Accepted paper:

Making humans, making people: the under valuation of biological and social reproduction in social and economic theories


Christine Oppong
Amma Oppong-Odiseng

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses the ultimate gender bias in economic models, that is the undervaluation (or complete neglect) of biological and social reproduction or economies of care, using evidence on human development outcomes from Ghana and Botswana.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is about the ultimate gender bias in economic models, undervaluation (or neglect) of biological and social reproduction. Implications of this are explored with regard to levels of human development achieved in Ghana and Botswana, two countries with recent rapidly rising economic indicators, widely lauded by economists. Yet in both counties a plethora of ethnographic, medical and demographic evidence demonstrates serious shortfalls in human development, signalling malfunctioning of economies of care. This evidence includes high tides of under five under nutrition and rising numbers of infants and young children suffering from arrested development, autism and other signs of attention deficit disorders, even in non poor households. One might argue that many of the domestic groups in which these children are living and growing up are zombie households - lacking the caring familial contexts which the young need for optimum development. Challenges for (medical) anthropological and economic theory and analysis are highlighted and some achievements of feminist economics in this regard are outlined on economies of care. The conclusion calls for greater application of energy and resources to inter-disciplinarity in the human sciences and a greater focus by anthropologists on the big pictures and issues of global human development and a greater determination to affect and impact public opinion and policy making, in particular to humanize economics and influence the hegemonic neoliberal discourses which mould national agendas,affecting household resource availability and individual decision making.

panel P56
Towards a gendered economic anthropology/ towards a gendered critique of political economy