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Developing Destinies: A Mayan Midwife and Town (Child Development in Cultural Context) [Hardcover]

by Barbara Rogoff
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 6, 2011 0195319907 978-0195319903 1
Winner of the 2014 Maccoby Award from the American Psychological Association, Division 7!

Born with the destiny of becoming a Mayan sacred midwife, Chona Pérez has carried on centuries-old traditional Indigenous American birth and healing practices over her 85 years. At the same time, Chona developed new approaches to the care of pregnancy, newborns, and mothers based on her own experience and ideas. In this way, Chona has contributed to both the cultural continuities and cultural changes of her town over the decades.

In Developing Destinies, Barbara Rogoff illuminates how individuals worldwide build on cultural heritage from prior generations and at the same time create new ways of living. Throughout Chona's lifetime, her Guatemalan town has continued to use longstanding Mayan cultural practices, such as including children in a range of community activities and encouraging them to learn by observing and contributing. But the town has also transformed dramatically since the days of Chona's own childhood. For instance, although Chona's upbringing included no formal schooling, some of her grandchildren have gone on to attend university and earn scholarly degrees. The lives of Chona and her town provide extraordinary examples of how cultural practices are preserved even as they are adapted and modified.

Developing Destinies
is an engaging narrative of one remarkable person's life and the life of her community that blends psychology, anthropology, and history to reveal the integral role that culture plays in human development. With extensive photographs and accounts of Mayan family life, medical practices, birth, child development, and learning, Rogoff adeptly shows that we can better understand the role of culture in our lives by examining how people participate in cultural practices. This landmark book brings theory alive with fascinating ethnographic findings that advance our understanding of childhood, culture, and change.

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Developing Destinies: A Mayan Midwife and Town (Child Development in Cultural Context) + The Cultural Nature of Human Development
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Editorial Reviews


"The beautifully written narrative is highly accessible, even gripping. It is enriched by photos that span decades. The account is personal and moving, weaving in stories of the author's own evolution as a participant-observer and ethnographer... At the same time, it has very broad reach, illuminating some of the most profound themes of human development. The book truly is a must read for all with interests in development or culture." -- Susan A. Gelman,  University of Michigan, review in PsycCRITIQUES (American Psychological Association)

"A rare glimpse into the changes in people's lives and environment over the course of seven decades. The dozens of images, together with their informative captions, are superbly integrated into the text...Recommended" -- A. H. Koblitz, Arizona State University, CHOICE

"This book is a must-read for those interested in culture, child development, globalization, and birth." -- Ashley E. Maynard, University of Hawai`i, review in Ethos

"Barbara Rogoff breaks new ground in the way she thinks about change in a traditional society." -- Arte Maya Tzutuhil Newsletter

"A lovely and fascinating anthropological look at culture and the impact of one woman, and her community role as a midwife, on her community. Rogoff addresses gender, child development, religion/spirituality, and informal community-based learning processes....  Her book is innovative.... It is sure to be a welcome addition to many fields, in education and beyond."-- finalist for the Jackie Kirk Outstanding Book Award

From the Author

The royalties for this book are donated to the Taa' Pi't Learning Center and other projects in this Mayan town.

Product Details

  • Series: Child Development in Cultural Context
  • Hardcover: 343 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (April 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195319907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195319903
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #564,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Please see my work, and my watercolor paintings, photos, and reviews connected with my book "Developing Destinies" on the public Facebook page "Barbara Rogoff Publications".

Also, you can view the 6-minute YouTube that I made using historic photos and film connected with "Developing Destinies" -- just look up "Developing Destinies."

The photo on this Author Page is of the celebrated midwife, Chona Pérez (in the middle), with me (on the right), and my friend Marta Navichoc, at the formal presentation of the new book "Developing Destinies: A Mayan Midwife and Town." [photo copyright Domingo Yojcom Chavajay, 2011.]

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What an interesting cultural story May 3, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Longitudinal studies have long been the bedrock of the human development research world. In her new book, Barbara Rogoff has developed a creative and interesting variation of this approach in which the key players are the researcher and her subject and the time frame is 35 years. In very clear language, easily accessible to non-social scientists, Dr. Rogoff describes the interesting and important role played by a Mayan sacred midwife in her Guatemalan community, as well as the cultural changes that occur in this community over the course of decades. The influence of culture - in some instances centuries old - on human development is fascinating, as is the equally powerful transformation of cultural practice as the community increases its collective engagement with the modern world. A most enjoyable narrative illustrated with numerous photographs.

Michael F, EdD
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Achievement July 15, 2011
This is a beautiful book, a rarity in social science researcgh. If we could get people to understand the ending in a theoretically informed way we might have a better developmental psychology today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an anthropological charmer June 8, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Besides being informative, this book is a real charmer to read, and I can't recommend it enough. It will be especially appreciated by anybody who has lived in a foreign village culture long enough to realize how much mystery lies beyond what they think is familiar, and how little of what goes on they understand even when they think they know. And this is about a traditional midwife, her life and all the culture around her calling, which is especially mysterious territory for many of us---especially us guys. All you returned Peace Corps Volunteers who (like me) struggled in a village to learn a foreign language and culture and came to love people you understood less all the time, will identify with this story. And if you were in Latin America and lived with indigenous peoples, it is for you a must-read.

Barbara Rogoff is an important academic theorist of human development well known in child development circles for her groundbreaking books and articles that look at what and how children learn through engagement in community with each other and with adults. Intellectually she walks the territory where psychology and anthropology overlap, and her publications generally have to do with the interplay between culture and individual development. But in this one she leaves ventures out away from her dispassionate academic base to engage her heart as well, and the result is a work of art as well as a highly informative ethnographic narrative.

In my view, this book is likely to turn out to be a classic that beginning university anthropology students may be reading for generations to come.
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