Volume 8, Issue 4
As you know by now, this is my last issue as editor of PPPJ. It is fitting therefore that this last issue be dedicated to my own field of anthropology. The papers presented here were delivered at a special symposium entitled "Anthropology and Infancy: The New Agenda" which was held at the 1992 annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association in San Francisco. The symposium was organized by Dr. Elizabeth H. Peters of the Florida State University and Dr. Judy H. Brink of Lock Haven University.
Anthropology is the study of the evolution and nature of the human species. Most anthropologists go to live in other societies and participate in the daily lives of people and come back to report their findings to us. Some anthropologists also study primate social behavior, because the primates are our closest living evolutionary relatives. Although anthropology considers itself as the science of culture and enculturation (how culture is learned by individuals), ethnographers on the whole have paid scant attention to infancy, much less the prenatal experiences of the people they live amongst. The good news is that concern with infancy is currently on the rise in ethnography, although infancy is still more often covered in the writings of crosscultural psychologists than ethnographers.
Even a casual brush with the anthropological literature leaves one with an impression of the amazing number of ways that a society's culture may impinge on the course and experience of pre- and perinatal life. Culture influences who may court and reproduce, who may conceive and how often, who will be the socially recognized parents and caretakers, and to which social group the child belongs. Custom dictates appropriate nutrition during and after pregnancy, the style of parturition followed, when feeding begins and how often it is allowed, when weaning occurs, which child will live or die, the value of multiple births, what work pregnant women can and cannot do, whether a fetus or infant is perceived as understanding language, and when a child is considered a human being and a member of the group.
Tradition may determine where a birth occurs, special herbs and massage administered during childbirth, who will attend the birth, the proper posture(s) for parturition, the exclusion or participation of males, the proper duration of the birthing, and the duration of and treatment during the puerperium. Cultural expectations will determine the intensity of mother-infant attachment, the nature of motherinfant separations, the amount, duration and kind of communication between adults and newborn, and the range of environments to which the infant is exposed. Any and all of these factors may influence the experience and future psychological development of the child.
The papers in our special issue contribute to the literature on preand perinatal anthropology. Dr. Judy Brink reports on infant rearing practices she encountered during her fieldwork in Egypt. She looks at the relationship between parental expectations about the child's future qualities and how they treat the infant. Dr. Elizabeth Peters examines the issue of colic among infants. Colic is a phenomenon we do not share with other primates, and the author suggests it may be associated with our immaturity at birth. Tina Moffat then explores the impact of infant death on the cultural perceptions of infancy using the case study of early twentieth century Cree-Ojibwa culture. Joy Stallings examines mother-infant interactions with respect to infant signalling. The role of the infant in initiating and guiding interaction is an active one, as is demonstrated by data on animal behavior, as well as human behavior. Finally, Dr. Barbara King examines information gathering among primate infants for clues as to the active role of infant cognition in the production of culture.
Publication Date:May 1994
Volume Page Numbers:233
Volume Page Numbers:307