The CAR Advocacy CommitteeAs anthropologists of reproduction, we conduct careful qualitative and empirical research, producing insights that advocates engaged in activist work may find relevant, timely, and usable. Through networking, web-based information sharing, and outreach, CAR is working to make academic and applied anthropologists more accessible to the advocates with whom we share common causes.
encourages feminist anthropologists to make their voices heard
in public conversations about reproductive and sexual rights and health.
We offer our skills, services, and research results to allies who work to improve reproductive health and rights around the world. CAR members speak many languages and have worked in dozens of countries, including the United States. Our collective expertise covers issues such as mothering, childbearing, infertility, midwifery, contraception, abortion, adoption, new reproductive technologies, and the local effects of global policies.
What can anthropology offer?CAR members study all facets of reproduction the world over. Our interests and expertise encompass topics ranging from miscarriage to midwifery to menopause to medical technologies to masculinity. Some of us conduct research in humble homes and impoverished rural clinics, while others work in high-tech laboratories and wealthy medical institutions.
By listening carefully, observing closely, and always attending to local context, anthropologists acquire unique insights into how people understand and practice reproduction. Sometimes the findings are surprising.
***That birthing women in southern India sometimes reject anesthesia while requesting injections to increase – rather than decrease – the pain of labor?1
***That vulnerable pregnant women in Mozambique often perceive prenatal medical care as a potential threat to their health?2
***That Catholic women interviewed in the highlands of Ecuador oppose abortion, yet do not regard the fetus as a person?3
***That Greek women tend to reject medical contraceptives such as the pill and IUD but embrace prenatal ultrasound, medicalized birth, and in vitro fertilization?4
***That indigenous Guatemalan women who understand the risks associated with childbirth nonetheless opt to give birth at home with traditional midwives?5
***That some North American women who serve as surrogate mothers describe their decision to do so as a natural expression of very traditional feminine values?6
Such anthropological findings confirm our conviction that sound policy and effective advocacy must begin with a commitment to understand people’s own perspectives on their lives, needs, and values. These findings also show that intervention in the realm of reproduction involves far more than the physical body... reproduction is central to how people imagine and re-create their social and moral worlds.
Insights emerging from the research of feminist anthropologists who work to document the lives and views of ordinary people can be used to design effective and appropriate medical care, inform social policy, and enhance the effectiveness of advocacy efforts.
If you are an anthropologist doing this kind of work, speak up!
If you are an advocate seeking resources and information, our group can help. Get in contact with us! Send us an email to anthrorepro at gmail dot com.
1 Van Hollen, C. 2003. Invoking vali: painful technologies of modern birth in south India. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 17(1):49-77.
2 Chapman, RR. 2003. Endangering safe motherhood in Mozambique: prenatal care as pregnancy risk. Social Science and Medicine. 57(2):355-374.
3 Morgan, LM. 1997. Imagining the unborn in the Ecuadoran Andes. Feminist Studies 23(2):323-350.
4 Paxson, Heather. 2004. Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban Greece. Berkeley: University of California Press.
5 Berry, Nicole S. 2006. Kaqchikel midwives, home births, and emergency obstetric referrals in Guatemala: Contextualizing the choice to stay at home. Social Science & Medicine 62(8):1958-1969.
6 Ragone, Helena. 1994.Surrogate Motherhood: Conception in the Heart. Boulder: Westview Press.
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