An exhaustive examination of pica, the eating of hair, rotten wood, cloth, but most especially dirt and clay. Truly disturbing, as it gives a dizzying number of examples of dirt eating in societies around the world, and explores the possibilities of what causes the practice.
Laufer [a researcher working in the 1930s] left little doubt that earth eating had “nothing to do with climate, race, creed, culture areas, or a higher or lesser degree of culture.” Indeed, to read Laufer is to watch a war of attrition remove all notions of Otherness from our understanding of pica. He cites Humboldt, Cragin, and the seventeenth-century theories of vanity, but for the most part, the pica of his pages is quiet and reasoned, medicinal, culinary, religious.
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