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By examining both gender and aging in this ethnography of an Indian village, Sarah Lamb forces a re-examination of major debates in feminist anthropology and contributes to the small but growing literature on aging in contemporary culture.
By examining both gender and aging in this ethnography of an Indian village, Sarah Lamb forces a re-examination of major debates in feminist anthropology and contributes to the small but growing literature on aging in contemporary culture.
This rich ethnography explores beliefs and practices surrounding aging in a rural Bengali village. Sarah Lamb focuses on how villagers' visions of aging are tied to the making and unmaking of gendered selves and social relations over a lifetime. Lamb uses a focus on age as a means not only to open up new ways of thinking about South Asian social life, but also to contribute to contemporary theories of gender, the body, and culture, which have been hampered, the book argues, by a static focus on youth. Lamb's own experiences in the village are an integral part of her book and ably convey the cultural particularities of rural Bengali life and Bengali notions of modernity. In exploring ideals of family life and the intricate interrelationships between and within generations, she enables us to understand how people in the village construct, and deconstruct, their lives. At the same time her study extends beyond India to contemporary attitudes about aging in the United States. This accessible and engaging book is about deeply human issues and will appeal not only to specialists in South Asian culture, but to anyone interested in families, aging, gender, religion, and the body.
"A powerful intervention into one of the most important debates of our time. Meticulous in her methods and wise in her insight, Lock tames a sea of stormy argument to show how complex and consequential is the interplay of culture and biology. Her book will make great strides toward her ultimate goal: to dislodge the myth of the Menopausal Woman."—Jean Comaroff, University of Chicago
In recent decades, the North American public has pursued an inspirational vision of successful aging—striving through medical technique and individual effort to eradicate the declines, vulnerabilities, and dependencies previously commonly associated with old age. On the face of it, this bold new vision of successful, healthy, and active aging is highly appealing. But it also rests on a deep cultural discomfort with aging and being old. The contributors to Successful Aging as a Contemporary Obsession explore how the successful aging movement is playing out across five continents. Their chapters investigate a variety of people, including Catholic nuns in the United States; Hindu ashram dwellers; older American women seeking plastic surgery; aging African-American lesbians and gay men in the District of Columbia; Chicago home health care workers and their aging clients; Mexican men foregoing Viagra; dementia and Alzheimer sufferers in the United States and Brazil; and aging policies in Denmark, Poland, India, China, Japan, and Uganda. This book offers a fresh look at a major cultural and public health movement of our time, questioning what has become for many a taken-for-granted goal—aging in a way that almost denies aging itself.
The proliferation of old age homes and increasing numbers of elderly living alone are startling new phenomena in India. These trends are related to extensive overseas migration and the transnational dispersal of families. In this moving and insightful account, Sarah Lamb shows that older persons are innovative agents in the processes of social-cultural change. Lamb's study probes debates and cultural assumptions in both India and the United States regarding how best to age; the proper social-moral relationship among individuals, genders, families, the market, and the state; and ways of finding meaning in the human life course.
In an era when people live longer and want (or need) to work past the traditional retirement age, the Vita Needle Company of Needham, Massachusetts, provides inspiration and important lessons about the value of older workers. Vita Needle is a family-owned factory that was founded in 1932 and makes needles, stainless steel tubing and pipes, and custom fabricated parts. As part of its unusual business model, the company seeks out older workers; the median age of the employees is seventy-four. In Retirement on the Line, Caitrin Lynch explores what this unusual company's commitment to an elderly workforce means for the employer, the workers, the community, and society more generally. Benefiting from nearly five years of fieldwork at Vita Needle, Lynch offers an intimate portrait of the people who work there, a nuanced explanation of the company's hiring practices, and a cogent analysis of how the workers' experiences can inform our understanding of aging and work in the twenty-first century. As an in-depth study of a singular workplace, rooted in the unique insights of an anthropologist who specializes in the world of work, this book provides a sustained focus on values and meanings-with profound consequences for the broader assumptions our society has about aging and employment.

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