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Lecture 3

Lecture 3 - Sept 27.rtf

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Matthias Koenig

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SOC256H1F - SOCIETIES AND LIFE COURSE PATTERNS Mid-term – essay format – longer essay section (2 questions, pick 1) – shorter answer (4 choices pick 2 – define and discuss big course concepts) Given test bank of questions… need to have read all course material – relevant material throughout readings… HOW ARE LIFE COURSE CHANGES TIMED? (2 ways: F&C) How do you decide when to move on? Answers: Functional age / Chronological age Social constructions of the life course include ways to define when people move from one life stage or role to another. Two major ways: Functional age = socially recognized as “ready”- what can you do, what can you no longer do…? Ex: Kung defined as old when they cannot do a full day of gathering – a way of defining when “to move along” Ex: toddler- “toddles along” – this is a social/cultural definition Chronological age = age by the calendar, not by behaviour, ability, etc. Very familiar to us in modern societies… tied to chronological age by state legislation - Ex: driver’s license Both have implications for both individuals and their societies Functional age Implications for individuals - Transitions are flexible- can be suited to persons actual capacities and needs o more powerful people may be able to define timing- decision in the hands over more powerful people and may be in opposition to what person wants - There may be conflict over timing o not the time to marry argument Implications for societies - Transitions can respond to social conditions - Prediction is difficult - Whole age groups may come into conflict Chronological age Implications for individuals - Transitions are predictable- you can engage in forward life planning, know you will need to figure out where you want to go to university. This can be to your benefit because you know what will happen - Your age peers move with you- you do not go through life alone. This is an advantage because you can build strong supportive relationships with those you share things in common with – good basis for friendship and social support (best social support from those who have had the same experience as you) - Everyone is treated the same - May move too soon, or too late, for abilities Implications for societies - public appearance of fair treatment - prediction and planning is easier- due to our complicated society, have good predictability is important to keep everything running smoothly Thus chronological age is more useful for societies with more sophisticated technology -more complex, hence have greater planning and prediction needs -have more complex subgroups (e.g. organizations) that also need planning -more likely to value fairness, equality, apparently logical decision making -seems to be fair because all treated the same - Some move to soon or too late depending on who they are and their functionality Further, very simple societies like foragers cannot use chronological age easily -lack of written records, recorded dates Thus foragers never use chronological age. - the !Kung and Ache are both clear examples of this - every change in the life course is based on functional age - and people do not even know how old they are in years - Adapt to each particular case as it happens… - No !Kung know their birthday, in terms of age it is not important to them! They do not bother! This is true of every hunting and gathering society- people do not have calendars and do not know how old they are The more complex a society’s technology, the more it uses chronological age, though ALL societies use functional age for some things (which things???) Using calendars for farming, with earliest primitive Neolithic farming, keeping track of winter solstice, timing of things which went along to personal timing We will illustrate reliance on functional age by reviewing the earlier stages of life for !Kung and Ache. But first, we need to think about how their life courses can be studied, given their lack of attention to chronological age. THE PROBLEM OF AGE FOR FORAGERS This raises a real challenge: how can we give typical ages for life stages when people do not know how old anyone is? Basic strategy: 1) figure out everyone’s relative age, that is, rank them from oldest to youngest -easy for the !Kung, who treat relative age seriously and keep track -a bit tougher for the Ache, who do not 2) if a population has been living in quiet times with fairly steady birth and death rates, can use demographic tables showing what % of the population should be in each age group -there are many such tables, for different kinds of populations, so need to make some measurements (e.g. can record exact ages of children born since fieldwork started) to decide which table matches known demographic facts -this is the basic strategy Howell used for the !Kung -but Hill and Hurtado could not do this for the Ache, who had been living under chaotic, constantly changing conditions for some time, so... 3) can try to identify ages of some people through special events associated with their time of birth -lack of record keeping makes this hard too -but Hill and Hurtado managed, e.g. by noting which people were born during the year of a major earthquake, whose date was recorded -then interpolate ages for other people Clearly very hard work, but essential to life course analysis. Thus we can say how old people are on average when they change life stages, what age range a life transition tends to take place within, etc., as in your readings. LIFE COURSES AMONG THE !KUNG AND ACHE Birth Environmental conditions bring some variations: the forest floor is more dangerous than the Kalahari desert, so -!Kung women give birth away from camp, alone or with one more experienced woman to help -Advantages of lone birth: reduces risk of infection, a primary cause of deaths related to childbirth -leaves control in mother’s hands: Kung cultural ideal it is the uncontested rite and duty for mother to have children and look at them and decide what to do – she can do what she thinks is best: 2 circumstances where she will kill the child 1) birth defects – today we can keep those children alive but under hunting and gathering conditions they will not survive so the Kung believe the child is not a human until you take the child back to the camp and introduce them making them socially acceptable thus prior they are a potential human thus okay to kill 2) if mother has 2 children, she may kill one- reason for no twins – due to the mothers dedicated care of a child, carry constantly etc. she cannot provide for 2 – picks the healthiest = this is easier for her to do ALONE, people will support her -Ex: Nissa: idealized way, very young expecting mother who went in the desert and did it all by herself Infant mortality rate – 20% - Ache women stay in camp, give birth in public Infancy The simple, basic foraging technology common to both societies means that infants must rely on their mothers for food. Mothers keep their infants with them almost always -provide milk on demand, frequently -gradually add other kinds of food as child develops Weaning end of breastfeeding= start of childhood In both societies, a mother simply cannot do all her work AND breastfeed two children. - Wean early so mother can go back to work - Avoid tantrums à When she is pregnant again, the child she is nursing must be weaned -an example of the flexibility of functional timing: so long as the mother can give the child the breast it craves, she usually does à But when the mother has to wean a child, there are huge dramas, as the nursing child protests! -an example of the potential for conflict in functional timing: difference between when mother/child deems it appropriate to stop weaning -the more powerful adults win in the end  It seems Ache children were weaned earlier: - For !Kung children, age at weaning was 2 - 5 years. – no real need for mother to wean early because not separate work place… - For Ache chi
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