ANTH Seminar Series | Forms and Ethics of Baloch Midwifery Contesting the Violations of Biomedicalized Childbirth
‘I tell them that Allah will take care of the birth and bring the child safely into the world. Allah is the bringer.’ (A dïnabog)
Drawing from ethnographic research in Balochistan, Pakistan, in this paper, I show how dïnabogs (Baloch midwives) and their dïnabogiri/midwifery aid women and their kin to remedy and resist injuries of biomedicalized obstetrics, reflecting a form and ethics of care that has persisted despite near two centuries of disparaging policy construction of South Asian indigenous midwives.
In Panjgur district of Balochistan,I met dïnabogs, kawwās (expert), and bolloks (grandmothers) who had escaped the reifying effect of “categories, acronyms, and discursive effacements” given the general absence of reference to them as a dai (South Asian midwife) or TBA (traditional birth attendant) in Panjgur (Pigg 1995).
I first locate the dïnabogs in the broader context of female health worker force in Pakistan, responsible for reproductive healthcare, delineating the factors underlying the continued preference by women for “TBAs”. Next, I discuss the historical and contemporary governmental policies designed to discipline the “culture of homebirths”. I highlight how these policies remain blind to the harmful effects of modern obstetrics in their quest to disappear a generic constructed TBA/dai. This is followed by an analysis of why some childbearing women and their kin in Panjgur are soliciting the uterotonic injection during childbirth. I delineate dïnabogs’ responses to this trend that is linked to their ethics of care and sense of self as Baloch.
The concluding section details the significance of the embodied affective work of dïnabogs—embedded in their forms and ethics of care—toward women confronting iatrogenic effects of uterotonic injections.
About the speaker
Dr Fouzieyha Towghi is a Lecturer in Medical Anthropology and convener in the Masters of Culture, Health, and Medicine program in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University.
Her scholarship focuses on the politics of reproduction, medicine, science and biomedical technologies and their implication on women’s corporeal and social bodies in South Asia. She is currently writing her book: Care ‘in the time of the Lady’: Midwives and women contesting biomedical hegemony in rural Balochistan. Her current research explores the impact on Indian women’s health and healthcare of the transnational mobilities of molecular biology and the translation of cervical cancer diagnostic and therapeutic norms in clinical and public health practices in India. She is the recipient of the 2015 Rudolf Virchow Professional Award for her article: Normalizing ‘off-label’ experiments and the pharmaceuticalizaton of homebirths in Pakistan.