Death without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil

Death without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil


By (author) Nancy Scheper-Hughes

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Paperback $35.39
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Format: Hardback | 550 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 234mm x 51mm | 1,225g
  • Publication date: 12 June 1992
  • Publication City/Country: Berkerley
  • ISBN 10: 0520075366
  • ISBN 13: 9780520075368
  • Illustrations note: 65 b&w photographs

Product description

When lives are dominated by hunger, what becomes of love? When assaulted by daily acts of violence and untimely death, what happens to trust? Set in the lands of Northeast Brazil, this is an account of the everyday experience of scarcity, sickness and death that centres on the lives of the women and children of a hillside "favela". Bringing her readers to the impoverished slopes above the modern plantation town of Bom Jesus de Mata, where she has worked on and off for 25 years, the author follows three generations of shantytown women as they struggle to survive through hard work, cunning and triage. It is a story of class relations told at the most basic level of bodies, emotions, desires and needs. Most disturbing - and controversial - is her finding that mother love, as conventionally understood, is something of a bourgeois myth, a luxury for those who can reasonably expect, as these women cannot, that their infants will live. The author also wrote "Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland".

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Editorial reviews

A shattering portrayal of life among the impoverished inhabitants of Alto do Cruzeiro ("Hill of the Crucifixion"), a shantytown in the city of Bom Jesus da Mata in northeastern Brazil's Pernambuco Province. Scheper-Hughes (Anthropology/UC at Berkeley), whose 1979 Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics (not reviewed) won the Margaret Mead Award, has again produced a work of enormous power and importance. Alto do Cruzeiro is well named: Life in its fetid alleyways and smoke-filled mud-and-sheet-metal huts is a perpetual Golgotha where poverty, malnutrition, and terrorism make death and "disappearances" commonplace - and where, in 1987, the infant and child mortality rate reached more than 23 percent of total births. Scheper-Hughes, who first came to the area as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1960's and who has returned again and again, focuses most of her attention on the women of the Alto. Bringing an unusual sensitivity to her research and couching her findings in prose that is at once subtle and precise, she urges "a more 'womanly' anthropology," one that engages "questions of human relationships and ethics." The author explores the social, economic, political, and religious factors - the plantation system's exploitation of the workers; governmental corruption and indifference; superstition; the hidebound conservatism of the Roman Catholic hierarchy - that contribute to the inhumane conditions. In what is undoubtedly her most controversial conclusion, Scheper-Hughes contends that the uncertainty of existence within the ghetto community atrophies impoverished women's feelings of what is thought in more stable Western societies to be an inherent female trait - "mother love." The author makes a strong case for this finding, which undoubtedly will provoke heated discussion. A stimulating, consistently engrossing contribution to the scientific understanding of a complex and tragic situation. (Kirkus Reviews)