Elusive Adulthoods

Deborah Durham

Elusive Adulthoods examines why, within the past decade, complaints about an inability to achieve adulthood have been heard around the world. By exploring the changing meaning of adulthood in Botswana, China, Sudan, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and the United States, contributors to this volume pose the problem of "What is adulthood?" and examine how the field of anthropology has come to overlook this meaningful stage in its studies. Through these case studies we discover different means of recognizing the achievement of adulthood, such as through negotiated relationships with others, including grown children, and as a form of upward class mobility. We also encounter the difficulties that come from a sense of having missed full adulthood, instead jumping directly into old age in the course of rapid social change, or a reluctance to embrace the stability of adulthood and necessary subordination to job and family. In all cases, the contributors demonstrate how changing political and economic factors form the background for generational experience and understanding of adulthood, which is a major focus of concern for people around the globe as they negotiate changing ways of living.

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