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Bad Births, Bad Bodies: School for Advanced Research Colloquium

In the West African country of Niger, 1 in 23 women will die from maternal causes and 5-13 more will survive with chronic disabilities. One particular injury, obstetric fistula — caused by prolonged obstructed labor and resulting in chronic incontinence — is all too common. How are women who suffer from fistula represented in the Global North? Does it matter? What is the lived experience of chronic incontinence? Can surgery make a difference? How do local networks of care expand or contract in times of illness? Based on 18 months of research in Niger, this talk will explore these questions.

From August 2016 – May 2017, I’ve spent time at Santa Fe’s School for Advanced Research as a Vera Campbell Resident Scholar. On November 9th, 2016 I gave this talk about my research.

Living with Fistula, A Clip on Film

In fall of 2014, my friend Dana Sacco and I returned to Niger to get some follow-up data and to make a short documentary about obstetric fistula and barriers to accessing emergency obstetric care in the Sahel.The editing process is slow, and we are only now putting together a story arc, but here’s a six-minute clip to give you an idea of what’s coming:

Sai Hankuri: Fieldnotes from Niger

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While in the field I kept a blog, titled Sai Hankuri: Fieldnotes From Niger. Among other topics, in it, I wrote about an hour in an emergency maternity hospital, cultural conceptions of acceptable risk and my own struggle to find that line, men’s role in the African narrative, shame, or the media’s often misleading portrayal of women with fistula. The blog was a form of public fieldnotes. Some days, I wrote almost verbatim excerpts from my pocket notebook, other days I used the site as an emotional release valve, finding comfort through the act of processing an experience. Further along in my research, I used the space to analyze my data – my first attempt to translate what I was experiencing on the ground into a theory.

Sai hankuri means ‘have patience,’ a exhortation, invocation, and code to live by that proved particularly salient (and challenging!) both to the women I came to know in Niger and for me personally throughout my time in the field and beyond.