Accepted paper:

Birds in heaven: Babies, pregnancy, and loss in Qatar


Susie Kilshaw (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the usefulness of a commitment to multiple realities in relation to medical anthropology research into pregnancy and loss in Qatar.

Paper long abstract:

This paper presents ethnographic data about pregnancy, miscarriage and genetic notions of risk in Qatar. Tasqeet (miscarriage) creates a being that becomes a "bird in heaven", who resides in paradise and whose creation grants its mother a place in paradise. The paper will explore what fetuses; either living, liminal, at risk or dead mean to the different people that interact with them. Fetuses are made into being by the different practices around them. The paper explores how a fetus becomes different things in different contexts. How might these discussions help to break down the nature/ culture dichotomy in particular relation to pregnancy and different types of fetuses. Can a strong commitment to multiple realities allow for empathy and how does this work when the researchers and participants themselves seem to strive for commonalities in shared experiences. Of particular relevance is the way a focus on multiple realities, may hinder interactions with collaborators and further engagement with our participants. Furthermore, the particular social and political context of conducting research in Qatar, more broadly, must be considered. In Qatar, my work is based in a hospital setting and the overall aim is to inform services that support women who experience reproductive disruptions. These considerations limit the possibility of the kind of radical alterity advocated by the ontological turn. My research suggests is that a focus on alterity and commonality is necessary and by listening to participants we are left with the complexity of reality.‚Äč

panel P17
Repositioning health, illness and the body: the challenge of new theoretical approaches to medical anthropology