Spotlight on Scholarship

January 2024 Sweet Potatoes instead of Teddy Bears           Indigenous Tao children in Taiwan described in this volume feel securely attached when they receive food from their caregivers. Visual contact, speech, and object play – the primary socialization strategies among members of Euro-American middle-classes – are of lesser importance for human bonding. The distinct pathways to relationship formation are illustrated by depicting two culturally specific replacements of the mother: a piece of sweet potato (Tao) and a teddy bear (Western middle-classes). (Image credit: iStock) We are a team of six authors from Germany, the US, and India with backgrounds in socio-cultural anthropology and cultural psychology. Our book explores multifaceted linkages between culturally specific feeding practices and human bonding based on ethnographic case studies from Morocco, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Costa Rica. A comparative analysis of our ethnographic research demonstrates that there are many culturally valued ways of feeding children, contradicting the idea of a single, universally best feeding standard. We show that in many parts of the world feeding plays a central role in human bonding and relationship formation, something largely overlooked by attachment theory and related approaches. Our analysis further demonstrates that feeding contributes to relationship formation through different socio-emotional dimensions, which we label proximal, transactional, and distal. Each of these relates to a specific aspect of the feeding relationship (e.g., physical intimacy, food as a life-sustaining gift, conviviality) and is experienced by qualitatively distinct emotions. Finally, we argue that feeding practices can lead to different forms of relationships. … Continue reading Spotlight on Scholarship