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A World of Babies: Imagined Childcare Guides for Seven Societies

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  115 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Are babies divine, or do they have the devil in them? Should parents talk to their infants, or is it a waste of time? Answers to questions about the nature and nurture of infants appear in this book as advice to parents in seven world societies. Imagine what Dr. Spock might have written if he were a healer from Bali...or an Aboriginal grandmother from the Australian desert ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published May 18th 2000 by Cambridge University Press
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Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book encapsulates anthropological research on conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing practices for seven societies. To make the research accessible to a Western audience, the information is presented in the form of a childcare guide.

I enjoyed learning about other cultures I otherwise have had little exposure to, like the Walpiri aborigonees or the village-dwelling Muslims of Turkey. There was also a section on (historical) Puritan child-rearing practices, which have influence
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Strongly recommend.

I bought it to get an idea of how much variations there is in expectations of early learning.
Instead I got schooled on the history, politics and culture of countries I thought I knew & countries I didn't know.

The book is not perfect - my main complaint is that it's mostly white women talking how they imagine other people would talk. I wish they would have let local people write what they wanted. But still greatly exceeded my expectations.

It's still based off actual studies and
Mar 30, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is written as a fictional childcare guide from the perspective of 7 societies around the world.

I really enjoyed reading about the varied ways in which different cultures approached birth and breastfeeding. I was really surprised how many cultures routinely did not have newborns drink colostrum, yet managed to maintain success with breastfeeding long term. Often the natural birth community and researchers make it seem as if breastfeeding is likely to fail if the first hour and/or first
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
The premise is that there is no such thing as "common sense" child care - it's all about how you and your society view babies (and pregnancy and children). So this is written as fictitious childcare manuals for 7 very different societies - 17th century Puritans in Massachusetts (the only non-contemporary one), the Fulani and the Beng of West Africa, Muslim Turkish villagers, the Balinese, the Warlpiri of the Australian outback, and Ifaluk (Polynesian islanders). Some of these believe babies are ...more
Jan 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Shirley by: Karyn
Shelves: nonfiction, 2011
Childcare advice guides for different societies around the world as written by fictional authors (ghost written by real anthropologists). This is full of fascinating tidbits showing how different parenting/childcare (focusing mostly on the mother's perspective) can be. For example:

-in Ifaluk (a small society in Micronesia), adoption is very common (30-60%). In fact, it's considered rude to refuse a request for adopting your baby if you already have one girl and one boy. Typically the birth mothe
Mar 17, 2008 rated it liked it
I'm halfway through this one as well and waiting to check it out again. I've read the Puritan experience and have started the next culture, which I forget what it is! It's an interesting concept: write an anthropological take on several societies' childrearing practices from the perspective of an imagined childcare guide a la Dr Spock. In practice, it reads as a little too expository, like those characters in badly written TV shows that say, "As you know, dear brother-in-law, yesterday you saw m ...more
Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A "child manual" for seven different cultures. Each chapter is written by an anthropologist that studies that culture.

As a mother of two young children that lives in a city with very opinionated mothers, I found this book VERY freeing. It acted as a reminder that (1) there are many different ways to raise children and (2) children around the world end up okay even if they are raised differently.

Reading this book was really interesting from a factual perspective. From a personal perspective, I f
Jul 05, 2012 rated it liked it
I read this book for an Anthropology class on Infancy. It is a good overview of various cross-cultural "manuals" on child rearing in 7 very different societies. While the Puritan chapter was very interesting as well as a few of the others, I found the book to be rather repetitive and formulaic. This is not a book that I believe a non-anthropologist general social reader would find particularly entertaining as it still feels rather didactic. It is a book that could easily be flipped through in an ...more
Nicholas Day
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating, assumption-shattering tour of how other cultures have taken care of children, with each chapter told in the voice of an imaginary child care guru from that society. Sounds strange; works wonderfully. An off-beat baby shower present. (Seriously!)
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
The only issue I have with these types of books, including this one, is that they focus on obscure/traditional cultures. It would be great if there was a balance of cultures that are more developed. There are definitely differences amongst those as well.
Amanda Hudson
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it
I would never have picked this book up at the store but I had to read it for my anthropology class. It turned out to be a fun and smooth read and it even made me laugh and smile. I imagine mothers or expecting mothers would have fun reading this book.
Remington Krueger
Loved her other work, didn't like this one. ...more
Samantha Hines
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An interesting, insightful look at imagined ChildCare manuals in 7 societies. Think I found a new baby shower gift. Fascinating!
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great book! You will learn a lot about people and about yourself.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
Reminds the reader that the Western way of childcare isn't the only way and that societies have successfully raised children since the beginning of time. Interesting read! ...more
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