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Social Thought & Commentary: Rethinking the Couvade

Abstract : Perinatal restrictions protect the child and create a new web of relationships between the child, its father and mother, and the kin and house group. They emphasize the creation of a new human life requires the same involvement from both sexes, even if equal participation in child-making affects men and women differently. What is called couvade is part of a public means of confirming or creating classificatory relations, of rearranging the cognatic universe into the language of substances, objects, and behaviors, which is at once natural and cultural, biological and social. The couvade is thus part of an ordered, coherent set of attitudes that accompany and ensure the development of individual destinies by articulating a logic of natural qualities with a problematic of social and cultural succession. Yet, by giving priority to a hierarchical symbolic ordering which makes the spiritual creation of the child socially more significant than its biological birth, the "social placement" of the child by means of the couvade is made from a clear ideological standpoint which corresponds to patriarchy. If the birth of a child irrevocably transforms sexually mature men and women into parents, it remains true that fatherhood and motherhood constitute two non-equivalent forms of parenthood, especially in societies with a strong patriarchal ideology and conflictive cross-gender social interactions.
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Albert Doja. Social Thought & Commentary: Rethinking the Couvade. Anthropological Quarterly, George Washington University, Institute for Ethnographic Research, 2005, 78 (4), pp.917-950. ⟨10.1353/anq.2005.0053⟩. ⟨halshs-00406278⟩



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