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The milk tie

By Jeremy MacClancy


Despite the plethora of studies about various aspects of breast-feeding, one distinctive, historically significant and once very widespread facet of the topic appears to have been neglected: the establishment of an indissoluble 'milk-tie' between infants of different parents who suck at the same breast, and the important social, political and economic consequences which follow from it. The aims of this paper are (1) to carry out the first (to my knowledge) systematic survey of the literature on the milk-tie, and (2) to try to derive some generalizations about the practice.I attempt to demonstrate that the tie is a means of establishing a lasting connection between two groups of people, which can fulfill a variety of functions: to link otherwise isolated groups in structurally divided societies; to increase the social distance of one group from another; to control others' behaviour.In this essay, I hope to show that knowledge of the milk-tie and its diversities helps to illuminate the social uses to which food may be put, and the ways that the unique nature of one food (human milk) may be put to unique needs

Topics: foods, milk, aliment, lait
Publisher: Anthropology of food
Year: 2003
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Provided by: OpenEdition
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