Where have all the babies gone? Toward an anthropology of infants (and their caretakers)

Alma Gottlieb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In much anthropological literature infants are frequently neglected as outside the scope of both the concept of culture and disciplinary methods. This article proposes six reasons for this exclusion of infants from anthropological discussion. These include the fieldworker's own memories and parental status, the problematic question of agency in infants and their presumed dependence on others, their routine attachment to women, their seeming inability to communicate, their inconvenient propensity to leak from a variety of orifices, and their apparently low quotient of rationality. Yet investigation of how infants are conceived of beyond the industrialized West can lead us to envision them far differently from how they are conceived in the West (including by anthropologists). Confronting such comparative data suggests the desirability of considering infants as both relevant and beneficial to the anthropological endeavor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-132
Number of pages12
JournalAnthropological Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2000


  • Babies/infants
  • Childhood/youth
  • Social theory
  • Structure/agency
  • West Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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