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The Dance of Nurture: Negotiating Infant Feeding

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Volume 6

Food, Nutrition, and Culture

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The Dance of Nurture

Negotiating Infant Feeding

Penny Van Esterik and Richard A. O'Connor

248 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-562-4 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (June 2017)

eISBN 978-1-78533-563-1 eBook

Hb   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“The book is a much-needed call for support for breastfeeding in developed and less developed countries and has the potential to save lives and reverse infant malnutrition in environments of poverty.” · Ann Millard, Associate Professor, Public Health Studies School of Public Health, Texas A&M Health Science Center - McAllen


Breastfeeding and child feeding at the center of nurturing practices, yet the work of nurture has escaped the scrutiny of medical and social scientists. Anthropology offers a powerful biocultural approach that examines how custom and culture interact to support nurturing practices. Our framework shows how the unique constitutions of mothers and infants regulate each other. The Dance of Nurture integrates ethnography, biology and the political economy of infant feeding into a holistic framework guided by the metaphor of dance. It includes a critique of efforts to improve infant feeding practices globally by UN agencies and advocacy groups concerned with solving global nutrition and health problems.

Penny Van Esterik is a Canadian anthropologist who has trained at University of Toronto and received her PhD from University of Illinois. She has taught nutritional and feminist anthropology at York University, Toronto and has a long history of advocacy work on breastfeeding and child health. Her geographical focus is Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand and Lao PDR.

Richard A. O’Connor is a graduate of William & Mary and received his PhD from Cornell. He spent nearly three decades studying Southeast Asia until his daughter’s anorexia abruptly changed his career.  Since her recovery in 1999, he has devoted his work in scholarship to studying eating disorders and breastfeeding as a medical anthropologist.

Subject: Medical Anthropology Gender Studies and Sexuality





Chapter 1. Recovering Nurture
Chapter 2. Studying Nurture


Chapter 3. Tracing the Human Story
Chapter 4. Entering the Commensal Circle


Chapter 5. Customizing Nurture in Southeast Asia
Chapter 6. Modernizing Nurture: A Global Shift


Chapter 7. Mastering Nurture: Lessons Unlearned
Chapter 8. Negotiating Nurture: Yesterday’s Lesson, Tomorrow’s Hope


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