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A World of Babies
Imagined Childcare Guides for Eight Societies

2nd Edition


Alma Gottlieb, Judy S. DeLoache, Michelle Johnson, Erin Raffety, Bree Akesson, Deborah Golden, Sirad Shirdon, Kate Grim-Feinberg, Mariah Schug
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  • Date Published: October 2016
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316502570
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About the Authors
  • Should babies sleep alone in cribs, or in bed with parents? Is talking to babies useful, or a waste of time? A World of Babies provides different answers to these and countless other childrearing questions, precisely because diverse communities around the world hold drastically different beliefs about parenting. While celebrating that diversity, the book also explores the challenges that poverty, globalization and violence pose for parents. Fully updated for the twenty-first century, this edition features a new introduction and eight new or revised case studies that directly address contemporary parenting challenges, from China and Peru to Israel and the West Bank. Written as imagined advice manuals to parents, the creative format of this book brings alive a rich body of knowledge that highlights many models of baby-rearing - each shaped by deeply held values and widely varying cultural contexts. Parenthood may never again seem a matter of 'common sense'.

    • Addresses the implications of the most urgent challenges of the twenty-first century - racism, religious intolerance, immigration, poverty, educational inequities and environmental degradation - for the lives of parents and children and their wider communities, offering a realistic sense of the challenges facing real families living in the real world
    • Features a wide variety and diverse set of parenting practices that represent communities across religions (Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Confucianism and animism) and world areas (North America, South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa)
    • Case studies range from communities facing desperate poverty to those that enjoy relative prosperity; in all cases, the chapters analyze the economic circumstances of the families, communities and nations for their implications on childrearing agendas, opportunities and constraints
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Gottlieb and DeLoache's first edition of A World of Babies earned the right to be called a classic of anthropology. Although one might expect the second volume … to be a simple update of the same studies, Gottlieb and DeLoache have instead done the unexpected - they present an entirely new volume with seven new studies of parenting practices. Taken together, these books set the example of how anthropology, when done well, can open minds to the possibility that there is more than one way to do just about anything, including parenting. I can think of no better way to become a more thoughtful, insightful, and therefore better parent than reading both editions of A World of Babies.' Meredith F. Small, Cornell University, and author of Our Babies, Ourselves

    'I cannot effuse enough about the second, fully revised edition of A World of Babies! The first edition has been a mainstay in my classroom for over a decade, and I have frequently given it as a gift to new parents. The creative, innovative, quasi-fictional design of both editions - 'imagined childcare guides' authored by ethnographers studying in a broad range of cultures, writing as if they are imparting knowledge to new parents as a childcare expert, such as a grandmother, midwife, or diviner - makes A World of Babies an enjoyable and impactful read for students and new parents alike. At a time when it may seem like there is no 'right' way to raise a child … it is refreshing to read a book which concludes that, in fact, there are many 'right' ways to raise children.' Christa Craven, College of Wooster, and author of Pushing for Midwives: Homebirth Mothers and the Reproductive Rights Movement

    'This is a fantastic book! I am going to use it right away with both my large undergraduate class and advanced graduate seminar … It [has] an impressive array of authors, each with deep knowledge of the culture for which they are preparing their 'advice'.' Patricia Greenfield, University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Mind and Media: The Effects of Television, Video Games, and Computers

    'A World of Babies provides terrific and vivid personal examples reminding us of the importance of family, culture, history and context in children's lives in today's globalizing world.' Thomas S. Weisner, University of California, Los Angeles, and co-author of Higher Ground: New Hope for the Working Poor and Their Children

    'This very accessible yet soundly scholarly book reads like a novel describing the same event from different perspectives, thereby shedding light on the socio-culturally constructed nature of what we might think of as 'objective' and self-evident 'truths' about early child development. A 'must-read' for students and researchers in the area of developmental psychology as well as a great read for anyone interested in the world of babies.' Alexandra M. Freund, University of Zurich, and co-editor of The Handbook of Life-Span Development: Social and Emotional Development

    'Starting with a most captivating and comprehensive overview of the worldwide challenges facing twenty-first-century parenting, alongside their seven, fictitious, 'composite person' community authors, who could (if real persons) appropriately dispense 'how to' infant care advice, yet again, Professors Gottlieb and DeLoache manage to spin their baby-care magic for both students and professionals alike … the seven new (and one updated) chapters provide, as did the first edition, a sparkling set of 'manuals' but with an even greater degree of wit, clarity, and intimate cultural knowledge, spreading cross-cultural insights that at times shock, amuse, and entertain, but always shed further light on the diverse … ways both biology and culture find expression in how we care for our babies.' James J. McKenna, University of Notre Dame, and author of Sleeping with Your Baby

    '[A] clever, refreshing, indeed witty way to engage readers … not only in the study of children, childhoods and socialization, but also in the conduct of ethnographic field research and the ways in which we present our work.' Myra Bluebond-Langner, University College London, and author of The Private Worlds of Dying Children

    'The editors, in the second edition of A World of Babies, have made a great book out of a very good one. The work is unique in combining perspectives not normally found in a single case study … we learn much about the enormous diversity in cultural practices vis-à-vis babies and about the contemporary forces that provoke change and resistance to change.' David F. Lancy, Utah State University, and author of The Anthropology of Childhood

    'This lively, well-written book is authoritative, but not in the usual way. It's not going to tell you how to give birth or raise your child. Instead, it will tell you many ways to do it, each blending a deep cultural tradition with the modern world. It's the perfect antidote to the worst parenting myth: 'there is one right way, and if I don't find it my child will suffer'. Treat yourself instead to A World of Babies, and encounter a wide world of ways.' Melvin Konner, Emory University, and author of The Evolution of Childhood

