Affect, corporeality and the limits of belonging: breastfeeding in public in the contemporary UK

Boyer, Kate (2012) Affect, corporeality and the limits of belonging: breastfeeding in public in the contemporary UK. [in special issue: Using Scale to Think About HIV/AIDS Interventions: Local and Global Dimensions] Health & Place, 18, (3), 552-560. (doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2012.01.010).


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The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding duration rates in the industrialised world. This paper considers women’s experiences breastfeeding in public as a factor in breastfeeding duration. Research is based on a mixed-method qualitative analysis of: 11 interviews and a 46-person survey of new mothers’ experiences breastfeeding in public conducted in Southampton, Hampshire between 2008 and 2009; 180 postings relating to breastfeeding in public submitted to UK parenting website mumsnet between 2007 and 2010; and a patent application for a ‘portable lactation module’. I analyze these data through an engagement with the work of cultural theorist Sara Ahmed in order to argue that the ‘limits of sociability’ in the public space in the UK can be marked through affective practice. This paper makes three unique contributions to scholarship. First, it increases understanding regarding an issue of direct importance to health policy by filling a recognized gap in knowledge about women’s experiences breastfeeding outside the home in the UK. Second, it contributes to the field of health geography by highlighting some of the ways more-than-visual affective environments can shape and constrain health-promoting behaviours. And third, it extends conceptual work in human geography relating to corporeal practice and urban materiality more broadly through an analysis of the relationships between affect, embodiment and the limits of sociability.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2012.01.010
ISSNs: 1353-8292 (print)
Keywords: breasfeeding, public space, affective practice, limits to sociability
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Human Sciences > Geography and Environment > Population, Health & Wellbeing
ePrint ID: 210075
Date :
Date Event
May 2012Published
3 February 2012Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 14:52
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:49

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