Playing on the Mother-Ground

Cultural Routines for Children's Develoment


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"This is an important study of childhood development in an African society, based upon extensive field research. Particularly valuable is the discussion of the role of games in childhood development, and of how children learn the major economic skills of adulthood. The elements of the transition from play to work form an interesting and significant contribution to the study of African childhood education. The relative roles of informal learning, apprenticeship and bush initiation in learning are analyzed with unusual care."

Simon Ottenberg, PhD, Emeritus Professor, University of Washington

"One of the important contributions that anthropologists can make to the field of child development and socialization research is to provide researchers with 'thick descriptions' (Geertz 1973) of children's routine social interactions in various cultural contexts. Play is an important activity for children but the child development and socialization literature is short on carefully researched 'ethnographies of play.' David Lancy's Playing on the Mother Ground is exactly the type of ethnography that this field needs--it is ethnographically rich and theoretically sophisticated. I was most impressed with the approach Lancy develops for examining how cultural routines shape children's socialization experiences."

Helen B. Schwartzman, Ph.D., Dept of Anthropology, Northwestern University

"Lancy's observations of children's socialization into a nontechnological culture are rich and comprehensive. This ethnography elucidates the interrelations among different levels of learning and informal education—play, work, stories, proverbs, apprenticeship, and more."

Patricia M. Greenfield, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles

"...recommended to anyone genuinely interested in understanding the imperialism of Western schooling and the cultures it destroys."

—International Review of Education

"An interesting and useful study of childhood learning in a society vastly different from ours in its attitude towards children and the acquisition of skills."

—Journal of Anthropological Research