Intergenerational Transmission, Social Reproduction and Individual Agency
This collected volume explores cross-generationally, and across different societies, countries and cultures, the practices of parenthood, their urban contents and attendant aspects, such as child care, expert knowledge and personal histories.
A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.
The volume edited by Siân Pooley and Kaveri Qureshi (2016a) on the inter-generational aspects of reproductive cultures engages with recent scholarly literature that has identified modern “parenting” as an expert-led practice. From this perspective, parenting begins with pre-pregnancy decisions, entails distinct types of intimate relationships and places intense burdens on mothers and increasingly on fathers too. While exploring within diverse historical, geographical and global contexts, such as Uganda, China and Antilles, how men and women make—and break—relations between generations when becoming parents, this volume brings together innovative qualitative research by anthropologists, historians, and sociologists. Its chapters focus closely on inter-generational transmission, while demonstrating its importance for understanding how individuals become parents and rear children.
In their introduction, Siân Pooley and Kaveri Qureshi (2016b, p. 2) indicate that “[a]ll of the chapters [in this volume] focus on the intimate powers of being, doing, knowing and remembering. In doing this, we build on a second set of pioneering feminist studies that examine how women learnt socially-constructed and historically-specific forms of motherhood, and their ambivalence about the resulting roles that they were expected to take on (Chodorow 1978; Kristeva 1975; Rich 1976). Like Kitzinger (1996), Brannen, Moss and Mooney (2004) and Thomson et al. (2011), we consider how intergenerational interactions – between fathers, mothers and sons, as much as between mothers and daughters – were profoundly gendered. ”
Pooley and Qureshi (2016b, p. 4), likewise, argue that reproductive practices, inter-generational interactions and cultural transmission are embedded into social narratives that tend to be linguistically and historically specific in their implications. This book, thus, seeks to explore reproduction in terms of the practices involving the production and nurturance of children. It also probes into the negotiations of social arrangements, culturally histories and the place of traditions in relation to its topic (Pooley and Qureshi, 2016b, p. 5). The emergent reconceptualization of reproduction, as a social and cultural phenomenon, that this collected volume proffers both echoes and departs from the notion of social reproduction anchored in Marxist, feminist and sociological traditions, as it seeks to bring to light the active agency of the subjects of reproductive practices, such as children (Pooley and Qureshi, 2016b, p. 7).
Additionally, the diverse contributions to this volume, e.g., the chapter on same-sex parenthood by Pralat (2016), the chapter on non-marital pregnancies in Japan by Hertog (2016), intergenerational infant care in Amazonia by Rahman (2016) and kinship ties and male ageing in the Antilles by Heron (2016), invite a comparative perspective that explores parenthood both synchronically and diachronically (Pooley and Qureshi, 2016b, p. 8). This volume, therefore, collects disparate case studies that also offer more fundamental insights into parenthood practices, such as about their cross-generational hybridization. By the same token, this volume also allows the notion of generation to be more sharply delineated theoretically, such as in terms of collective memory and the relationships between the present and the past (Pooley and Qureshi, 2016b, p. 12).
Another topic this volume thematizes is the impact of modernization on the the intergenerational transmission of reproductive practices and cultures, especially in the West (Pooley and Qureshi, 2016b, p. 18). In this respect, the development of modern states, the colonial legacies and the industrial development have had profound impacts on the regulation of reproductive practices, the transformation of parenting practices and the shaping of parental agency by bodies of external, scientific expertise, such as that provided by state institutions (Pooley and Qureshi, 2016b, pp. 20-21).
By exploring the simultaneity of generational social roles, this volume also brings to light the complexity of attendant familial and societal dynamics. Though this can take the shape of intergenerational inheritances and their repudiation, this work also strives to avoid the prism of social and generational determinism, as it observes the engagements of reproductive cultures with the practices and experiences of preceding generations (Pooley and Qureshi, 2016b, pp. 14-15). Thus, the various contributions to this volume explore the processes of inter-generational transmission in terms of normative expectations, moral judgement, habitual practices and collective memory (Pooley and Qureshi, 2016b, p. 22). As Pooley and Qureshi conclude (2016b, p. 31), “[e]fforts at passing-on are continually refracted and reoriented by men, women and children as they, selectively and critically, draw on the models provided by older kin and as they apply these to their own diverse children and unique circumstances.”
Published by Berghahn Books in 2016, Parenthood Between Generations: Transforming Reproductive Cultures,, edited by Pooley and Qureshi, has become available in Open Access at the Open Research Library in 2020, as part of the KU Select 2019: HSS Backlist Books collection.
Heron, Adom Philogene. Becoming Papa: Kinship, Senescence and the Ambivalent Inward Journeys of Ageing Men in the Antilles. In Pooley, Siân, and Kaveri Qureshi, eds. pp. 253-276. Berghahn Books, 2016. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://openresearchlibrary.org.
Hertog, Ekaterina. Intergenerational Negotiations of Non-marital Pregnancies in Contemporary Japan. In Pooley, Siân, and Kaveri Qureshi, eds. Parenthood Between Generations: Transforming Reproductive Cultures, pp. 114-134. Berghahn Books, 2016. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://openresearchlibrary.org.
Pooley, Siân, and Kaveri Qureshi, eds. Parenthood Between Generations: Transforming Reproductive Cultures. Berghahn Books, 2016a. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://openresearchlibrary.org.
Pooley, Siân, and Kaveri Qureshi. Introduction. In Pooley, Siân, and Kaveri Qureshi, eds. Parenthood Between Generations: Transforming Reproductive Cultures, pp. 1-42. Berghahn Books, 2016. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://openresearchlibrary.org.
Pralat, Robert. Between Future Families and Families of Origin: Talking about Gay Parenthood across Generations. In Pooley, Siân, and Kaveri Qureshi, eds. Parenthood Between Generations: Transforming Reproductive Cultures, pp. 43-64. Berghahn Books, 2016. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://openresearchlibrary.org.
Rahman, Elizabeth. Intergenerational Mythscapes and Infant Care in Northwestern Amazonia. In Pooley, Siân, and Kaveri Qureshi, eds. Parenthood Between Generations: Transforming Reproductive Cultures, pp. 181-206. Berghahn Books, 2016. Accessed November 6, 2020. https://openresearchlibrary.org.
Featured Image Credits
Intergenerational convesation, May 8, 2009 | © Courtesy of B Hartford J Strong/Flickr.