Monday, April 12, 2010

The pregnant anthropologist

So, the reluctant anthropologist has officially morphed into the pregnant anthropologist. I am swelling with baby, dreaming of baby, conflicted about safety decisions (is it safe to downhill ski, try the wine, climb the ladder, drink the water?), and eating chocolate malts daily. The first steps, I think, to motherhood.

I have also had to come to grips with a central thesis of my profession. Namely: that the world is a socially and culturally constructed place. Allow me to digress:

Anthropology says: 'The world is full of stuff, events, people, spaces. Our social and cultural backgrounds turn this stuff, events, people, and spaces into meaningful keepsakes, moments, families, friends, and homelands.' Nothing in this schema has meaning without this social and cultural backdrop through which we filter experience. And meaning, at the end of the day, seems to be the point. I think this is overwhelmingly true.

The thing is, I have just started to feel warm fuzzies with every single other pregnant lady or mother in the world.... it is as though the physicality of pregnancy is its own experience that is common without a cultural backdrop.. or at least without exclusively a cultural backdrop mitigating the situation.

Rationally I can say that my particular cultural make up, stemming from the enlightenment, likely predisposes me to believe in the 'humanistic' experience over a multitude of cultural experiences.
But some basic instinct says, when it comes to carrying a baby,: phooey.
Women around the world... I get it.

Where do the universal, the social, and the individual collide? In birth, in death, in disaster, in sexual orientation, in sickness, in anything at all?

For now I am trying to write, trying to get my head together, happy to be going to Alaska soon to fly on small planes, eat seal meat, hug friends, ask questions. I wonder how snow machine travel is with (what feels like) a 2 ton belly. 

Hopefully there will be nothing but good news to report from Shishmaref.

1 comment:

  1. Well, in the case of your pregnancy, there is a certain amount of biochemical reactions going on in your body. I seem to remember (but maybe I have it wrong) reading some research about some hormone or chemical that is now coursing through your veins that has the effect of turning you into a maternal-protective biological being. (Maybe it's oxycotin (sp?).) Your body does have some biological processes that are involuntary and I believe this is one of them. The fact that you're writing about it and wondering if this is universal or culturally-constructed is culturally and socially constructed. In other words, the fact that you're stepping back to observe your reactions is based upon your anthropological background. But, I bet a lot of women wouldn't give it a second thought. From an evolutionary standpoint, I think the biochemists/medical researchers think that the release of this hormone (and hence your "mothering instinct") contributed to the success of the human race.