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University of Toronto

1. Varley, Emma E.A. Belaboured Lives: An Ethnography of Muslim Women's Pregnancy and Childbirth Practices in Pakistan's Northern Areas.

Degree: 2012, University of Toronto

My doctoral thesis, “Belaboured Lives,” examines the relationship between Sunni Muslim women’s reproductive and maternal health practices, Islamic conservatism, federal and non-governmental health programming, intense Shia-Sunni conflict, interpersonal enmity and ‘occult’ forces in Gilgit Town, economic and administrative capital of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous, federally neglected and multi-sectarian Northern Areas. Over 14 months between 2004 and 2005, my doctoral ethnographic fieldwork involved research interviews and participant-observation among Sunni women and Gilgit Town’s biomedical, traditional and Islamic therapeutic service providers, as well as in household, community, mosque and clinical-settings. With Gilgit District’s maternal morbidity and mortality rate (MMR) being among the highest in Pakistan, my thesis argues that Gilgiti Sunni women’s reproductive and maternal health outcomes were the product of restrictive, inter-linked or mutually interacting structural and ideological forces, which were socio-economic, political, familial and religious in nature. By providing an ethnography not only of women’s home-centered health practices but also their in-clinic experiences, I address the wide array of physical, symbolic and cosmological threats women perceived as being interwoven with their fertility, pregnancy and childbirth-related health. To different degrees and in different ways, women, their families and health providers described how the socio-spatial constraints associated with Islamic pardah (veiling, gender seclusion) and izzat (honour) paradigms, conflict-related service exclusions, iatrogenic risk and hospital funding insufficiencies, ‘black magic’ and spirit ‘attacks’ were contributory factors to women’s poor health outcomes. But my participants’ reproductive health was not only the arena for wellness-seeking and crisis resolution, but also for the enactment and expression of cultural values and sectarian identity; the tension between doctrinal Islam and local interpretations, modern/traditional divides; Sunni militarism, symbolic and structural violence. Moreover, Gilgiti Sunni women’s reproductive and maternal health narratives demonstrated subjectivity, inter-subjectivity and reflexivity, resistance and negotiation, and gendered and reproductive agency. Within this context, any one pregnancy could evidence and communicate multiple domains of experience, as well as patient-provider interaction, access to care, its quality and relation to socio-economic factors, ideological stance or community-bound interpersonal relations. Ultimately, by using pregnancy and childbirth as a central point of inquiry, my thesis examines different aspects of Gilgiti Sunni women’s health experiences: biomedical and traditional; urban and rural childbirth and post-partum practices; Family Planning, fertility and infertility, unwanted pregnancies and abortions; conflict-related constraints, medical malpractice and cosmological harm.

PhD

Advisors/Committee Members: Lambek, Dr Michael J., Anthropology.

Subjects/Keywords: Islam; women; reproductive health; pregnancy; childbirth; health practices; medical pluralism; biomedicine; Islamic medicine; sectarian conflict; non-governmental organization; federal health services; maternal morbidity and mortality (MMR); son preference; abortion; Family Planning; unwanted pregnancy; ultrasound; religious conservatism; Shia Islam; Sunni Islam; Ismaili Islam; ethnography; violence; occult forces; 'black magic'; infertility; polygyny; medical anthropology; qualitative; risk; 0339

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APA · Chicago · MLA · Vancouver · CSE | Export to Zotero / EndNote / Reference Manager

APA (6th Edition):

Varley, E. E. A. (2012). Belaboured Lives: An Ethnography of Muslim Women's Pregnancy and Childbirth Practices in Pakistan's Northern Areas. (Doctoral Dissertation). University of Toronto. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1807/43374

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Varley, Emma E A. “Belaboured Lives: An Ethnography of Muslim Women's Pregnancy and Childbirth Practices in Pakistan's Northern Areas.” 2012. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Toronto. Accessed January 19, 2021. http://hdl.handle.net/1807/43374.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Varley, Emma E A. “Belaboured Lives: An Ethnography of Muslim Women's Pregnancy and Childbirth Practices in Pakistan's Northern Areas.” 2012. Web. 19 Jan 2021.

Vancouver:

Varley EEA. Belaboured Lives: An Ethnography of Muslim Women's Pregnancy and Childbirth Practices in Pakistan's Northern Areas. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Toronto; 2012. [cited 2021 Jan 19]. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/43374.

Council of Science Editors:

Varley EEA. Belaboured Lives: An Ethnography of Muslim Women's Pregnancy and Childbirth Practices in Pakistan's Northern Areas. [Doctoral Dissertation]. University of Toronto; 2012. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/43374

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