Dr Joan B. Wolf, US author of controversial book Is Breast Best? Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood, will give an open lecture at the University on Wednesday 13 February.
Dr Wolf’s lecture will consider issues raised by the response to her book since its publication. She will review the book’s central arguments, examine how the public and academics have reacted to its publication, and then pose some broad questions about what the book and its reception tell us about carework in the 21st century.
In a recent interview, Dr Wolf said some commentators have responded to her by placing her ‘in the same camp as Holocaust deniers and advocates of cold fusion’.
She said that the academic community had been ‘less churlish but equally unequivocal’ in their reaction to her book.
‘Those who consider themselves scientists accuse me, sometimes with bemusement, of being completely unqualified to judge breastfeeding research even though, as a PhD in political science, I have been trained in the very methods breastfeeding studies use,’ she said.
‘Those who write from the humanities dismiss me as part of a broad feminist conspiracy against motherhood. Mostly critics think I’m just plain daft.’
Dr Wolf has been invited to deliver the lecture by Dr Ellie Lee, Reader in Social Policy at the University’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research and Director of its Centre for Parenting Culture Studies.
Dr Lee said: ‘This promises to be a fascinating lecture. Joan’s book, and the reaction to it, reveal a great deal about the intolerance of our present public discourse on breastfeeding.
‘They also raise critical questions about how the dynamics of science and the communication of its findings, and cultural precepts about what it means to be a ‘good parent’, work together to create a moralised environment in which it becomes harder and harder to develop constructive discussion about how we as adults best care for children.’
Dr Wolf’s lecture at the University of Kent is titled Is breast really best? Breastfeeding, motherhood, and the politics of care. The lecture, which is free and open to all, will take place on Wednesday 13 February at 6pm in the University’s Grimond Lecture Theatre at its Canterbury campus.