Anthropologist Aunchalee Palmquist Publishes Book Chapter

A new book, Ethnographies of Breastfeeding: Cultural Contexts and Confrontations, edited by Tanya Cassidy and Abdullahi El Tom features the work of Elon’s Aunchalee Palmquist, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology.   

Palmquist’s chapter entitled, “Demedicalizing Breast Milk: The Discourses, Practices, and Identities of Informal Milk Sharing,” is based on her ongoing multi-sited, mixed-methods ethnographic study of online human milk sharing in the U.S.

Palmquist writes, “the medicalization of breast milk refers to the manner by which breast milk has been defined as a medical substance that requires scientific, surveillance, and regulation.” Human milk sharing intersects with biomedicine in complex ways. In this chapter Palmquist unpacks some of these intersections by examining the discourses (the language of social interaction about milk sharing), identities (the various roles people play, the meaning, and importance of these roles), and practices of milk sharing (the activities of milk sharing and what happens on the ground).

The methodology used to gather data for this research combines traditional ethnographic research with digital ethnographic and autoethnographic approaches. Through systematic analysis of over 1200 online milk sharing posts 2011-2013, Palmquist argues that there are aspects of milk sharing that signify a feminist movement of resistance against trends to increasingly medicalized breastfeeding and regulate women’s decisions regarding when, how, and why to use breast milk.

“Understanding demedicalization as acts of resistance is also important in refocusing attention on the ways individuals exercise agency and seek empowerment despite hegemonic influences; a focus on demedicalization leads to an understanding of everyday practices of resistance to medicalization. This analysis is on the ways in which milk sharing is enacted to demedicalize women’s bodies, the fluids they produce, and the babies they nourish.”

The book features a Foreword by Penny van Esterik and numerous chapters of interest to anyone interested in the multidisciplinary, cross-cultural study of breastfeeding. This book is published by Bloomsbury Press and is available through

Publisher’s link – link –