Some thoughts: On the south, doing (Black) ethnography, and dismantling the IBLCE

Delta Cotton Field.
MS Delta Cotton Field

I am back from summer. I had a tremendous time over the past couple of months and I enjoyed (nearly) every minute of it. It was hot and muggy and also beautiful and transformative. Something that stuck out in my mind is that it is almost surreal that I was, at one point, literally on the cusp of leaving my field of study because of the colonial influence of anthropology and its othering of non-white, non-western communities, and its contribution to racism and anti-Blackness. When all of this was going down — when I recognized anthropology’s roll in it, I resolved that I could no longer lend myself to hearing about white men and white women being in communities of Color to ‘learn’ — aka exploit — and objectify these communities, and I certainly would have no part in replicating their sordid and disgusting legacy. It’s almost as if the universe wanted me to stay in anthropology because I ended up doing so only as a result of finding other anthropologists who challenged this same legacy and worked hard then and now to transform the discipline and make it a tool for the people.

I’m far from finished with visiting the south. While I was in ‘the field’ (the physical research site that we anthropologists refer to), acknowledging all of this was very important to me — and the significance that I am working in my own community cannot be emphasized enough. Conducting ethnography in our own community was strictly off-limits and was said to be an area where we couldn’t produce substantive work. Being too close to our people clouded our ability to be ‘objective’. But I have been really inspired by other anthropologists who have conducted ethnography in their own communities and know that not only is it possible, but necessary. And to me it is a process of reclaiming our own stories and writing about our own lives. So, I guess I can say I learned a lot and am really inspired. I’ll be talking more about that later.

But for now, I was out recently and while in conversation was asked if I think the IBLCE should be dismantled. Well, for anyone who knows me it shouldn’t be surprising to know that my answer then, now and more than likely forever will be an unwavering yes!

I have stated various times before that I believe the IBLCE is doing much more harm than good. While it’s true that I believe being able to latch a baby to a breast, diagnose symptoms, treat mastitis etc. are all important and nothing I’m denying. But I believe all of these things pale in comparison to the damage this facet of so-called ‘care’ is causing at a systemic level: my thoughts on this have not changed. I posted my article — my Research Competency paper — Uncovering Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy in Professional Breastfeeding Services that is part of my overall community activism and dissertation research on this blog 1. because it’s important to me to discuss my research in some aspects at this point, but also because I hope(d) it would be taken as a sense of urgency that things are not going to get any better when it comes to believing that adding more services will cause a balance in breastfeeding justice and decrease in social discord. I believe the opposite is true. I’m not saying that everyone needs to agree with what I have to say — but we know there’s a history that cannot be denied. And this history has been one that has systematically disabled and disassembled very powerful forms of community autonomy and injected that autonomy with self-doubt, bureaucracy and neoliberalism. Now, only the middle and upper-class/white/elite/privileged/male/formally educated folks form the west are the only ones who ‘understand’ what is best for everyone, how breastfeeding should be practiced and participated, who should be practicing and participating, who has the knowledge and who doesn’t, how we view our bodies and a list of other — factors that ain’t gone get no bettah! I think at this point we can count it as classic: it happened to midwives and other healers, and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes solidified within the breastfeeding realm and devastates a global community. I don’t waver from this standpoint.

Someone also asked me what I think should be done about it all. Is it enough to just stop promoting institutionalization, IBCLSs and the IBLCE? I think that’s a critical question. But I think more importantly it requires us as a community to ask what we, who are interested in more breastfeeding justice, do? What are your thoughts?

[P.S.] I haven’t hosted a webinar in over 2 years, but I am doing so next week!   Decolonizing Breastfeeding in Communities of Color is happening on Friday, October 21, and there are only a few chances left to register, so if you haven’t already then you should. If you have any questions, then just let me know. I’ll be talking just a bit about my thoughts on institutional breastfeeding here. If you have already registered, you will be receiving log-in information in your email inbox over the next day or 2, so please make sure you check (and check your spam to be on the safe side).

You can register with this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/decolonizing-breastfeeding-in-communities-of-color-a-webinar-tickets-27494302198

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