cultural interpretations and intracultural variability in Navajo beliefs about breastfeeding

Anne L Wright, MARK BAUER, CLARINA CLARK, FRANK MORGAN, KENNETH BEGISHE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Societies differ in their interpretations of the body and its fluids in ways that seem to reflect the organization of society, the natural world, and other culturally meaningful symbols. However, portrayals of these interpretations, often both static and concealing, mask internal diversity, change over time, and methodologic forces for consistency. This article reports on beliefs about breastfeeding gleaned from ethnographic interviews with 35 Navajo men and women, and from survey interviews with 250 postpartum Navajo women. Working with Navajo consultants, the authors developed a “cultural text,” a coherent portrayal that synthesized respondents' beliefs. The text stressed certain beliefs: that breastfeeding is proper behavior, that it is a means of passing on the mother's attributes, and that it is a means of showing children they are loved. However, only a minority of the ethnographic interviews elicited these beliefs, and only about half the Navajo women surveyed agreed with them as statements. These findings suggest that meanings attached to the body are dynamic, changing over time as aspects of the cultural context arealtered; diverse, reflecting individual experiences and exposure to varied beliefs; and contingent, being influenced by data collection and interpretation techniques. [Navajo, breastfeeding, methodology, beliefs] 1993 American Anthropological Association

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-796
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Volume20
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology

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