Anthropology: Mothering

Topics: Papua New Guinea, Sociology, New Guinea Pages: 1 (322 words) Published: March 5, 2013
Barlow, Kathleen
2010 Sharing Food, Sharing Values: Mothering and Empathy in Murik Society. Ethos 38(4):339-353. Immersing herself in the Murik culture of Papua New Guinea, the author—professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies at Central Washington University—focuses on the Murik ideology of mothering. She uses data from her fieldwork notes to demonstrate the concept, importance, and effect of “mothering” in Murik society. The author’s main objective is to show how people, sharing, and work are conveyed via interactions involving maternal figures and food. A “mother” in this culture is someone who gives food and holds power; the receiver of food is the “child”, indebted and weak. Feeding denotes guardianship; children are claimed by their food provider. In the article, the author presents three different food-related scenarios she experienced, all having to do with a mother’s role when the child commits a wrong. As the author observes, Murik people make work a pre-requisite of food offerings and uphold a mannerism with which one is expected to eat and share food. The author also depicts how the most-familiar-mother’s role is to be the supportive and empathetic figure to a child while other less-familiar mother figures are allowed to criticize and discipline the child. In all three of the given scenarios, the role of the familiar mother is to be someone who doesn’t disapprove of the admonishments the child receives from less familiar people, but is there as comforting, supportive figure, nevertheless. I can relate this article with that of Bambi L. Chapin, as both acknowledge the propensity of older children and adults to indulge and give in to the requests of younger children. This article was useful, as it introduces readers to the concept of community “mothering”, where children receive love and support from a familiar mother figure and learn morals and social expectations from the repercussions and teachings of less familiar adults....
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