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Title:Exalted mothers: gender, aging & postchildbearing experience in a Tuareg community
Author:Rasmussen, SusanISNI
Book title:Rethinking Pastoralism in Africa: Gender, Culture and the Myth of the Patriarchal Pastoralist
Geographic term:Niger
Subjects:elderly women
gender roles
Abstract:This chapter analyses the relationship between aging women's social/ritual roles and local theories of female aging physiology, among a seminomadic people, the Tuareg of Niger. The Tuareg case illustrates how the end of fertility can be redefined in such a way as not to victimize women morally or socially. It also illustrates the interconnections among religion, ritual, and socioeconomic and household dynamics in cultural/symbolic formulations of female aging in a seminomadic community. Among the Tuareg, the cessation of menstruation - gradual, difficult to delineate, and submerged in more general aging that is subject to some degree of perceived physical decline - merges with ritual and social roles believed to be, in themselves, sources of positive healing and metaphorical fertility. Fertility becomes transposed on to broader cultural, rather than individual or biological, reproduction for women of postchildbearing status. Transition to this status leads to empowerment derived from both Islamic and pre-Islamic cosmologies. Bibliogr., notes, ref.