This paper examines the cultural construction of maternal sentiment on Ilha de Maré, and attempts to describe the social reality of mothers on the island; the social conditions in which they live, their work, their kinship networks, and the ways in which they define motherhood. I will attempt to portray a mother s love as defined by a marezeira (woman of Ilha de Maré); to illustrate how maternal sentiment manifests itself for a woman facing scarcity and multiple jobs under difficult working conditions, and for whom, no matter how poor, young, or overworked, the responsibility of loving, educating, feeding, and maintaining healthy children is assigned to her by the community in which she lives. Nancy Scheper-Hughes, in her ethnography Death Without Weeping, also studies maternal sentiment in Alto do Cruzeiro, a favela community in the state of Pernambuco. She determines that as a consequence of extreme conditions of scarcity, hunger, and infant mortality, maternal indifference and mortal neglect became patterns of nurturing in this small community. Drawing from her interest in maternal sentiment, this study moves beyond the labels constructed by Scheper-Hughes and conceptualizes motherhood as a public rather than private element something that encompasses groups of women and other members of the community rather than one single woman. The paper begins by introducing the reader to Ilha de Maré and then leads the reader into a theoretical discussion of the cultural construction of sentiment and motherhood, while also summarizing Nancy Scheper-Hughes methodologies and conclusions. After explaining my own field methods and research questions, the body of the essay describes women s work in Praia Grande from work in the domestic sphere to collecting shellfish along the bay. The paper ends by discussing the notion of maternal sentiment in the words of the women of Praia Grande. What follows is a discussion, which neither romanticizes motherhood nor isolates women as solely responsible for constructing maternal sentiment, but rather describes a purposeful kinship system of family, friends, and female role models and community leaders involved in the lives and work of marezeiras. Thus, the responsibilities of love, child-care, and even healthcare are distributed throughout the social structure in which women live.
Farfan, Elizabeth, "To Love To Survive: Culture and Maternal Sentiment in Brazil" (2005). Sociology & Anthropology Student Works. Paper 1.