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Ethnographies of Breastfeeding

September 6, 2016


This is now in paperback.

You lucky people.

This is a timely book which takes the notion that it “takes a village” to raise a child and then argues that it takes a world to imagine a village.  The essays in this book collectively demonstrate that any supposedly sacred bond between nursing mother and hungry infant depend on much larger supportive networks.

Arguments about breastfeeding as a feminist issue need to free themselves from asocial binary obligations and above all free themselves from a sense of individual moral obligation.  If breastfeeding is, apparently, a good thing – then what is being done collectively to sustain it?  What is the other half of the human race (men) doing to create environments and economic structures that prioritise this apparently essential activity?

But here are some reviews…

“Anthropology not only can and must shed light on the cultural diversity and significance of the body parts and practices and their relation to wider factors and questions, but it can and must also confront assumptions and avoidances about these same parts and practices … Ethnographies of Breastfeeding breaks some new ground in anthropology and suggests some tantalizing and important new research directions.” –  David Eller, Anthropology Review Database

“Editors Cassidy and El Tom have put together a broad look at the modern and historical experience of breastfeeding. They consider not just the product and the process of breastfeeding but also the participants, including mothers, children, wet nurses, surrogates, and health care professionals. The collection takes an international perspective, focusing on South American countries, Middle Eastern Countries, and African countries as well as Europe and the US … Chapter notes, extensive bibliography. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.” –  S. Marks, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, CHOICE

“Offering much more than a study of conceptual shifts over time, the various takes on the ‘product’ and ‘process’ of milk feeding as a reproductive and socio-political conduct make [this] book a fascinating read … A great addition to undergraduate and postgraduate studies of reproductive care and maternal and infant health.” –

“An essential collection of cross-cultural essays for anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and clinicians – really everyone working in mother and infant studies.” –  Katie Hinde, Harvard University, USA,

“Cassidy and El Tom’s Ethnographies of Breastfeeding offers an insightful anthropological examination of human milk. The authors consider human milk as a product, medicine and commodity – to be processed, shared and traded – and problematize contemporary global issues of human milk, touching upon classic anthropological themes of gender, economy, power and kinship.” –  Isabel López Ruiz, Durham University, UK,


Here’s what I wrote about the hardback edition

This paperback has all the same words.  It’s just a bit more bendable.

– See more at:


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