Matters of life and longing: female sterilisation in Northeast Brazil
Matters of Life and Longing is based on eleven months of ethnographic fieldwork in a low-income neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city Recife, Northeast Brazil. Having lived in the neighbourhood as a wife and a mother of two children, Anne Line Dalsgaard describes women's motives for accepting and often actively seeking sterilisation. Through a vivid and thoughtful analysis she shows to be both a symptom of structural constraints and a resource - a means by which women gain a sense of control over their lives. The major theoretical contribution of the book is its demonstration of the ways in which phenomenology can be used as a tool in critical social analysis. Through focus on the basic human need for recognition Dalsgaard describes women's desire to be valuable in other people's opinion and the dependency on others that this desire implies. By linking fertility and sterilisation to existential dilemmas of autonomy and dependency, she ties individual agency, hopes and longings to historical processes and forces of power and economy, and thus moves away from simplistic dichotomies of mind/body, history/biography. This is a lucid and accessible work, which will be of interest to a wide and varied audience with an interest in Latin America, reproduction health, gender studies or anthropological discussions on agency and motivation. This is the first volume of a new series: Critical Anthropology, edited by Michael Jackson, professor at the Institute of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen. Jackson is the author of numerous books in anthropology, including the prize-winning Paths Toward a Clearing (1989), At Home in the World (1995), Minima Ethnographica (1998) and The Politics of Storytelling (2002).
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