Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Bom Jesus Analysis Essay:
Nancy Scheper-Hughes is a renowned author and a violence analyst. She is a professor of Medical Anthropology at California where she is the director of Critical Studies in Medicine, Science, and the Body. Her day to day work involves violence of everyday life when examined from both a radical existentialist perspective and also politically engaged point of view. Her close analysis of structural and political violence, of what she refers to as “small wars and invisible genocides” has been helpful in her development of ‘militant’ anthropology, a discipline that has been extensively been used in medicine, psychiatry, and in general anthropology (Scheper-Hughes & Sargent, 1998). This paper provides an analysis of one of her book that major in analysis of Bom Jesus.
Bom Jesus is a small market town in the region that is surrounded by sugar plantation in Pernambuco in the North-East region of Brazil. In her early twenties, Nancy Scheper-Hughes went to community health volunteer worker as a peace corp. Her day to day encounter with violence, political repression, death and poverty, more the situation involving children who died out of depression left an ineffaceable feeling in her. What baffled her so much is that the women of Bom Jesus were casual and indifferent when it came to death of their children. They were used to these deaths unlike what we would expect out of a woman and a mother for that matter (Scheper-Hughes, 1992). This was the core reason why she had to return to Bom Jesus to create a record of the suffering the poor mothers and sufferings their children went through during this time. In her work, one theme that is evident is the relationship that exists between child loss, poverty, and expression of maternal love by mothers in Bom Jesus.
According to Nancy Scheper-Hughes, this region had high fertility rate, great poverty, and also high infant mortality. She therefore argues that in an event of high birth rate, high infant mortality, child death becomes a norm for poor families to the extent of mothers not grieving over the loss of a child. This is a critical condition as it might endanger the lives of the other children in the sense that the administered care might not be significant as their families don’t care so much about child deaths.
She also observed that mothers have a tendency of psychologically distasting themselves from vulnerable children to the extent of denying them the basic mother’s love and care and invest only to those children they think they would survive. This is the major reason as to why the poor and the illiterate mothers (families) give birth to many children so that they can increase the number of the surviving children in their families. In an event that a mother notes that a child might not have a promising future, they would ensure that they gave birth to another child to replace the vulnerable kid if he or she died. With this kind of perception birth rate is high in poor families than in rich families who treat their children equally without discriminating them based on their vulnerability (Ferraro, 2012).
Another major reason could be the lack of access to health care facilities where family planning advice is provided. The poor in the Bom Jesus region may not have access to family planning advice that is provided at healthcare facilities as they do not have sufficient money to feed their families leave alone for visiting healthcare facilities as opposed to the impoverished families. Culture is another factor that can’t be omitted when investigating the reasons behind high birth rate among the poor lot in the society. Many cultures have a tendency of believing that many children is a form of blessing and Bom Jesus society is not an exception.
Bom Jesus being a sugarcane plantation, there is a high chance that the poor families work in the plantations with their children in order to be able to earn more money. There are high chances that the poor families use their children to add the family income. Also, as per Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the Catholic Church is another major factor that has influenced the increasing birth rate in the region and also high death rate. She believes that the church teaches fatalistic resignation and upholds very strict rules against birth control measures and also on abortion. It is worth to note that many poor people in this region are Catholics and hence the increase in birth rate among the poor in the Bom Jesus society.
Maternal Philosophy In Bom Jesus:
In any society, it is the role of women to pass and sustain life in the society by giving birth and hence ensuring the continual existence of the society or the community. This philosophy also has its roots in Bom Jesus; Women are expected to give birth to children who will sustain the Bom Jesus community in the future. The difference that exists is their selective way of deciding who to die or survive. Women in this region believe in nurturing the lives of those children who they think will survive and neglect those who show signs of being weak. They believe in giving birth to many children to be an assurance that there will be some who will be left in case the weak ones dies. One factor behind this philosophy is the increase in the number of infant deaths in this region. The poor women being unable to control the death of their children, they have resorted to giving births to many children and avoiding wasting their time and effort on week children who shows no chances of survival.
Infant feeding is also a major contributor to this philosophy. Since majority of people in this region are poor, they are unable to feed their children well and as a result, their children become weak and are susceptible to various illnesses and that becomes a ground for discriminating such children. Some mothers also refuse to breastfeed their newborns. Mothers responsibilities and believes have a major role to play in the development of this philosophy. Mothers in this area are the one who reject their children, a thing we don’t expect from mothers. We would expect mothers who are supportive to their children despite their health condition. Also, as a result of infant deaths that had been accelerated by shortages of food and water and also due to economic and political instability that had been caused by the military coup, women became hardened by the situation and hence resorted to this philosophy.
Also, life expectancy being forty years, the parents has to bring up the strong kids who will be growing fast without complications so as to be mature before the parents turned forty. Basically, high expectancy of deaths and the ability of the women to face the deaths of their young ones with stoicism and equanimity was a major contributor to the new nurturing patterns that differentiated between the surviving and the ‘likely to die’ children. The healthy children were nurtured while the weak ones were stigmatized and left to die. It is also worth to note that women believe that many infant deaths are fated and inevitable.
Nancy Scheper-Hughes Opposition Essay:
Nancy Scheper-Hughes has been criticized a number of times for tarnishing the image of poor Brazilians women, the same women who are themselves who have been neglected by the society. To counter this accusation, she says that she only tries to attack the social situations that these women are exposed to making them desperate. She also points out that all she wanted is to oppose the inhuman act of letting some children to die despite the desperate conditions that are in play. She says that she only aims assert reasoning and rationality of people when faced with desperate situations.
Nancy also argues that she might not have questioned and analyzed the other underlying factors that would take away the love of a mother. The role of men as providers has also complicated the issue in Bom Jesus. The main reason for family disintegration is the movement of men to the city in search of employment. This worsened the situation as women were left to raise their families alone. The strain and stress can be believed to have contributed to their inhumanity.
Ferraro, Gary P. (2012). Classic readings in cultural anthropology (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. (1992). Death without weeping : the violence of everyday life in Brazil. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, & Sargent, Carolyn Fishel. (1998). Small wars : the cultural politics of childhood. Berkeley: University of California Press.