Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Medical Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Health
Secondary Theme: Inequality
This panel seeks to explore how anthropologists are using ethnographic methods to investigate oppressive constraints and processes (racism, sexism, classism, etc) on reproductive, maternal, and infant health. We take as a point of entry the maternal-infant dyad (or other cultural configurations), whether women are actively experiencing the reproductive process or attempting to avoid it. A great deal of data (ethnographic, epidemiological, and medical) demonstrate that physical reproduction is an indicator of social reproduction: poor reproductive outcomes signal social failures and stratification, values, and priorities (e.g. Ginsburg and Rapp 1995). This panel explores these social and experiential processes in the way that women (and their infants) resist, are resilient, or adapt to oppressive constraints. We seek to advance theorizing about how social processes impact the body and/or the larger impact on policy and intervention practice.
How do we use ethnographic research methods to make visible racism, sexism, and classism on the lived-experience of pregnant or postpartum women and their infants? Dixon applies discursive analysis to an activist play that urges women to resist the dominant, pathologizing biomedical birth narrative and instead be the “protagonists of their own births.” Franck examines how we might understand maternal morbidity from obstetric fistula through the lens of chronic wounding and weathering of women’s bodies through structural constraints to their reproductive and productive worlds. Hay uses film and community based participatory work to explore how pervasive domestic violence and the circular incarceration of African American men complicate the risk narratives around infant mortality prevention. Rubin describes African American mothers’ perspectives on neighborhood safety, community, and nurturance to better understand how unjust social-structural forces endanger infants’ lives. Silver explores themes of visibility and invisibility as the social welfare system problematically frames the mother/infant dyad, the family, and fatherhood; asking, how do mothers, infants, and fathers counteract the pathological nature of the state’s surveillance and create resistant, resilient parenting relationships on their own terms? El Ouardani explores the case of an infant’s death in a rural, religious Moroccan family against the backdrop of historical marginalization of rural areas by the government that cast urban biomedical services as agents of this mistreatment. The panel brings together various, intersecting and overlapping ethnographic investigations that demonstrate the way that women and their infants in turn adapt to, demonstrate resilience, and/or resist oppressive processes.