and the cultural construction of male and female persons.
Note that this sentence is much more ... something ... than the average sentence in the book, which is remarkably clear, generally free of jargon, and surprisingly low on political correctness.


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