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Death Without Weeping

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“Death without Weeping,” Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Views on Death and Dying
Goup project

1. When did the author travel to Brazil?
She first travels there in 1965 with the Peace Corps but returns in 1982 and several times after that.
2. What is her occupation now?
She is a professor of Anthropology at Berkley University
3. How was Joanna different and how was her relationship with her mother Nailza different than other babies and mothers in Bom Jesus?
Joanna was different not only because she had a real baptism in a church, but because she was expected to live. Her mother Nailza had allowed herself to love her, unlike all the others who had died
4. What characterizes the northeast of Brazil?
N.E Brazil is a vast region with many social and developmental problem s. There are 9 states in the region, which are the poorest parts of Brazil, a third-world atmosphere in a growing industrial country.
5. Describe the health, mortality, and general living conditions that children are born into there. (This would include family composition and what parents do for work)
First, life expectancy is low 40 years old. There is an extremely high rate of infant/child death. There is no money, little food, unstable family structures, and hardly any care givers. Mothers must work at terrible wages for rich plantation owners and have no one to look after their babies. So they have no choice to but leave them at home alone. They live in shacks in ‘shanty-towns’ where living conditions are not clean, contaminated with all sorts of bacteria and viruses’ that affect the children health
6. What does this mean? “The trappings are modern, but the hunger, sickness, and death that they conceal are traditional, deeply rooted in a history of feudalism, exploitation, and institutionalized dependency.”
That even though the shanty-town has developed a bit over the past 3 decades, and people may look a bit more taken care of and updated the malnutrition, poverty, illness and death still remains. These people still work in horrid conditions and are exploited while the plantation owners reap the benefits.
7. What puzzled N.S-H. about the high infant mortality rates in the shantytown? (you may quote directly)
“What puzzled me was the seeming indifference of Alto women to the death of their infants and their willingness to attribute to their own tiny offspring an aversion to life that made their death wholly natural, indeed all but anticipated” (Nancy Scheper-Hughes)
8. What is mortal selective neglect or passive infanticide? What are the conditions that make it emerge across the world?
Mortal selective neglect or passive infanticide is that when a mother either cares for an infant thought to strive and survive or is left to die because they have thought of as already dead/wanting to die. Neglect vs. Nurture

9. On page 3, what is part of learning to be a mother in the shantytown? There are two main things.
1. To learn to let go of a child who shows it “wants to die”
2. Learning when it is safe to allow yourself to love your child.
10. How do mothers understand and explain what is wrong with their babies?
The baby either dies from natural causes (diarrhea, disease) or from witchcraft, sorcery, supernatural afflictions. They are taken by Jesus, it’s all in GOD’ plan.

11. How conscious are mothers that they are facilitating or causing the deaths of their children?
They are allowed and disallowed levels of awareness. They say it is GOD’s will, but deep down everyone knows it is malnutrition and neglect.
12. Describe how the old Catholic Church and the new Catholic Church contribute to patterns of mortal selective neglect.
The old church stated it was all part of GOD’ plan and that it was because a certain Saint called for this child, they were now angels. The funerals were a celebrated event. The new church hardly even baptizes these children/infants and there is no ceremony. They do not celebrate the death of children anymore, sending a message to the women that even they don’t care
13. What is the “morality of triage” or lifeboat ethics? (p.4)
It means the decision to choose who lives or who dies. Who is deserving of help and who isn’t.
14. How do mothers protect themselves from loving their babies too much?
They don’t personalize their infants, they don’t think of them as little persons. They are indifferent to them. “Little critter have no feeling” (N Scheper-Hughes)
15. How do the social welfare system and the administrative bureaucracy of the state contribute to mortal selective neglect?
They too are indifferent. Registrations of a child’s death are incomplete, informal and rapid (less than 5 minutes). No questions are asked and deaths are unexamined. Whoever can report it, and a baby coffin voucher is given.
16. Class discussion—how do these mothers challenge our world views about mother love and responsibility?
Mothers provide safe and secured environment for their children. It is their responsibility to make sure that their children grow up healthy and strong, both physically and emotionally. Guiding their children to be a responsible citizen and see them develop their personalities so they are able to support themselves and raise their own family is every mother's dream. Mother's relationship to their children is built on unconditional love and care.
In Nancy Scheper- Hughes article "Death Without Weeping", poverty, hunger, sickness, and death define motherhood. Mother's in one of Brazil's depressed community, seem to accept that dying of their young children is a norm and the only choice they have is to accept it whole-heartedly. They don't even bother finding a solution to infant mortality. It looks like mothers prefer to see their children dead than living a life of poverty and helplessness.…...

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