That moment — when anthropologist and breastfeeding advocate Kathy Dettwyler Skypes with your class

Photo courtesy of Monica Reed
Photo courtesy of Monica Reed

When I was up in Canada earlier this year, I was contacted through this blog by Katherine Dettwyler — who has studied infant nutrition and around the world, and who has focused a large portion of her work on breastfeeding, working with various breastfeeding advocacy groups and organization across the country and around the world. Of course this email was the last thing I was expecting when I logged into my email account, and I was just as surprised as I was excited to hear from her.

The 250 students in the Introduction to Medical Anthropology and Global Health class just finished reading Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa, which is her ethnography of her research in Mali,West Africa, and they also had to write their own ethnographic report on the text so the lecture and discussion group was all on this topic. During quiz section/discussion group (when the large class is sectioned off. As a teaching assistant I have two quiz sections, so about 30 students in each) I told them about this email, and that I contacted her once but only talked for a quick minute because the signal was so bad at my little sister’s house and she couldn’t hear me, and that I was nervous about the whole thing that I never called back. When everyone convened in the large classroom, of course one of my students chimed in about the story I told them and put me on the spot after the professor told everyone how much she loves Dettwyler’s work, and wondered if we could get her to skype with the class. Over this past weekend, I called her and she agreed — of course after she and I had a really good conversation on several things breastfeeding + anthropology! J

Everyone was really excited about having her visit the class in this live video format. We danced on camera for her, and after, she made us laugh, gave us an update on what she had done since her time in Africa, talked about her daughter, answered some questions, and briefly discussed her newest area of research. It was a nice experience, and I was pretty impressed with the whole thing. And I have to be pretty impressed, too, with the contents of my blog, eh? — which is where it all started. I could get used to renowned anthropologists doing things like this, and wouldn’t mind at all if next, Dr. Faye Harrison dropped me a line. African American Breastfeeding

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