Inuit Morality Play: The Emotional Education Of A Three-Year-Old

  • Publish Date: 1998-06-29
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: Jean L. Briggs

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Is your mother good? Are you good? Do you want to come live with me? Inuit adults often playfully present small children with difficult, even dangerous, choices and then dramatize the consequences of the childs answers. They are enacting in larger-than-life form the plots that drive Inuit social lifetesting, acting out problems, entertaining themselves, and, most of all, bringing up their children.

In a riveting narrative, psychological anthropologist Jean L. Briggs takes us through six months of dramatic interactions in the life of Chubby Maata, a three-year-old girl growing up in a Baffin Island hunting camp. The book examines the issues that engaged the childbelonging, possession, loveand shows the process of her growing. Briggs questions the nature of sharedness in culture and assumptions about how culture is transmitted. She suggests that both cultural meanings and strong personal commitment to ones world can be (and perhaps must be) acquired not by straightforwardly learning attitudes, rules, and habits in a dependent mode but by experiencing oneself as an agent engaged in productive conflict in emotionally problematic situations. Briggs finds that dramatic play is an essential force in Inuit social life. It creates and supports values; engenders and manages attachments and conflicts; and teaches and maintains an alert, experimental, constantly testing approach to social relationships.

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