Accepted Paper:

Health at her fingertips: development, gender and empowering mobile technologies  


Marine Al Dahdah (Paris Descartes University - IFRIS)

Paper short abstract:

This communication examines health programs that are using mobile phones to improve maternal health in the developing world. Thanks to gender, post-colonial and STS studies, we would like to offer a critical analysis of those new devices using mobile phones to “empower” women in the Global South.

Paper long abstract:

As soon as you start working on development programs that are targeting women, "gender" becomes a pervasive and inescapable term. If you look into it from a post-colonial feminist point of view or from the international development agencies perspective, "gender" holds very different meanings that may be controversial. Development programs that are using mobile phones to improve maternal health in "poor-resources" settings make visible a particular entanglement of gender and technologies. They offer to make up for gender inequalities by using an "empowering" tool for women: the mobile phone. This proposal contains an objectified vision of the techno-gender relationship embodied in mHealth. By mobilizing feminist, postcolonial and STS studies, I offer a more dynamic analysis of the techno-gender relationship at stake in mHealth devices. This particular study will use empirical data collected on a global mHealth program deployed in Ghana and India. My analysis will situate gender at the intersections of other forms of power and domination and will show how those sociotechnical artefacts have generated, displaced or transformed power relations in a different way in South-Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. This intersectional multisited analysis will help us to explain how mHealth devices negate the multifactorial dimension of gender inequalities but also how those global assemblages are silently renegotiating gender power relations.

Panel T051
Feminist Postcolonial STS