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An Introduction to Childhood: Anthropological Perspectives on Children's Lives

ISBN: 978-1-4443-5825-4
296 pages
September 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
An Introduction to Childhood: Anthropological Perspectives on Children

Description

In An Introduction to Childhood, Heather Montgomery examines the role children have played within anthropology, how they have been studied by anthropologists and how they have been portrayed and analyzed in ethnographic monographs over the last one hundred and fifty years.
  • Offers a comprehensive overview of childhood from an anthropological perspective
  • Draws upon a wide range of examples and evidence from different geographical areas and belief systems
  • Synthesizes existing literature on the anthropology of childhood, while providing a fresh perspective
  • Engages students with illustrative ethnographies to illuminate key topics and themes
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii

Introduction 1

1 Childhood within Anthropology 17

Introduction 17

Children: The First Primitives 18

Culture and Personality 22

Cross-Cultural Studies of Child-Rearing 26

Children in British Anthropology 34

The Gendered Child 38

Child-Centered Anthropology 43

Conclusion 49

2 What is a Child? 50

Introduction 50

Childhood as a Modern Idea: The Influence of Philippe Ariès 51

Conceptualizations of Childhood 53

Children as Incompetent or Subordinate 56

Children as Equals 61

Children as a Means of Forming Families and Giving Status 63

Children as an Economic Investment 67

Unwanted and Nonhuman Children 70

Conclusion 77

3 The Beginning of Childhood 79

Introduction 79

Fetuses 80

Spirit Children 87

Reincarnation 95

Anomalies 98

Conclusion 103

4 Family, Friends, and Peers 104

Introduction 104

The Role of Parents 105

Adoption and Fosterage 107

Children outside the Family 118

Siblings 121

Friends and Peer Groups 126

Conclusion 132

5 Talking, Playing, and Working 134

Introduction 134

Learning Language 135

Children and Play 141

Work or Play? 149

Conclusion 155

6 Discipline, Punishment, and Abuse 156

Introduction 156

Discipline and Punishment in the Western Tradition 157

Physical Punishment 159

Alternatives to Physical Punishment 166

Who Can Punish Children? 170

Child Abuse 172

Conclusion 179

7 Children and Sexuality 181

Introduction 181

Anthropology, Sexuality, and Childhood 182

Children and Sex: The Influence of Freud 184

Incest and Abuse 187

Ethnographies of Children and Sexuality 190

Child Prostitution 196

Conclusion 200

8 Adolescence and Initiation 201

Introduction 201

What is Adolescence? 202

Adolescence and Globalization 207

Initiation 212

Initiation: A Psychological Approach 215

Initiation and Education 221

Initiation and Gender 224

Initiation: The End of Childhood? 228

Conclusion 231

Conclusion 233

Bibliography 239

Index 270

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Author Information

Heather Montgomery is a Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies at The Open University. She has written on children and sexuality, tourism, children’s rights and on the role of children in anthropology. Her publications include Modern Babylon? Prostituting Children in Thailand (2001), Understanding Childhood: An Interdisciplinary Approach (2003, with Martin Woodhead), and Changing Childhoods: Global and Local (2003, with Martin Woodhead and Rachel Burr).
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The Wiley Advantage


  • Offers a comprehensive overview of childhood from an anthropological perspective

  • Draws upon a wide range of examples and evidence from different geographical areas and belief systems

  • Synthesizes existing literature on the anthropology of childhood, while providing a fresh perspective

  • Engages students with illustrative ethnographies to illuminate key topics and themes
See More

Reviews

“Although this work will be most useful for an upper-level undergraduate audience, more advanced readers will also enjoy it for its readability, the considerable breadth of literature covered, and its serious attempt to place children at the forefront of anthropology.”  (Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 1 April 2011)

"Heather Montgomery illustrates the many ways that anthropologists have written about children over the past 150 years with enviable clarity and economy. Her book will be required reading for students, academics, and professionals in understanding childhood in context." (Journal of Folklore Research, 19 January 2011)

"An Introduction to Childhood is nicely written and makes the case well for undergraduate audiences that it is important to consider cultural differences in ideas about childhood. This is a timely issue and the book should be a useful addition to introductory undergraduate courses." (International Joumal of Sociology of the Family, February 2010)

"A timely, readable, and important work for all academic libraries. Summing Up: Highly recommended." (CHOICE, October 2009)

"This book deserves a wide audience; it is an important resource not only for students of anthropology but also to people working in child protection in cross-cultural settings. ... Invaluable." (Children & Society, 2009)

"Throughout the book, the discussions give an insight into classic and contemporary anthropology related to children, which is important for everyone working with research in similar fields. The book is especially relevant for students. The style is clear and approachable … .Although it is not required of the reader to read the book from cover to cover, I strongly recommend doing so." (Childhood in the Past, 2009)

"This book provides a fascinating and comprehensive overview of the social anthropology of childhood, drawing on a range of material generated over the past century. It is written in an engaging, accessible style, and will be required reading for students, academics and professionals interested in understanding childhoods in contexts."
Viginia Morrow, Reader in Childhood Studies, Institute of Education, University of London

"In this clearly written and informative book Heather Montgomery demonstrates the important contribution that contemporary perspectives on children's lives can make to the older anthropological tradition.....a valuable addition to the canon."
Allison James, University of Sheffield

"This marvelous volume fills a long-standing need for a thorough history of anthropology's interest in childhood. There is excellent coverage of topics central in current thinking about child development such as discipline and sexuality as well as topics such as spirit children that are unique to anthropology. Montgomery's writing is engaging and accessible and this work should be warmly welcomed by scholars and their students."
David Lancy, Utah State University

"Dr. Heather Montgomery has provided the field with an important resource for introducing our students to the invaluable contributions anthropology has made to understanding children and childhood. The volume is wide-ranging in scope covering both classic and contemporary issues."
Jill Korbin, Associate Dean, Professor of Anthropology, Director, Schubert Center for Child Studies, Case-Western Reserve University

"Based on close reading of ethnographic texts, this book synthesises the many ways that anthropologists have written about children over the years with an enviable clarity and economy. Eminently readable, it will be of interest to those both outside anthropology and outside academia who have any interest in the world's children. The chapter on the many ways of thinking about unborn children is particularly fine and forces us to consider more deeply our own understanding of humanity and personhood."
Laurence Brockliss, Director of Centre for the History of Childhood, University of Oxford

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