Is Breast Really Best? Breastfeeding, Motherhood, and the Politics of Care


Reminder: Open Lecture
Is Breast Really Best? Breastfeeding, Motherhood, and the Politics of Care

As part of her time as Visiting Fellow with The Centre for Parenting Culture Studies (CPCS), Joan Wolf will be giving this Open Lecture at the University of Kent, Canterbury

Date: Wednesday February 13th 2013
Venue: Grimond Lecture Theatre, University of Kent (J6 on the map)
Time: Lecture starts 6pm
Joan Wolf is Associate Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Texas A&M University. She is author, most recently, of Is Breast Best? Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood (New York University Press, 2011) and is currently researching neoliberalism and the politics of care in the United States.

All welcome at the lecture, and there will be time following Joan's remarks to discuss the issues.

There is a recent interview with Joan Wolf here:

Lecture abstract
This talk will review the central arguments of Is Breast Best? Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood, examine how academics and the public have reacted to its publication, and then pose some broad questions about what the book and its reception tell us about carework in the twenty-first century.  Is Breast Best? asks why, when the scientific evidence for breastfeeding’s health benefits is weak, virtually everyone seems convinced that breastfeeding is the most important gift a mother can bestow on her baby.  It argues that the rather dramatic misrepresentation of breastfeeding results from a convergence of three forces: neoliberalism and a cultural obsession with reducing risk, especially health risks; the methods and routines of observational science, particularly breastfeeding research; and an ideology of total motherhood that stipulates that a mother can and should eliminate any risk to her children, regardless of how small or likely the risk or what the cost is to her own wellbeing in the process.  Is Breast Best? elicited a range of responses, from those that engaged seriously with its ideas to those, far more numerous, that claimed the book was ignorant and part of a larger feminist assault on motherhood. While both Is Breast Best? and the reaction it provoked reveal much about public discourse on breastfeeding, they also raise critical questions about how neoliberalism, the dynamics of science, and an ethic of total motherhood combine to create a moral framework that limits our ability to think constructively about contemporary carework more broadly defined.

Dr Charlotte Faircloth
Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow
Centre for Parenting Culture Studies
a: SSPSSR, Cornwallis NE, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NF
t: @CPCS_UniKent
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