Alice Larotonda

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Brown U.

Grant number

Gr. 9464

Approve Date

April 25, 2017

Project Title

Larotonda, Alice, Brown U., Providence, RI - To aid research on 'Milkways to Modernity: The Stakes of Breastmilk Donation in Cabo Verde,' supervised by Dr. Katherine Mason

ALICE LAROTONDA, then a graduate student at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, was awarded funding in April 2017 to aid research on ‘Milkways to Modernity: The Stakes of Breastmilk Donation in Cabo Verde,’ supervised by Dr. Katherine Mason. Since 2011, Cabo Verdean women can donate breastmilk through a Human Milk Bank (HMB), a hospital service that distributes breastmilk to intensive-care hospitalized infants, meeting the public health and humanitarian goal to reduce neonatal mortality. With an interest in the social and political stakes of breastmilk donation, this research interrogated why women engage in this voluntary, anonymous, and unremunerated practice. Participant observation and in-depth interviewing provided insights into how donors, health professionals, policy makers, and Cabo Verdean society at large produce, reproduce, and negotiate meanings and symbols around breastmilk donation. The collected evidence suggests that breastmilk donation can be motivated by a set of complex reasons — some planned and voluntary, some serendipitous — encompassing physiological processes of the postpartum period, as well as social expectations around motherhood, infant innocence and vulnerability, and social solidarity. Highlighting convergences and discrepancies between women’s perspectives and policy-level expectations in regards to the goals of the HMB, this research takes breastmilk donation as a site to investigate the high social and political stakes around gender, motherhood, and reproduction, and illustrate how these are dialogically and discursively constructed or contested.