Wives and Midwives: Childbirth Book Review

Pages: 8 (2384 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Archeology

In her discussion of why malnutrition should exist in a land of lush vegetation and "eternal summer," where "tropical fruits grow in profusion and every padi field abounds with fish" (21), the reader learns that the Merchang people live by certain "mistaken dietary conceptions." Those misconceptions are based on taboos, and of course, they are also based on ignorance of real human nutritional needs.

As for vegetables, "they are simply additives that improve the taste of rice," and fruits are (21) "just pleasant things to keep the mouth busy." And so, for the Merchang, rice and fish are the only worthy parts of the daily diet. Having pointed that point out, Laderman's initial dietary information becomes credible in terms of the relevance of her research when on page 30, she points out that the typical Merchang meal consists of 40 to 230 grams of vegetables per meal; this is comparable to an American adult's average intake of beans per day: 69.4 grams.

Another believable comparison between American food habits and those of the Merchang in Malaysia (30) reflects that in Ohio farm families, roughly 37% of the children and 34% of the adults eat at least "one green or yellow vegetable daily." Meantime, though the Merchang people think vegetables are just something to enhance the flavor of rice, 63.5% of all households ate a green or yellow vegetable once daily, and 35% ate a green or yellow vegetable twice a day. So, what makes this material logical is the fact that even though the Merchang downgrade the real value of vegetables, they nonetheless eat vegetables in large quantities.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Book Review on Wives and Midwives: Childbirth and Assignment

The way in which the Merchang categorize foods, as "hot" (spicy or bitter) and "cold" (more bland), makes perfect sense to the lay person. And the way in which the author explains that Merchang balance "hot" and "cold" food and drink as a way to find equilibrium for their bodies (35-50), is logical and reasonable, given the environment these people live in and their general lack of social and nutritional sophistication given the "modern" western world. What helps a reader understand the "hot" and "cold" beliefs is the list of "Humors and Illness" on pages 50-51: blood is a "hot" humor, and so a bloody nose (though the blood may feel cool) is a "sign that the hot element has become overheated and boiled over."

And fast pulse "denotes heat," and a slow pulse "is a sign cold has thickened the blood." Interestingly, anger is a "hot" humor in the Merchang culture, and it is also thought of that way in western society ("hot head" and "hot-blooded").

Another of the main points that certainly interests readers from all backgrounds is Laderman's lengthy descriptions of the influence of the bomoh (an "indigenous medical practitioner") in Merchang culture. One bomoh told Laderman that the baby is "like a fruit," in that "when it is ripe it will be born," and hence there is no point to "reciting spells or performing rituals with the intention of hastening its untimely arrival."

By providing the reader (who wants a thorough understanding of what the bomoh's role is in the Merchang society) with eleven separate passages for reference, Laderman is making her material very credible. Of special interest (142) is the Muslim-based litany that a bomoh recited during childbirth, recorded by Laderman (presented is only a brief passage): "...You fall into your mother's womb...nine months, ten days. The first month you are called Dot. The second month Light of Beginning. The third month Light of the Soul...the ninth month your outline and measure can be seen. The tenth, out you come."

Analysis of the Data presented in the Ethnography

One of the pure reasons for this book and for her research was Laderman's interest in how a woman's diet (nutrition) effects the childbirth situation, and the child. On pages 193-195, Laderman presents charts with empirical data. First, she alludes to the fact (189) that there have been previous claims that food taboos "...are a major cause of ill health among Malay mothers." She criticizes the anthropological data obtained by earlier scientists as "sparse and incomplete," and writes that she obtained blood samples "from strategic points during their pregnancies and after they completed the puerperium." Instead of a previous researcher, who obtained blood samples from only two women, Laderman obtained blood samples from seven women.

One of the seven restricted her postpartum died for 40 days, one for 20 days, and one for two weeks. Only one of these women "showed any serious signs of deficiency" of Hemoglobin and hematrocrit, vitamin A, thiamine, total protein, albumin, and globulin."

Another high-quality set of charts appears on 136-137, illustrating what direction (north, west, northwest, southwest, south-southwest, south-southeast) that a woman should be facing during childbirth, during what day of the week she should be pointing in that particular direction, and even what time of day. This data leads the reader to a more full understanding of just how rituals, supernatural beliefs, and the leadership of bomoh… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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