In this comprehensive and provocative study of maternal reactions to child death in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, anthropologist Jonina Einarsdottir challenges the assumption that mothers in high-poverty societies will neglect their children and fail to mourn their deaths as a survival strategy. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted from 1993 to 1998 among the matrilineal Papel who reside in the Biombo region, this work includes theoretical discussion of reproductive practices, conceptions of children, childcare customs, interpretations of diseases and death, and infanticide. Einarsdottir also brings compelling narratives of life experiences and reflections of Papel women.
Jonina Einarsdottir is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Iceland. Since 2001, she has conducted research on the ethical questions related to the treatment of underweight infants born in Iceland and the implication of such births for the families involved. She has done extensive fieldwork among the Papel of Guinea-Bissau.