Thursday, November 29, 2012

Breastfeeding & (BLACK) Feminism at the UNC

On Tuesday I found out my abstract was accepted for next year's Breastfeeding and Feminism Symposia at the University of North Carolina, It Takes A Village To Support A Nursing Mom and I'm pretty excited about it. I'd been asked by a couple of people if I heard anything back from the board members. I hadn't. But there was a good reason, of course -- they lost my submission. I knew something was up when I didn't hear anything from them -- AT ALL, on whether I was chosen or not, so I contacted the committee and eventually found out what happened. Oopsie. No big deal, though they were very apologetic and told me after some digging they located it and sent it off to the powers that be for consideration, and after a few days got back to me with the news.

I have to be honest that a 20 minute presentation station to talk about Black Feminism seems a bit slim. I'm thinking at least a good two or three hours would be more up my alley to possibly touch the tip of the ice *smile* but I guess I'll just have to make do. I'm totally kidding, btw. I don't like public speaking that much.

I'll be presenting on viewing breastfeeding advocacy through a Black Feminist framework, and offering ways to engage more community. I'm really glad about this whole thing and can't wait to get started planning.

I created this 'Chip In' to help offset the various charges associated with presenting, and that will allow me to continue this important work. Thank you in advance for any consideration.

New Books :: Breastfeeding + Anthropology + Black Feminist Anthropology (Video)

I got new books! Ones that feel like they have been on my wishlist for what seemed like forever and I finally got around to ordering them. What do they all have in common? They are written by anthropologists. There's not much out there in the way of breastfeeding texts from an anthropological perspective, so coming across these is awesome and rare. The Anthropology of Breastfeeding: Natural Law or Social Construct discusses the deeper issues behind breastfeeding, and since the text is still en route to my house via USPS, here's what says about it:
'On the whole, the debates surrounding the issues of breast-feeding - often reflecting ethnographic and ill-informed medical and demographic approaches - have failed to treat the deeper issues. The significance of breast-feeding reaches far beyond its biological function; in fact, the authors of this volume argue, there is nothing `natural' about breast-feeding itself. On the contrary, attitudes and practices are socially determined, and breast-feeding has to be seen as an essential element in the cultural construction of sexuality. This volume offers an `ethnography' of breast-feeding by examining cultural norms and practices in a number of European and non-European societies, thus presenting valuable and often astonishing empirical material that is not otherwise readily available. The highly original focus of this volume therefore throws new light on gender and on social relationships in general.'
Next, I haven't had all that much exposure to Katherine Dettwyler's work. I do know she is from here in the U.S. and Breastfeeding Biocultural Perspectives is her second text -- that is co-edited, her first single-authored is on death and dying. I visited her website 'Thoughts On Breastfeeding' on a few occasions, and saw her in the documentary Breasts recently, but that's pretty much the extent. This book is about examining the biological process of breastfeeding along with the culturally determined behavior. The cover says this viewpoint 'has important implications for understanding the past, present, and future condition of our species', which can all happen through this custom. I'm excited to see what it has to offer.

Finally, Faye V. Harrison, PhD, a cultural (political) Black Feminist Anthropologist and professor at the University of Florida who focuses on the African Diaspora, human rights, critical race feminism and others. . .  . and her work changed my life.

When I was an undergrad I came across Dr. Harrison as I was preparing to enroll in an independent study course. I found myself at a point where I began to question the ethics of anthropology, and began to have doubts about the ideas of going off to a foreign land just to study people and produce scholarship in order to finish a dissertation and get a PhD, among various other concerns. I couldn't fully articulate my thoughts at that moment but it seemed exploitative and weighed heavily on me. At this same time I was also extremely lonely and discouraged and was yearning to find more Black women in the discipline; besides the few white women that had been elected the voice of 'women' in the field -- Margaret Mead, Eleanor Leacock, Sally Slocum, the mainstream theoretical perspectives taught in class are all made up of 'Dead white men on parade'. I came across Dr. Harrison's professional website and sent her a message and graciously she provided me with information, names of other Black women in the field and told me about her book Outsider Within: Reworking Anthropology in the Global Age that at the time of our correspondence was not so long ago published. It was through this text is where I discovered that anthropology can reach far beyond the mainstream white-centric and often imperialistic ideas of ethnography, note-taking, and promoting 'Otherization,' but it could radically transform, promote social equality and voice (especially vulnerable) communities. This is what I was looking for. And it opened up an entire new world. I ended up doing a presentation in the Anthropology Department, based on the information from this independent study and the theory from Outsider Within, along with another text I used for the course, Black Feminist Anthropology, to ask why, in a discipline that claims to largely debunk social stratification, do we continue to promote racist and gendered ideology, exclusivity and marginalization and why it's important to see the viewpoints of Black women anthropologists, and hear what we had to say then and what we continue to say now. I titled it Anthropological Theory! Where Are Our Sistahs? Were it not for Dr. Harrison's work, there is little doubt that I would not be here today promoting breastfeeding from the angle that I do. And more than likely, I probably wouldn't have even continued studying anthropology. Instead, I'm almost certain I would have dropped the discipline all together for disappointment and changed my major, but I once again fell in love with it since it was now in alignment with my personal and professional beliefs.

Resisting Racism And Xenophobia is edited by Dr. Harrison, and is a 'collection of essays [that] focuses on the intersections between race, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality that exert a huge influence on human rights conflicts around the world.' Though it does not explicitly discuss breastfeeding or birth, racism and xenophobia underscore disparities, and must become central to the conversation. I'm thrilled I finally own a copy.

I found this video with Dr. Harrison that is from a recent talk she gave at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. In it, she discusses The Cultural Politics of Race in the New Millennium. Listen carefully.

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Word(less words) Wednesday: A Giveaway! (Closed)

If you follow me on Twitter, then you'll know that a few weeks ago I said because I'm insanely busy right now (I'll let on to what's happening soon enough:)) I wasn't going to post anymore until sometime next month -- late next month -- maybe even early next year. Ya.... about that.

The bumper sticker below is the latest addition to the Lactation Journey's Anti 'Breast Is Best' Shop. I was inspired to create this after a recent talk I heard on racism and the importance of naming exactly what it is we're challenging. It is also a way to continue to move past the superficial and idealistic views on breastfeeding and create dialogue centered around that which underpins disparities -- in order to work towards equity. I thought one of you might like to join in or continue this conversation by rocking a free bumper sticker.

Leave a comment on this post by next Tuesday and it will count as your entry. All names will be entered with a winner selected at random via, and announced in next week's blog post. Leave your email address with your comment: yourname (at) emailserver {dot} com, net, etc. Winner must respond within 24 hours, or another will be selected. This giveaway is open to U.S and international participants. 

If you appreciate giveaways on the Lactation Journey Blog, please consider donating $1.00 USD, in order to help me offset the shipping & handling charges I incur to bring these to you. Thank you in advance for any consideration.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Why don't babies transnationally continue to breastfeed while under Obama's watch? #Election2012

Because they're dead. 

'Liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands are dyed red with innocent blood.' Ghandi