    'They had me at page 1: encountering a few of the differences in beliefs held around the world about raising babies made me eagerly read for more. Students of child development at all levels of education need this book to help them gain perspective on their own culture's child-rearing practices. Practices that appear 'natural' and unquestionable are in fact deeply rooted in physical, cultural and economic realities … The book is brilliant. I can see this book generating extensive discussion and provoking endless consideration of the role of nature and nurture in child development.' Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, University of Delaware, and author of How Babies Talk

    'This thoughtful and engaging book should be read not only by anthropologists and psychologists but by all expectant mothers. It makes American child-rearing seem distinctly exotic. At the same time, it shows how much all mothers share. The effect is both liberating and moving.' Tanya Luhrmann, Stanford University, and author of When God Talks Back

    Review of previous edition: 'If you ever find yourself assuming that there's just one right way - your way - to bring up babies, read this book. It's highly enjoyable and such a good idea that I only wish I'd thought of it myself.' Penelope Leach, author of Your Baby and Child, From Birth to Age Five

    Review of previous edition: 'Every American parent should reflect on these cultural essays.' Jerome Kagan, Harvard University, and author of The Nature of the Child

    Review of previous edition: 'Having a baby is a life-enhancing and mind-extending trip into new lands, much like the marvelous anthropology of child-rearing in this book. Take its expedition and it may help clarify the values and contexts of your own parenting, and bring the world's children into the clearer focus of our knowledge and concern.' Catherine Lutz, Brown University, and author of Schooled: Ordinary, Extraordinary Teaching in an Age of Change

    Review of previous edition: 'Read these pages. This is a very moving book, and a revealing one.' Jerome Bruner, New York University, and author of Child's Talk

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    16th Nov 2016 by SuzanneDavid

    A World of Babies is unlike most other books we have ever read. We believe it is probably meant to be a supplemental text for an anthropology course. However, it is an interesting read just by itself. The idea is that the book contains different case studies that are reported via fictional childcare manuals. We found most of these to be very interesting and informative. The book goes into a great deal of detail in some cases and the stories that are told are very believable and fun. However, it appeared to us that the last manual had an agenda the author was attempting to communicate to the reader. Each section starts out with a little background information regarding the region and some of its history. Then, sometimes we are given a fictitious biography of the alleged manual writer. Finally the writer, or in some cases writers, of the manual will write as if giving childcare advice. We can see that those wishing to learn more about cultures in other areas of the world will find this book very helpful. With the exception of the last section, the book appears to be written in a very neutral tone recording everyday life in the area. If you wish to learn more about different cultures, some you may have never heard of, this is a good source of information. FTC Required Notice: We, Suzanne and David, were given a review copy of this book by the publisher without cost or obligation. Our policy on all reviews is to give our honest opinion of the book. Neither one of us is an anthropologist, so we cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information contained in this book. We recommend this book. Read more about it on our blogs.

    Review was not posted due to profanity


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    Product details

    • Edition: 2nd Edition
    • Date Published: October 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316502570
    • length: 390 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 155 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.66kg
    • contains: 16 b/w illus. 2 maps
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: raising a world of babies, parenting in the twenty-first century Alma Gottlieb and Judy S. DeLoache
    2. Never forget where you're from: raising Guinean Muslim babies in Portugal Michelle Johnson
    3. From cultural revolution to childcare revolution: conflicting advice on childrearing in contemporary China Erin Raffety
    4. A baby to tie you to place: childrearing advice from a Palestinian mother living under occupation Bree Akesson
    5. Childrearing in the New Country: advice for immigrant mothers in Israel Deborah Golden
    6. Luring your child into this life of troubled times: a Beng path for infant care in post-civil war Côte d'Ivoire Alma Gottlieb
    7. From Mogadishu to Minneapolis: raising Somali children in an age of displacement Sirad Shirdon
    8. Quechua or Spanish? Farm or school? New paths for Andean children in post-civil war Peru Kate Grim-Feinberg
    9. 'Equal children play best': raising independent children in a Nordic welfare state Mariah Schug.

  • Authors

    Alma Gottlieb, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    Alma Gottlieb is Professor Emerita of Anthropology and Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Visiting Scholar in Anthropology at Brown University. She conducted long-term fieldwork in Beng communities in Ivory Coast (1979–93) and now connects with young Beng people through social media. A full-length ethnography of Beng childrearing practices appeared as The Afterlife Is Where We Come From: The Culture of Infancy in West Africa (2004); she has also written the Beng-English Dictionary (with M. Lynne Murphy, 1995) and Under the Kapok Tree: Identity and Difference in Beng Thought (1992). With proceeds from two memoirs of their lives with the Beng – Parallel Worlds (1993) and Braided Worlds (2012) – Gottlieb and fiction writer Philip Graham co-founded the Beng Community Fund, a non-governmental organization that funds development projects in Beng villages.

    Judy S. DeLoache, University of Virginia
    Judy DeLoache is the Kenan Professor of Psychology Emerita at the University of Virginia. She has published extensively on cognitive development in infants and young children. She has served as President of the Developmental Division of the American Psychological Association, and as President of the Cognitive Development Society. Dr DeLoache's research was funded by a Scientific MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. She is a Fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, Dr DeLoache received the William James Award for Lifetime Distinguished Contributions to Psychological Science from the American Psychological Society, as well as the Distinguished Research Contributions Award from the Society for Research on Child Development.


    Alma Gottlieb, Judy S. DeLoache, Michelle Johnson, Erin Raffety, Bree Akesson, Deborah Golden, Sirad Shirdon, Kate Grim-Feinberg, Mariah Schug

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