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Death Without Weeping Response

Decent Essays
Death Without Weeping (Scheper-Hughes) Response

Throughout the community in Alto do Cruzeiro, infant mortality, along with poverty, are extremely high. So high are infant death rates that it almost seems routine and, in some cases, has even turned into a celebration (as seen with Velório de Anjinhos). In order to correctly analyze the impact of infant mortality on Alto familial and kinship structures, one must look at the causes of infant mortality and the religious and social responses to this phenomenon.

Alto mothers attribute the death of children to a variety of causes, including neglect, lack of basic medical supplies, poverty, and (when speaking of their own children) diarrhea. Infant death is also accredited to measles, pneumonia,
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Mothers are, as put by Scheper-Hughes, “victims of social and institutional neglect”. Figures of religious prominence encourage mothers to remain indifferent and resigned to infant mortality. It is even seen as wrong or dangerous to cry over the death of a child, as weeping keeps the child from reaching heaven. Funerals for infants are hasty and unceremonious at best, and oftentimes, there is no funeral and no prayers are recited for the deceased child. On death certificates, cause of death is left blank and unexamined. With a new philosophy of “hope and joy”, mothers are distanced from their dying children more. Dying children are not baptized, and the mothers of the deceased are not comforted. (However, the church maintains its stance on contraceptives and abortion.) Consequently, the routine of child mortality continues.

Thus, infant mortality has a large impact on kinship. Consanguineal bonds are not as strong as child rearing is seen as more fleeting and impermanent. All in all, kinship bonds between mothers and children less than the age of one (especially if the child is unhealthy) are weak and superficial, as the mother may be expecting her child to die. With such distancing from their children, mothers may not even consider their perishing children as
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