Breastfeeding as headwork: Corporeal feminism and meanings for breastfeeding

Bartlett, Alison (2002) Breastfeeding as headwork: Corporeal feminism and meanings for breastfeeding. Women's Studies International Forum, 25 (3). pp. 373-382. ISSN 0277-5395


Recognizing that there is now a corpus of feminist work that theorizes the body, sometimes termed corporeal feminism (Volatile bodies: toward a corporeal feminism, 1994), this paper seeks to apply some of those theories in their transformative potential to the practices, policies and experiences of breastfeeding of the late twentieth century in the west. As an example of material sexual difference, the physiology of breastfeeding is examined in comparison with other cultural and institutional discourses. On the narrative level, all are found to varying degrees to characterize breastfeeding as a matter of headwork, as an activity to be learned and managed rather than embodied. Duplicating the preoccupation with and privileging of mind over matter common in western epistemology has entailed a shift in knowledge/power from mothers to professionals at a time when women’s corporeality is most active and symbolically significant. New narratives are therefore sought and tentatively applied, which involve reconceptualizing what we understand the brain to be, and ways in which we might strategically read the body (and breasts) as literate and thoughtful.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Restricted access to published version in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Arts - Department of Humanities and International Studies
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2007 11:47
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2018 00:50
Fields of Research : 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200205 Culture, Gender, Sexuality
16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160805 Social Change
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220306 Feminist Theory
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 94 Law, Politics and Community Services > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940113 Gender and Sexualities
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1016/S0277-5395(02)00260-1

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