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Population and Progress in a Yoruba Town

Elisha P. Renne


This study of local perceptions of population and development in a rural southwestern Nigerian town questions some of the underlying assumptions of the demographic theory of fertility transition. Fertility transition theory and modernisation theory from which it derives have not explained why fertility remains high, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, despite the presence of some conditions associated with its decline in Western societies, nor why development, despite a plethora of projects, has failed to 'take-off'. As this study demonstrates, neither fertility change nor development follows a universal trajectory. Whether lower fertility or Western models of development are viewed as possible or advantageous reflects cultural ideas about proper social relations as well as political and economic conditions, which may hinder or facilitate these changes.

Key Features

  • Its example of grass-roots development complements economic development texts
  • Provides an ethnographic study of fertility change
  • Examines the historical processes of social change in the context of Nigeria under military rule


List of figures, tables
Part I. Anthropological and demographic concerns
Chapter 1. Introduction: Paradoxes of progress
Chapter 2. Historical and anthropological aspects of population: Centripetal and centrifugal tendencies
Chapter 3. Demographic dimensions of Itapa-Ekiti
Part II. Bodies, persons, and social relations
Chapter 4. Women's bodies, virginity, and marriage
Chapter 5. Child-fostering, blood ties, and parenthood
Chapter 6. Burial, rebirth, and relations with the dead
Part III. Population, development, and the state
Chapter 7. Personal hygiene, public sanitation, and western education
Chapter 8. Houses, descendants, and land tenure
Chapter 9. Counting bodies: Censuses, vital registration, and the creation of Ekiti State
Chapter 10: Conclusion: Local development, politics, and two funerals
Appendix I. Research methods and materials
Appendix II. Important dates in Itapa and Nigerian history
Appendix III. Contraception ever used by Itapa-Ekiti women, based on 1992, 1997 surveys

About the Author

Elisha P. Renne is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan.


A rich and compelling account of the social and cultural processes that underlie the dynamics of fertility in contemporary Nigeria… Rich, important and insightful…Readers with interests in anthropology, demography or Africa all have much to learn from this fine book.
- Daniel Jordan Smith, Department of Anthropology, Brown University

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