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Beyond Surgery: Injury, Healing, and Religion at an Ethiopian Hospital

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Over the past few decades, maternal childbirth injuries have become a potent symbol of Western biomedical intervention in Africa, affecting over one million women across the global south. Western-funded hospitals have sprung up, offering surgical sutures that ostensibly allow women who suffer from obstetric fistula to return to their communities in full health. Journalists, NGO

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Added on: November 16, 2017 - More: Comments & Reviews


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Over the past few decades, maternal childbirth injuries have become a potent symbol of Western biomedical intervention in Africa, affecting over one million women across the global south. Western-funded hospitals have sprung up, offering surgical sutures that ostensibly allow women who suffer from obstetric fistula to return to their communities in full health. Journalists, NGO staff, celebrities, and some physicians have crafted a stock narrative around this injury, depicting afflicted women as victims of a backward culture who have their fortunes dramatically reversed by Western aid. With Beyond Surgery, medical anthropologist Anita Hannig unsettles this picture for the first time and reveals the complicated truth behind the idea of biomedical intervention as quick-fix salvation.
 
Through her in-depth ethnography of two repair and rehabilitation centers operating in Ethiopia, Hannig takes the reader deep into a world inside hospital walls, where women recount stories of loss and belonging, shame and delight. As she chronicles the lived experiences of fistula patients in clinical treatment, Hannig explores the danger of labeling “culture” the culprit, showing how this common argument ignores the larger problem of insufficient medical access in rural Africa. Beyond Surgery portrays the complex social outcomes of surgery in an effort to deepen our understanding of medical missions in Africa, expose cultural biases, and clear the path toward more effective ways of delivering care to those who need it most.

Taylor E. McHugh says:

and I have recommended the book to many friends “Beyond Surgery” is imminently accessible and has the intellectual vigor necessary to keep you engaged. I found the critical and intimate lens through which Hannig examines the danger of single-story narratives incredibly illuminating. In doing so, she asks us to question other commonly known, however misleading, stories in medicine and development. Her approach is refreshing and offers up a humbling perspective. It was a very enjoyable read, and I have recommended the book to many friends. A must read for people interested in broadening their minds and gaining a more well-informed, global perspective.

Faust Moos Nunez says:

Hannig’s research evokes an understanding of what many of these women and their families go through in a manner parallel to what many Western families experience when a loved one is afflicted by illness that inherently isolates Dr. Hannig’s book depicts narratives that starkly contrast public perceptions of the victims of obstetric fistulas. It enthralls with intimate stories, while at the same time providing contextual analysis of the relevant anthropological frameworks. Breaking the NGO purported narrative of the ostracized and suffering African mother shines light, not just anthropologically, but emotionally. Hannig’s research evokes an understanding of what many of these women and their families go through in a manner parallel to what many Western families experience when a loved one is afflicted by illness that inherently isolates. Overall a FANTASTIC read for both new and experienced readers of anthropological discourse that is both accessible and intellectually challenging.

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