by Michelle Pentecost
Rutgers University Press, 2024
Paper: 978-1-9788-3747-8 | Cloth: 978-1-9788-3748-5 | eISBN: 978-1-9788-3749-2
Library of Congress Classification RG966.S38P46 2024
Dewey Decimal Classification 362.19820096873

The first one thousand days of human life, or the period between conception and age two, is one of the most pivotal periods of human development. Optimizing nutrition during this time not only prevents childhood malnutrition but also determines future health and potential. The Politics of Potential examines early life interventions in the first one thousand days of life in South Africa, drawing on fieldwork from international conferences, government offices, health-care facilities, and the everyday lives of fifteen women and their families in Cape Town. Michelle Pentecost explores various aspects of a politics of potential, a term that underlines the first one thousand days concept and its effects on clinical care and the lives of childbearing women in South Africa. Why was the First One Thousand Days project so readily adopted by South Africa and many other countries? Pentecost not only explores this question but also discusses the science of intergenerational transmissions of health, disease, and human capital and how this constitutes new forms of intergenerational responsibility. The women who are the target of first one thousdand days interventions are cast as both vulnerable and responsible for the health of future generations, such that, despite its history, intergenerational responsibility in South Africa remains entrenched in powerfully gendered and racialized ways.