In 2019, Michal Nahman, together with Susan Newman and Sally Dowling, obtained funding from the University of the West of England (UWE) for their project “Nurture Commodified: An Ethnographic and Economic Study of Emerging Global Breastmilk Markets”.
This project explores socio-technical and political processes that transform breastmilk into an internationally traded commodity, approached through mutual disciplines of political economy, anthropology and STS. The study centres on the company NeoLacta, based in Bangalore.
Following the work of Nahman into ‘extraction’ of eggs from women’s bodies (2013; 2018) and Newman on the terrains of development, exchange, and finance of agro-commodity chains (2009; 2017; 2018), they aim to conduct an ethnography of the networks, technologies and processes of breastmilk provision, by mapping and tracing the transformation of breastmilk production from a substance women produce in their bodies which has traditionally been thought of as a form of ‘nurture’ into a form of ‘work’ women do in producing a commodity for market exchange. These transformations will be examined for how they inform contemporary understandings of work and gender, social reproduction, ‘clinical labour and ‘the bioeconomy’.
In addition to traditional ethnographic and economic research and outputs, this project will culminate in a visual photographic exhibition co-curated by participants.