The Ethics and Politics of Breastfeeding: Power, Pleasure, Poetics

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Robyn LEE, University of Alberta, Canada
Robyn Lee, University of Alberta, Sociology

The Ethics and Politics of Breastfeeding: Power, Pleasure, Poetics

Date of Publication: July 2017

Publisher: University of Toronto Press

This book interrogates the foundation of debates over breastfeeding, going beyond understanding breastfeeding in terms of choice, towards a model of reproductive justice and expanded understandings of kinship and care. The work challenges biopolitical conceptions of breastfeeding dominant under neoliberalism, developing an alternative conception of breastfeeding as an ethical, embodied practice of the self. Responding to the most widely read breastfeeding manual, La Leche League’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, It explores breastfeeding as an art, a practice that must be developed through skillful application of effort, rather than a natural or merely physiological process. It explores how induced lactation enables individuals other than cisgendered women to breastfeed and chestfeed, challenging straightforward associations between breastfeeding and "womanliness". Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault, Emmanuel Levinas and Luce Irigaray, this book develops a poststructuralist ethics and politics of breastfeeding in which breastfeeding is understood as an “art of living”, involving creative practices of self-transformation.

This book is relevant to RC32 because it explores how breastfeeding is important to how sexual difference is produced and understood and examines ways of transforming the practice of breastfeeding to address ongoing obstacles to combining parenthood and paid employment. The book investigates why debates over breastfeeding continue to provoke controversy, even as breastfeeding is increasingly encouraged by public health campaigns.