- Fellowship year:2019-2020
- University: Columbia University
- Dissertation Topic/Category: Sociomedical Sciences
- Dissertation Title: Reproductive Labors: Malian Reproductive Expertise and Biomedical Legibility, 1935-1999
"Reproductive Labors: Malian Reproductive Expertise and Biomedical Legibility, 1935-1999" examines the intertwined and competing practices by which Malian families sought to ensure successful conception, pregnancy and childbirth in the context of high maternal and infant mortality. It traces simultaneously the development of biomedical maternal and reproductive health programs and the changing interventions of local specialists such as excisers, nuptial counselors (who provided sexual education at marriage), and local midwives. The repeated reinvention of these 'traditional' practices occurred against a backdrop of social, political, and economic changes, which included colonial rule, the progressive conversion of Malians to Islam, migrant labor by young men, and international development interventions in the post-colonial period, and the spread of biomedical health facilities. Women and their families, government officials, gender-rights activists and medical professionals repeatedly debated the place of excision, marital seclusion, and home-birth in 'modern' Mali. This dissertation draws on 18 months of research in Mali, Senegal, France, the United States, including oral histories with Malian reproductive specialists, health professionals, and gender-rights activists, ethnographic observation at weddings and maternity wards, and archival work in rarely-used archives such as the Malian Ministry of Health, personal archives of health workers, and the family planning clinic Association Malienne pour la Protection et la Promotion de la Famille. This breadth of material allows the dissertation to intervene in scholarly debates about the socialization of sexuality and reproduction, the effects of inter/national development interventions, and the intersections of plural therapeutic practices – all of which speak to the historical origins of health and social issues in contemporary West Africa.