Black Breastfeeding in the Mississippi Delta


Back in March I took my general exams for graduate school and officially became a PhD Candidate!

Make no mistake. I’ve still got (probably between 3 and 5 more) years to go before anyone confers me as Dr., but I ‘m done with all the requirements that would have kept me physically on campus and am just focusing on the dissertation — which for anthropology, requires gong to and doing extensive research in the field.

Tomorrow I’ll be giving my colloquium for my long-term ethnographic research. This presentation will highlight what my research is overall — the topic, why I chose this research site, potential challenges, methods, etc. I’ll be talking all about Mississippi and Black breastfeeding –mostly! I’m posting this here because if you’re in the area you should come by and see it. I’ll be talking for about 45-ish of what will be about 90 minutes total, so there’ll be plenty of time for discussion and I could definitely use some insight on strategies to be as effective as I can be while I’m in (and outside of) the south. I’m not going to the field right now, but this presentation is a requirement — the next step after exams. I’m also thinking of trying to live stream or maybe record it and post it here later.

Abstract text:
For the past 400 years, Breastfeeding among Afro-descendant women in the United States –mainly those of us who are often referred to as African American, has been a topic of explicit attention. These highlights encompass areas such as care and community autonomy among Black women, systematic control over reproduction, employment and agency within women’s circles, to the shift in today’s cultural climate where there is a severe disjuncture in this tradition, where roughly only one-half of Black women initiate breastfeeding. Of these, many mother-infant dyads have duration periods lasting only days or weeks, rather than months or years, as many global traditions support. In Mississippi, USA, these numbers are drastically lower, which is significant in creating and maintaining compromises in health, environment, spiritual connections, and community agency.

Using frameworks of Black feminist anthropology, indigenous feminism, ‘Place,’ and Divine guidance, this work concentrates in the Mississippi Delta, USA, in order to uncover the mechanisms that contribute to this disjuncture, while simultaneously working to help transform Black breastfeeding culture.

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