Robbie Pfeufer Kahn
seedbed of my writing, intellectual interests, and social
activism has been life experience. After the birth of my son in
1972, I joined the women's health movement, and was contributing author
to the 1976 and 1984 editions of the women's self-help classic Our Bodies, Ourselves.
At age thirty-five, I entered graduate school to research the social,
cultural, and historical forces that impeded women from giving birth by
their own powers, and from breastfeeding their babies (M.P.H. Boston
University School of Public Health; M.A. and Ph.D. Brandeis
University). The book that resulted, Bearing Meaning: The Language of
Birth (University of Illinois Press, 1995) wove my own story of
childbearing into the book's scholarly material. Bearing Meaning won the 1997 Jesse
Bernard Award of the American Sociological Association.
In 1997, I began a journal about my black Labrador retriever puppy Laska. Milk Teeth: A Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog (Rutgers University Press, December 2008) emerged from the journal. This creative nonfiction book recounts my unexpectedly disturbing relationship with Laska, one that provoked memories of my childhood. (Such turbulence had never arisen when I was raising my son.) Over a year’s time I explored my past and came to understand its influence on my responses to Laska. Eventually, my puppy’s sharp white teeth no longer served as a metaphor for her character. This journey of discovery could only have taken place because my life in present time anchored, instructed, and sustained me—friends, family, dog trainers, psychotherapy, my professional life, reading, faith, nature, and the reflective power of writing.
After completing this second book, I realized that both Bearing Meaning and Milk Teeth reveal an abiding concern for those who stand outside the human language community—in this case, the newly born and companion animals.
I have published articles in Tikkun magazine, the Buddhist journal Inquiring Mind, and the Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering.
Bearing Meaning inspired me to develop the seminar, Sociology of Reproduction. A second course, Sociology of Animals and Society, grew out of Milk Teeth and won the 2007 Innovative Course Award from the Humane Society of the United States. I have additional teaching and research interests in feminist theory, social psychology, cultural studies, sociology of emotions, and creative nonfiction.
My first career as a graphic designer earned me the 50 Best Books of the Year Award of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) in 1970 for the art direction of The Movement Toward A New America, ed. Mitchell Goodman (Pilgrim Press/Alfred A. Knopf, 1970).
Most recently I was selected for inclusion in the 2010 Who's Who in America 64th edition.