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Mother’s milk: reconsidering milk-kinship in our understanding of family and kinship in Europe

Dr Elena Soler, Charles University, Prague

Wednesday 26 March at 5.30 pm

Human milk has long been linked to the construction of motherhood, with breastfeeding and maternity constituing a cultural ideal in many societies. What happens when breast milk does not come from the biological mother but from another woman. Can we talk about ‘fragmented’ motherhood? Given the size, complexity and possibilities to address the issue of the symbolism of milk and possible identities and relationships that can be generated from it, in this seminar it would be reflected some of the results of a historical ethnography that had as the main research goal the analysis of the role of the domestic wet-nurse in the construction of milk kinship in XIX-XXc Spain. The main question when iniating this research was, how did we move from the vocabulary of market when hiring a domestic wet-nurse in order to get a service, the nursing of a baby not her own, to the vocabulary of kinship (milk brother, milk sister, and even milk mother), and what did it really mean, especially for the most disadvataged and needy group involved in this new relationship: the peasantry. A new milk kinship relationship which is not universal, but if it has existed, it has usually lived with other types of kinship without always being recognized and analyzed by the Anthropological discipline as we will see with this example focused on Southern Europe.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked.  To book tickets please go to http://soler.eventbrite.co.uk.