Between women and their wombs: Contested sites for postcolonial aspirations

Colloquium | April 17 | 12:30-2 p.m. | 223 Moses Hall

 Adeola Oni-Orisan, PhD Candidate, Medical Anthropology, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco

 Center for African Studies

In Nigeria, where maternal death rates are high, the rapid expansion of Pentecostalism has shaped maternal health programming in ways that call for renewed thinking around the role of religion in the formation of postcolonial modern states. As global health agencies attempt to solve the problem of maternal mortality by increasing access to biomedical interventions, Pentecostal church-sponsored mission homes offer women prayer and the promise of divine intervention as a means of ensuring maternal survival. In Ondo, a state in southwestern Nigeria, the persistent problem of maternal mortality has been linked to a protracted process of secularization and legislation was passed to make certain religious acts—birth in mission homes—illegal. This paper examines the ensuing local battles over the right to care for pregnant women with religious organizations insisting on providing non-biomedical care to pregnant women. I discuss state efforts to both arbitrate over and assimilate mission homes and the implications these confrontations have on the lives of women. Women’s bodies and reproductive processes remain contested sites for postcolonial states aspiring to "become modern."

Adeola Oni-Orisan is a PhD Candidate in the joint Medical Anthropology Program at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley. She is also an MD Candidate at Harvard Medical School. Her research takes up the intersection of reproductive health, religion, and the project of modernity in Nigeria.

 asc@berkeley.edu, 510-642-8338