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why is geophagy treated like dirt?

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Geophagy is treated as adaptive behavior in most of the world and as deviant behavior in American culture. The dominant nutritional approach has strongly documented the useful contribution the consumption of clay brings to the diet of pregnant women and children. The same practice, found mostly among minority groups, is stigmatized in American culture. The different treatment of geophagy appears to rest on the different meaning of dirt, a formative element whose consumption is normalized in some African cultures or a pollutant unfit for consumption in the West. The socialization to geophagy by mothers explains its enduring presence in the U.S. and the socialization of dirt through science and market allows for the continuation of the practice--albeit modified--under the guise of vitamins and dietary supplements consumption.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana, USA

Publication date: 2003-07-01

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