On (in-)determination

Note that these comments were originally written as support for lectures in my course Dynamics of Family Interaction. on the relationship between the facts of biological reproduction and the cultural construction of birth, infancy and motherhood.

Given a set of (possibly) biological constraints on

labor and delivery early infant development literacy
e.g. the various physiological events that start with the breaking of the waters to the eventual birth of the child. e.g. the need for sustained contact with older human beings that is often referred to in popular language as "mothering," might be rewritten as "parenting," as long as one realizes that the biological need for "fathering" (and for males) in general is not quite evident when looking at the cross-cultural evidence among human beings, or at the cross-species evidence among primates. e.g. the social and cognitive correlates of literacy as they might be summarized by Goody (1968) or Ong (1992)

  Given that handling such constraints requires specific work (i.e. directed behavior, action, etc.) by several human beings over a certain amount of time, all evidence demonstrates that

This work can be divided among an indefinite number human beings. For example,

labor can be divided both in terms of who does what, and when and how they do it early "mothering" can be divided among persons specializing in literacy can be used for all matters of social consequences
(e.g. in the United States)
  • mother, nurse, doctors, attending kin;
  • contraction times, medical visits, interstitial times
(see Varenne/Cotter, np)

  • breast feeding;
  • cleaning;
  • interacting routinely with;
  • giving the child its name and its place within a genealogy with the attendant rights and privileges
  • ...
  • ...
(see Drummond, 1978)
  • love (Conklin 1949)
  • secrecy
  • discrimination (legitimate or not)
  • ...

In other words: "it takes a village..." (and this is not necessarily a good think given what many ethnographies of villages have taught us.)

In the course of history such divisions of labor get institutionalized. That is: many people who would have had to perform some task (say, food preparation) in an otherwise divided society, may get to depend on some other person (say a wife or mother, or restaurant workers) . Thus

June 11 2001 [June 9, 1998]