The Afterlives of Babies: A View from West Africa

Wednesday, 25 October 2017 - 5:00pm6:30pm

Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

The Afterlives of Babies: A View from West Africa

Alma Gottlieb

Professor Emerita of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In some religious traditions, “the afterlife” represents another stage in a life cycle believed to be endlessly cyclical rather than linear. For the Beng people of Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa, babies are not born as clean slates but as reincarnations of ancestors who long to return. A Beng infant is thought to begin its new life filled with spiritual knowledge, a belief that profoundly affects the way the Beng care for and raise their children.


Alma Gottlieb is a cultural anthropologist, researcher, author, and teacher impassioned by understanding all things human. As a scholar, she aims to use her research to promote tolerance and reduce injustice by analyzing relations among systems of power, thought, and experience in her publications; as a teacher, she aims to use scholarly research to promote tolerance and reduce injustice by training students to be both skilled seekers and critical analysts of information. She specializes in migration/diaspora; religion/ritual; the family/child-rearing; gender/sexuality; and issues of representation/ethnographic writing. Her major research has taken her to West Africa and the contemporary African diaspora in Europe and the U.S. She received her B.A. in Anthropology and French from Sarah Lawrence College (where she studied with Sherry Ortner and Irving Goldman) and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Virginia (where she studied with Victor Turner, David Sapir, and Christopher Crocker).

Event is free and open to the public.
Pre-registration requested.