UBC Theses and Dissertations
Women's reproductive illnesses and health seeking in a Bangladeshi village Begum, Farhana
This dissertation explores women’s health seeking behaviors during reproductive complications in rural Bangladesh drawing on Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice. Based on a year of ethnographic fieldwork in a northern village of the country, where four types of health care services—biomedicine, homeopathy, kabiraji (ayurveda), and folk treatment—are available, it explores how women define illnesses and seek therapies for reproductive health. It shows that women’s health seeking and obtaining health services are influenced by their authoritative knowledge, cultural practices, therapy management groups, kin networks, household economics, education, and gender inequality. In the case of reproductive complications, women first try to understand the nature and causes of the problem based on their cultural knowledge. They categorize illnesses into four categories—osukh, dushi, jadu, and gojob—with the help of their therapy management groups. The women with high economic, cultural, and social capital are more likely to categorize reproductive complications as cases of osukh and lean toward seeking biomedical treatment while the women with low economic, social, and cultural capital are more likely to categorize illnesses as cases of dushi or jadu and lean toward seeking folk healers. When an illness is a case of dushi, jadu, or gojob, women prefer a folk healer for treatment. The women with high economic, cultural, and social capital prefer a folk healer of their same status while the women with low economic, cultural, and social capital prefer a healer who is “reliable” and “accessible”. When an illness is a case of osukh, women can seek biomedicine, homeopathy, or kabiraji for treatment. The women with low economic, social, and cultural capital first pursue cheaper options like kabiraji and homeopathy, and seek biomedicine when these options fail to cure the disease. On the contrary, the use of biomedicine by women with high economic, cultural, and social capital is influenced by their therapy management groups, household priorities, and the social capital of their households. This dissertation contributes to the area of anthropology of women’s health that highlights women’s subjectivity, their gendered access to forms of symbolic capital, and the role of authoritative knowledge in health seeking.
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