To breastfeed or not to breastfeed?: an ethnographic exploration of knowledge circulation, medical recommendations on HIV and infant feeding, and related "good" mothering discourses in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Date created: 
Knowledge, Sociology of
Breastfeeding – Canada
HIV Infections – Transmission – Infant
Motherhood – Canada
Knowledge flows
Good mothering discourses
HIV and infant feeding
Medicalization of infant feeding

This thesis looks at how knowledge on HIV and infant feeding is circulated, shaped, and then disseminated into a medical recommendation in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It explores good/ bad mothering discourses linked to women with HIV who are feeding infants in this city. Guided by Bruno Latour’s actor network theory, I interviewed 31 community and health professionals to ethnographically locate “key actors” involved in knowledge circulation on HIV and breastfeeding. The interviews revealed two patterns of knowledge circulation in which different information on HIV and breastfeeding is being shared. I suggest that contrasting good/bad mothering discourses position women with HIV in a “tension zone” that characterizes them as both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mothers. I situate my observations in literature on medicalization of reproduction and science studies writings on social movements and “experts”. I argue the tension zone overshadows challenges facing women with HIV navigating poverty and trying to access baby formula.

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Copyright remains with the author
Senior supervisor: 
Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)