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Working Paper No. 17/2014

UCL Anthropology Working Papers Series


UCL Anthropology
University College London
14 Taviton Street, London
WC1H 0BW, U.K.

ISSN 1759-6688
Editorial Board: Lucio Vinicius, Luke Freeman

Working Paper No. 17/2014
Published online 27 January 2014
© Copyright rests with the authors

THE ‘TYPICAL STORY’ OF OBSTETRIC FISTULA:
THE NEED TO ENHANCE AWARENESS, ACTION AND FUNDS

FRABCES RYAN

Dissertation submitted in 2012 for the BSc Anthropology

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ABSTRACT

Obstetric fistula, a childbirth injury, affects the poorest women in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia. In this dissertation I explore the representation of obstetric fistula in development organisations’ rhetoric, media articles and scientific literature and how these representations relate to development discourse and practices. By conducting qualitative interviews in Ethiopia I sought to understand how people, who had not had fistula themselves, understood the causes and lived experience of the condition. I will demonstrate the social significance and historicity of words and the importance of ‘selling’ an issue to the public in order to enhance awareness and funds. Although the purpose of charitable appeals, media articles and scientific research surrounding obstetric fistula may be aspiring towards a positive goal, the representation of the condition is far more complex and may have negative ramifications. A ‘typical story’ of fistula is often promoted by various sources which often evokes and furthers stereotypical ideas of Africa in a number of ways. The ‘typical story’ can simultaneously engage people in the subject and also discursively disempower the very beneficiaries organisations are trying to help.


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