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on 11 April 2010
Scheper-Hughes' writing style is open, honest and very likeable. The subject is fascinating and her extensive research shines through. Her research methods and their limitations are described and made clear, I highly recommend reading this book, especially if you are interested in applied anthropology, Brazilian life or just want a good read.
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This is a long book, and somewhat intimidating in sheer size, but don't let that put you off. It is very rewarding - and my world is bigger for having read it.

In short, this is a rich, evocative, human, empathetic and scholarly exploration of the life of women in a Brazilian shanty town. At the core of the book is the question of how mothering is effected by living under conditions of chronic scarcity and political indifference. Scheper-hughes central thesis is that 'emotional scarcity' follows from scarcity of food, of clean water, of health and of opportunites. With conditions being horrendously tough, mothering becomes infused with pragmatism. It is heart-breaking and leaves us questioning the way we have sentimentalised mother in the west (see Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's Mother Nature for an evolutioanry take on this).

However, this book is not only about mothering. It also takes us into the lives of these women in a deeply layered and holistic way so we get a glipse of the bigger context within which mothering occurs.

In particular Scheper- Huges shows us understand how these communities came into being, descrives the toxic nature of the only work available to them, and emables us to glipse the deeply embodied nature of people's lives. She also shows, how the government, instead of tackling the salient issues (like hunger, contaminated water and exploitation), has reframed the suffering of these people as an 'illness' which can be kept at bay by tranquilisers.

Highly recommended for anybody who is interested in getting an in-depth insight into the lives of others.
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