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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Anthropology

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Jean Forward

Second Advisor

Whitney Battle-Baptiste

Third Advisor

Aline Gubrium

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology

Abstract

This dissertation was a collaborative, community-engaged research project with a local community based organization, Project Baby Springfield, specifically addressing a two-year period from 2012-2013 when the organization designed, developed, and implemented a bilingual safe infant sleep education campaign in the City of Springfield, MA.

This dissertation draws upon two theoretical perspectives: Critical Medical Anthropology and Critical Race Theory. It also employs a mixed methods approach drawing upon quantitative and qualitative data including: state and citywide statistics provided by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, anonymous safe infant sleep surveys and focus groups among parents and grandparents, individual interviews, and participant observation. Throughout each stage of the research process, I worked closely with Project Baby Springfield team members in addition to mentoring and training four undergraduate interns from different social science disciplines who were involved at different stages of the project. In the end, the team collaboratively designed and implemented a public health intervention project in order to address safe infant sleep through a bilingual education campaign that utilized social media and direct educational outreach within the Springfield community. The project sought to highlight issues such as racism and poverty with the overall goal of decreasing the overall infant mortality rates connected to unsafe sleep through empowering women and men within their own lives as mothers, fathers, grandparents, caregivers, and community members.

This dissertation argues that one of the central reasons why parents and grandparents make certain choices about how and where their infant or grandchild will sleep are deeply rooted in the care for, concern about, and safety of the infant. This is supported in the scholarly literature, and remains significant as it stands in opposition to the racially coded messages within the larger societal and political narrative that have constructed Black, Brown, and poor people as unfit parents. Furthermore, this dissertation argues that the racial inequity elucidated in the African American infant death rate is directly relevant to the current social and political climate surrounding the issues of racial justice and human rights in the United States. I demonstrate that this issue aligns itself with the current Black Lives Matter movement and is an essential and necessary part of the conversation arguing that connections can then be made regarding the impact of racism on Black life not only in the womb and infancy, but throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

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